Tre Porter missed Texas Tech’s last four football games last year, but that’s all he cares to know about why. If you offered him a videotape showing the play on which he got hurt, he might burn it.
“I didn’t even want to see it,” Porter said. “It wasn’t something I really wanted to see, wanted to know how. I just know it happened, so I’m trying to get over it.”
Porter and fellow Tech defensive back D.J. Johnson were pursuing an Iowa State ball carrier in a game last October, coming from different directions and oblivious to each other as they zeroed in on the runner. Porter flipped over Johnson and landed on the back of his head, suffering a concussion.
He hasn’t played in a game since. And any time he’s stepped onto the field for a Tech practice, he’s donned a different-color jersey from the rest of the defense, signaling he’s off-limits to contact.
Two other Red Raiders with concussion histories, receivers Eric Ward and Austin Zouzalik, also are going non-contact only during this preseason.
“It’s pretty tough just to be away from the team,” said Porter, a 6-foot, 202-pound junior. “You can’t really help the team to succeed. Then you come back and they say you can’t do everything the team can do. So I feel like I’m kind of getting held back a little bit. But I know it’s for a good cause, so I have to stay positive about the whole process.”
Soon, though, Porter will be expected to resume a key role in the Red Raiders’ defense. He was the third-leading tackler on the team two years ago as a true freshman, and the week before he got hurt last year, he made an interception in Tech’s road upset of Oklahoma.
Though listed as a backup to starting safeties Cody Davis and Johnson, Porter is the first-team nickel back, often stationed near the line of scrimmage and covering slot receivers. In practice, two-thirds of his work comes at that position and one-third at safety.
“Tre is not a starting safety,” new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman said, “but maybe he really is in the sense that he may wind up being on the field more than anybody else because he’s playing more positions.
“Tre Porter is a major factor in our plans. He’s as big a factor as anybody we’ve got on our team. Time will tell where we need him the most. That’s kind of where we’ll play him.”
Porter has yet to be thrown into a full-contact situation, though he does do everything else the first-team defense does, including 11-on-11 scrimmage work. That’s been sufficient for Kaufman to form a positive impression of him.
“Very instinctive,” Kaufman said. “He’s a good player, a smart player and he’s a really good athlete. He’s got a lot of football savvy about him.”
Porter was started six games at cornerback last season before his season-ending injury came in week eight. His duties won’t be that different at nickel back, though he could have a size advantage on many of the pass catchers he’ll be covering.
“I like playing close, up tight against the little smaller receivers,” he said. “It’s kind of challenging, because I’m a bigger, physical guy and I’ve got to cover little shifty guys.”
The Red Raiders open the season Sept. 1, hosting Northwestern State. The fact he’s coming back from a head injury, Porter said, doesn’t worry him.
“I enjoy hitting people,” he said, “so it’s not going to be a real problem for me.”
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