Sixth in a series previewing Texas Tech spring football practice, which is scheduled to begin Friday.
As Texas Tech defensive ends coach Robert Prunty reviewed game video from last season, one thing jumped out at him.
“We had close to 15 sacks that we left on the field that we would’ve got had we been a step quicker,” Prunty said. “We’ve got to make sure we become better at rushing the passer.”
The Red Raiders finished 2011 ranked 120th in rushing defense, 113th in pass-efficiency defense and tied for 112th with only five interceptions. For all the big plays they gave up, the Red Raiders might have offset some of the bad had they done more to disrupt opposing quarterbacks.
Tech was next to last in the Big 12 Conference and 100th in the nation with 16 sacks in 12 games, and had 10 in the nine conference games.
As far as his position group goes, Prunty says that’s the focal point for spring practice, which Tech is scheduled to begin Friday.
“We’ve got to rush the passer,” he said. “We’ve got to get to the quarterback. We’ve got to create some havoc. I went back and watched film, and we were one second away from at least 10 or 12 (sacks).”
Junior defensive end Dartwan Bush is the returning sacks leader with two, and junior defensive tackle Kerry Hyder was the steadiest interior player. Hyder, the only member of last year’s front six to start every game, finished fifth on the team with 42 tackles, making five stops behind the line. Tech badly needs to develop others around them.
On paper, some of the most impressive members of Tech’s 2011 newcomer class were defensive linemen. Ends Leon Mackey, Branden Jackson and Kindred Evans and tackles Delvon Simmons, Dennell Wesley and Donte Phillips made minimal big-play impact, with a couple being redshirted. Much more is expected from them in year two.
“All those guys were young, other than Hyder,” Prunty said. “Delvon got in during the summer. He came in late. We expect these guys to be more mature. They’ll have a full year in the weight room now with (strength and conditioning coach) Joe Walker, so we expect these guys to be bigger, stronger and faster.”
Hyder (6-foot-2, 268 pounds), Wesley (6-1, 293), Simmons (6-5, 286) and Phillips (6-2, 270) are returning on the inside, and they’ll be joined by mid-term signee Lee Adams from Riverside (Calif.) Community College. Adams, who can play end or tackle, had 40 tackles, including 12 for loss and seven sacks, on an 11-0 team last season.
Prunty said the line needs more depth on the inside, and the 6-3 Adams is up to 272 pounds; hence, the reason he’ll start out inside.
“We figured after he got here — working out and with the proper diet — Lee will be 285 by the time the season starts,” Prunty said. “He was one of those guys in between being a defensive end and a defensive tackle, but you could see with the weight he was putting on he was headed toward being a defensive tackle.”
Prunty said Jackson (6-4, 255) and Evans (6-4, 240) have each gained weight. Those two will try to unseat Bush at left end, and at right end the team returns last year’s 1-2 of Mackey and Jackson Richards.
Mackey, who suffered a partially collapsed lung in the season opener, recovered enough to play in 10 games, but never turned into the pass-rushing threat he was billed to be. He finished with no sacks among his 28 tackles.
“Defensive end, I would think, would be the most competitive position this spring,” Prunty said. “We’re going to have a lot of talent there, and it’s going to be very competitive who finishes the spring in the starting spots.”
Cameron Wright, a 6-4, 247-pound freshman walk-on from Cooper, gained some traction during his first semester on campus. Wright was second-team All-South Plains and second-team Class 3A all-state as a senior in 2010, and made an impression in the fall.
“I could see him getting to play before he leaves Texas Tech,” Prunty said.
Defensive end Aundrey Barr is not on the spring roster, and it appears his Tech career could be over. Barr has dealt with injuries to both knees dating to high school and appeared in only four games in 2010 and three games in 2011. He was a sophomore last season.
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