Texas Tech safety Cody Davis and his fellow upperclassmen on defense are having an experience altogether different from most college football players. How many others play for four defensive coordinators in four years?
“Is that not normal?” Davis asked jokingly before his grin faded. “It’s difficult. It’s like changing bosses every year. You’ve got to get to know him — get a feel for him, what he’s expecting, his standards — then go out and try and please him and learn the defense. You have to change your mindset every time.”
The routine has become familiar: Each spring practice, meet a new defensive coordinator and learn his ways. Every fall, try to retain and adapt as quickly as possible to what’s just been installed.
“You’ve just got to take a deep breath, say you can’t control it and then move on,” Davis said. “That’s all you can do.”
The 6-foot-2, 203-pound pound senior from Stephenville has managed to do well under the circumstances. Whether playing for Ruffin McNeill, James Willis or Chad Glasgow, Davis has finished first or second on the team team in tackles each of his first three years. He’ll be trying to do the same this season for Art Kaufman, the latest defensive coordinator and one to whom Tech players seem to have taken a liking.
Kaufman’s more seasoned and even-tempered than his predecessor.
Tech linebacker Terrance Bullitt put a positive spin on playing for a merry-go-round of defensive coordinators.
“Luckily for me, football is something I want to do, whether it’s coaching or play professional,” said Bullitt, a junior starting his fourth year in the program. “So learning a new defense only helps your knowledge of the game.”
Meanwhile, Davis should have ample material for his blog. The Tech safety writes about personal experiences and the life of a college football player at thestudentofthegame.blogspot.com.
“I’d been thinking about it for a while, just to kind of tell the players’ perspective,” Davis said, “to write about what we go through day to day, to see a different view other than the media’s. ...
“The experience you get here makes you watch other players differently, makes you be a different fan. I just wanted to give that perspective.”
Davis admits to being inconsistent with the frequency of his writing.
That’s in contrast to his play on the field, where he’s shown up virtually every Saturday since 2009, starting all but two games in three years. Fellow safety D.J. Johnson, who’s shared the journey, can’t say enough good things about Davis.
“He’s experienced. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a smart guy,” Johnson said. “At the same time, he’s fun to watch. He’s a big hitter. He’s a playmaker. It’s fun to see everything he does.
“Playing beside him, you learn a lot and you learn to really trust him.”
Though Johnson spent his first two years at cornerback, he’ll be starting in the same secondary with Davis for the third year in a row. One twist, at least in preseason practice, is each plays the same side of the field from one snap to the next.
Johnson’s at left safety, Davis at right safety. That means, depending on the formation, either could line up across from the offense’s strong side. A safety might be responsible for the tight side of the field on one play and covering the wide side the next.
Johnson said he sees that as a good thing “because you’re learning the entire defense.”
Kaufman needed only a few weeks of spring practice to see that playign for a different coordinator every year seemed not to have clouded Davis’ mind. He processed the new system without much problem.
“We’ll do enough different things in the secondary where Cody may have one job one time and another job another — the concept back there becomes different,” Kaufman said. “He understands, ‘Hey, on this concept, I do it this way.’
“He knows his job really, really well, and he’s really good at studying what the offense is doing. He’s just a really smart player.”
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