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Improving pass rush key for Texas Tech defense

Tech hopes it can hit the pass-rushing jackpot a little more often this season.

Posted: August 11, 2012 - 9:56pm  |  Updated: August 12, 2012 - 12:26am
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Texas Tech's Leon Mackey will be among those relied on for a better pass rush this season for the Red Raiders.   Zach Long
Zach Long
Texas Tech's Leon Mackey will be among those relied on for a better pass rush this season for the Red Raiders.
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Branden Jackson says every sack he recorded in high school made him feel like he had just been elected prom king.

So what does he expect the feeling to be like when he brings opposing quarterbacks to the turf in college games?

“It’s going to feel like winning the lotto,” said the Texas Tech freshman defensive end, who redshirted last season after arriving in Lubbock from McKeesport, Pa. “I can’t wait to see it.”

Tech hopes it can hit the pass-rushing jackpot a little more often this season. The Red Raiders failed to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks in 2011, which granted them time to stand in the pocket and pick apart the secondary.

The Red Raiders ranked ninth in the Big 12 in sacks (16) and last in interceptions (five) last season. The latter was due, at least in part, to an inability to force quarterbacks into hurried throws.

Citing the new additions at defensive end — such as the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Jackson and converted linebacker Pete Robertson (6-foot-3, 230) — and increased depth at tackle, the coaching staff is hopeful that trend can be reversed.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch this defensive line,” Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “I think they’re underrated a little bit. That could just be me hoping a little bit, but watching them in practice, they fight and compete going against a pretty good offensive line.

“It will be interesting to see if our pass rush has improved like we hope it has.”

Jackson believes he can help author a turnaround. He said sitting on the sidelines last season was “one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to experience,” but he used the time to add 30 pounds to his frame and familiarize himself with some of the intricacies of the defensive end position.

In other words, he knew he wouldn’t be able to get by on sheer athleticism like he did in high school.

“Defensive end is really like an art now,” said Jackson, who is currently the first-team left end. “People always say, ‘You’re playing the easiest position. You don’t really have any responsibilities, except for making sure nobody gets outside of you.’ But, actually, a lot goes into it. You have to know an offensive tackle’s tendencies. You have to know which shoulder to hit to make them turn which way.”

Jackson said he has paid particular attention to where he places his hands when he fires off the line of scrimmage. He has come to realize that pinpointing the right spots to strike an opposing lineman and push him off balance is an exact science that takes time to master.

“It’s just surprising how small something like placing your hand on the left shoulder can actually get an offensive lineman to turn his hips the way you want him to,” Jackson said. “It’s a lot more technical than people think.”

Still, Jackson has been a quick study. On the second day of fall camp, he stepped in front of a screen pass for an interception off Seth Doege. Jackson said he had been burned on the same play a day before, but he realized where he needed to make an adjustment after watching the practice film.

He further stood out on Saturday when he recorded a pair of sacks during the team’s first fall scrimmage. (In scrimmages, a sack is awarded once a defender touches the quarterback.)

“I think he’s done a really good job of wanting to be good and understanding, ‘Hey, I’m a freshman and I want to be good, so I need to listen to things people tell me,’” first-year Tech defensive coordinator Art Kaufman said. “You don’t just make that play. You learn how to make that play through repetitions. Not just repetitions on the field, but repetitions in the meeting room, the film room and that type of thing.”

Another defensive end trying to learn on the fly is Robertson, who came to Tech last season as a safety after playing quarterback and wide receiver at Longview High. By the end of his first fall camp, Robertson had been moved to linebacker, only to move again — this time to defensive end — during the latter stages of spring practice in March.

That was a lot to handle for a player who conceded last week he “never thought I would play defense in my life, at all.”

But Robertson, who is receiving second-team snaps behind Dartwan Bush at right end, is taking the most recent move in stride, and coaches have been impressed with his quick reaction time off the line.

“I’m not afraid to try any position,” Robertson said. “So I tried it and said, ‘This is pretty easy.’ I liked it, so I told them I’d work with it. I’d stay there.”

Kaufman also expects the interior of the defensive line to be more of a presence in pass-rushing efforts, and Saturday he named senior Leon Mackey as a player he expects production from in that arena.

“He’s not a big guy as far as weight numbers, but he is an explosive guy,” Kaufman said.

No returning Tech defensive player had more than two sacks last year, so the opportunity is there for players who can find a way to get to quarterbacks.

For his part, Jackson is eager to cash in some lottery tickets.

“I just can’t wait to get there,” Jackson said, “and see what I’ve really got.”

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a good pass rush=

no matter how good you coverage is if you dont have a good pass rush then your defense will get picked apart. Hopefully, Jackson is learning the art of playing his position & is in the film room which would make him a force this season.

2
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If these guys put their mind

If these guys put their mind to it and give it 100% one play at a time they can win! The goal should be to win every week, not just be (in) the games every week!

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Lets keep our expectations in check.

Remember that these guys are first or second year players playing in a tough league. We need to also remember that our run defense was pathetic last year also. If we can't stop the run then our pass defense will be in trouble also. I have not seen anyone that is what you would call a "shutdown" corner. In order for this team to perform well defensively, the tackle play must be much improved and contain the run without having to blitz all 3 linebackers just to slow down the run. If that happens we might have a chance to see if we have a pass rush. Remember we were 115 in TOTAL Defense. That means we did not do anything very well.

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expectations

I appreciate that the big 12 is competitive. We have set our expectations low the last two seasons. I know that Tubberville did. Well I choose to set them high and if things don't work out then they don't work out. The players need to set them high. The players will play as well as they expect to play. If we the fans set our expectations high then the players will feed off our high expectations to keep their expectations high. Our expectations should be for the players to play to win the games and to play for 4 quarters. The players should not play to stay (in) the games and only lose to a good team by only 7 points. Close isn't winning! Play those games one game at a time. Play those games one down at a time. The goal should be to win every down. If things work out great! If they don't go on to the next down and the next game. Play to win the next one too!

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Expectations

I nominate you for head cheerleader and a job on the A-J secretarial pool. But you did not address anything that I said about the team and its abilities. Plus, have you ever played footbll or any other sports.

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@Thrash, to answer for kounty mart

I have played football, and I can tell you coaching and scheme change can really make or break some players. Some people are just better at sitting back and reading as a safety, while others are great a pressing on a WR on man to man. I think you will be surprised how much better the D will look with Kaufman as D coordinator. Just my two cents.

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@atx

Electric football with the little plastic players doesnt count. Just kiddin, buddy.

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kountry mart

I played high school football and ran cross country. I ran the mile in college. I have run 62 marathons and 10 ultra marathons including two 50 mile ultra marathons!!!!!!!! I don't need to address anything !!!!!! I doubt your sports background can match mine, Thrash! I believe attitude accounts for everything! It accounts for everything at mile 40 in a 50 mile ultra. Something you wouldn't know anything about. The defense should be stronger due to an experienced coordinator and more depth. The offense is deep at the wide receiver position and has many weapons. thrash maybe I can hire you to clean my running shoes. LOL

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Thrash..........

well Thrash.... What sports did you play? Hmmm Baylor and OKIE Lite were also both pathetic last year Thrash. Somehow they won. The defense needs to attack. Cause turnovers. The defense will have to improve but the offnse has a ton of weapons and speed. I played defensive end in a 4-3 defense. The defensive end in my old defense is similar to the defensive tackles you are speaking of. I know from my experiences that if you have to think too much you can get burned. the linebackers don't have to blitz but they must have the correct angle of pursuit. Kaufman is an experienced defensive coordinator and the defense should improve with a 4-3 look. My observations from last season note that our defensive players did not have the correct angles of pursuit in the 3-5. That is my two cents worth. Care to join me in a 16 mile training run this Saturday, Thrash.

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Pointless

To say what we all did sports wise back in the day. I, by the way was all state both ways for the Lamar Vikings, started for three years as a linebacker for the Arkansas Razorbacks and was 2nd team all SEC my senior year, Im currently an attorney in Houston specializing in corporate law. My uncle was an astronaut during the Apollo missions and my father (now deceased) was an attorney for the Houston Oilers. My sister is an actress and has appeared on several network programs including CSI and "The King of Queens" and her husband is Bruce Springsteen's drummers attorney. And I can say all this because its the internet and you cant prove that any of it is false.

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@coyote

i agree. Hiding behind email addresses u can b anybody

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Haha

Thats all part of it I guess. One part of my diatribe was for real, the rest is bs. Every one of my teams needs a better pass rush and has for years, The Red Raiders, The Cowboys, The Bulldogs. Hopefully, one of these young guys will step up and be a monster pass rusher and Bullitt and Smith can stop the run. We'll see.

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Pointless

The running I do do is not back in the day. It is happening now. I have run the 62 marathon ultras in the past 9 years. Pointless you are correct I cant prove this except via the marathon maniacs web site. But look on www.marathonmaniacs.com and see my list of marathons/ultras. My marathon maniac name is country mart.The web site checks all race results so they are valid results. Check it out.

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Coyote

Coyote, You remind me of a sow instead of a boar. And you can't prove me wrong!!!!! Since it is the internet you may well be a sow mate! LOL

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Cool

Thats great man, congrats. Proud for ya. And I wasnt asking for proof. Just always cracks me up on these threads, people claiming they did this or that. I believe ya man. My workout these days amount to running back and forth to the freezer for another fudgesicle. Or do they?

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Cool

Not sure I understand the sow thing. But I am sure that I dont care.

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