With Kerry Hyder’s pedigree, it just made sense he would blossom into a terrific college football player eventually. At Austin LBJ High School, Hyder was a first-team all-state basketball player who led his team to a state tourament. His sister, also a college athlete, was a two-time all-state basketball player who made it to the state finals.
In football, at one time or another Hyder played running back, wide receiver, linebacker and defensive end.
He just needed to feel like a defensive tackle.
“It took me a while,” the Texas Tech junior said this week. “I was used to being on the edge and, back in high school, even playing linebacker. I had to realize I can’t make all the plays and I’ve got to help my linebackers out sometimes. After playing (defensive tackle) all last season, I’ve kind of got the hang of it now.”
The 6-foot-2, 281-pound Hyder, solid last year, turned into a terror the first month of this season. He leads Big 12 defensive tackles in sacks (three) and tackles for loss (five). Not to mention he’s swatted enough passes to lead the Red Raiders in pass breakups, too, with three.
Hyder credits new defensive line coach Fred Tate with improving his pass rush, his reads and his get-off at the snap. And, like any Red Raiders player, he praises new coordinator Art Kaufman for an overall defensive turnaround.
“Toward the end of last year, I felt like my play was getting better,” Hyder said. “It’s just the results didn’t always show. Going through the spring, I knew I had to be a big part to help the defense out. With the help of coach Tate and coach Kaufman, I was able to elevate my game.”
Hyder’s teammates say there’s never been a question about his ability.
“You can tell he’s just hungry,” defensive end Jackson Richards said. “He’s always been quick. He played receiver and stuff in high school. If you’ve got a guy that fast and then he puts on all that weight, it’s not like he’s going to lose his athletic mindset.”
No chance of that happening.
Safety D.J. Johnson has known Hyder since they played on the same AAU basketball team, Texas Select, around age 13. They stayed in touch a few years later when the Red Raiders started recruiting both. The two went to different high schools in Austin, but Johnson was paying attention in 2009 when LBJ reached the Class 4A state semifinals and Hyder earned first-team all-state recognition from the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
“He was the man,” Johnson said. “He was impressive, to be so big and be able to move and be so athletic.”
It runs in the family. Hyder’s sister, 5-11 Alexis Hyder, averaged more than 35 points in district play last season, scored an LBJ record 61 in a game and signed with North Texas.
In his high school basketball heyday, Hyder could dunk. There’s a YouTube video to prove it. Johnson laughs relating a story of Hyder going up for a slam at the Texas Tech Rec Center and not being able to finish the job.
Grinning, Johnson said Hyder “tried to glide” but slammed the ball into — not through — the hoop.
“You know, he’s put on weight since he last played basketball,” Johnson said. “He’s put on quite a bit of pounds. He thought he could skyrocket up there like he used to. He went real hard to the rim and completely missed it. It was hilarious how aggressive he took it to the bucket, like he thought he could still get up there.”
Small tradeoff for what he’s achieving now.
Hyder said the added pounds are making a difference for him this season. Quarterbacks and running backs are having a hard time shaking him.
“The first thing I had to do was put on some weight,” Hyder said. “Last year, I played around 265 most of the year. Just getting up to 280 has helped me out tremendously. Adapting to the trenches, it’s been a journey, but I feel like I’m getting the hang of it now.”
Johnson, all kidding aside, says it’s been a pleasure to watch.
“Last year, he did a good job, but he thought he could be better than what he was,” Johnson said. “He’s always talked about being the best D-tackle there is in the Big 12. That’s his goal, that’s what he’s been working toward, and he’s been doing a great job.”
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