So much for bringing a defense along slowly.
Texas Tech’s spring practices are closed to the public and the media for the first seven workouts, but defensive tackle Kerry Hyder said new defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt already is putting a lot of calls on the table.
“He’s throwing everything at them,” Hyder said Sunday after the Red Raiders’ second spring workout. “We just threw the playbook at the wall. We’re going to throw everything at them and see what sticks. We’re sending blitzes from every direction so far, so hopefully the (offensive) line can keep up.”
That sounds like what new coach Kliff Kingsbury promised.
“Last year, we did a lot of base defense,” Hyder said. “Seeing blitzes come from every direction is exciting as a defense.”
Hyder, a 6-foot-2, 281-pound senior, had a breakout year in 2012, leading Big 12 Conference defensive tackles in sacks and tackles for loss. The Austin LBJ product was rewarded with first-team all-Big 12 recognition.
Along with his production, the defense as a whole improved — to No. 38 in total defense from No. 114 the year before.
“It feels great to see the results on the field,” Hyder said. “After having a poor year the year before, all we talked about was not letting it happen again, not letting it happen again. Seeing results on the field has given us confidence that we can come back this spring, work hard and even have a better season this upcoming year.”
Front shapes up
Tech will operate out of both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts next season, co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith said recently. That left room for conjecture about who would play where.
The first two days of spring ball, Kerry Hyder, Dennell Wesley and Dartwan Bush have gone with the first group in a 3-4 front. Jackson Richards rotates with Hyder at boundary-side defensive tackle, Anthony Smith backs Wesley at nose tackle, and Delvon Simmons backs Bush at field (wide side) defensive end.
Pete Robertson and Branden Jacksen are outside linebackers in a 3-4 and defensive ends when the Red Raiders deploy from a four-man front.
Hyder said he’s most often playing a 4-technique, meaning he’s head up against an offensive tackle. Depending on the call, however, he could be in a 3-technique (on a guard’s outside shoulder) or a 5-technique (on a tackle’s outside shoulder).
The Red Raiders don’t have any experienced defensive linemen heavier than 290 pounds.
“Coach (Matt) Wallerstedt’s doing a good job of moving us around,” Hyder said. “We’re not going to always be straight up on guys since we’re not that heavy. So we’re going to use some of our quickness and speed to offset some of our weight.”
Eric Ward felt like he had unfinished business to attend to.
That more than anything, the Texas Tech wide receiver said Sunday, is why he decided to return for his senior season instead of taking his chances in the NFL draft.
“I just want to get better at things I think I need to work on,” said Ward, who caught 82 passes for 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. “Just fundamental things, keeping consistent and working on my hands.”
Ward’s return was a boon for the Red Raiders, who feature a number of skill returners but few seniors. His leadership will be key, even if it isn’t the in-your-face variety.
“I’ve never been a vocal guy,” he said, “so I do the best I can to lead by example.”
Ward admitted that it has been an adjustment getting used to a new quarterback. After all, he had worked with former signal-caller Seth Doege since the two were connecting on the scout team years ago.
But the senior also likes the possibilities he’ll have in Kliff Kingsbury’s system.
“There’s more freedom in the play-calling,” Ward said. “It gives the quarterback more options.”
Compiled by Don Williams
and Nick Kosmider