Help on way
Texas Tech defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said he expects senior Derrick Mays and sophomore Jeremy Reynolds to help the team’s unsettled cornerback depth, provided they stay healthy. The two have been eased back into action gradually, Reynolds from surgery to repair a torn knee ligament early last season and Mays from arthroscopic knee surgery that sidelined him most of spring.
“It’s not like you pull them out of the training room and let them go full tilt for x amount of plays in a row,” Wallerstedt said after Monday’s evening practice, “but enough to see what they can do.”
Mays has 10 career starts. Reynolds made his first career interception last September at Texas State before he got hurt.
“They’ve been in big arenas and they’ve played against competition we’re going to see,” Wallerstedt said, “and you can see they’ve earned some stripes already. So just having their presence on the field should help us a little bit.”
Bruce Jones and Ola Falemi have stepped out as starters, but Wallerstedt and cornerbacks coach Kevin Curtis haven’t committed to anyone beyond that from a pool of 10 corners.
“That’s been one that’s been kind of a shuffling of the cards,” Wallerstedt said. “Derrick Mays and Jeremy Reynolds being back in the mix has put a nice little spin on everything, if we can keep those guys healthy.
“(Redshirt freshman) Theirry Nguema has had a good camp. He’s still growing. (True freshman) Dee Paul is a young guy, first camp. He’s still learning, maybe at times a little overwhelmed, but then shows flashes.”
He said Paul, if he continues to develop, could factor in at some point in the season.
Tech has a week of practice and another scrimmage left before coaches have to settle on a two-deep for Aug. 30 opener at SMU. Among the items still be decided are backup safeties. Redshirt freshman Keenon Ward has done nothing to diminish his status as a favorite, and defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said junior Dorian Crawford has done well, given his circumstance of being a summer arrival from a junior college.
Ward started camp as free safety Tre Porter’s backup, and Crawford and freshman signee Jalen Barnes have been competing for the No. 2 spot behind strong safety J.J. Gaines.
“Keenon Ward’s had a nice camp,” Wallerstedt said. “If you’re looking for who would be the third (safety), it might be a Keenon Ward, and then we’ll see how those other two guys come along.”
Crawford started his career at Humboldt State and transferred to Tech from Mt. San Antonio College, both California schools.
“We’re pushing him to get in the mix,” Wallerstedt said. “He’s a guy that continues to need reps. We’ll see how this week goes, but he brings some depth back there and has had a good camp for us.”
Sam Eguavoen and Will Smith are the frontrunners to secure the starting inside linebacker jobs in the team’s 3-4 defense.
“Those guys have really emerged,” defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said Monday, “and then we still have really good depth.”
Wallerstedt said before camp started that the two starters probably would come from Smith, sophomore Micah Awe and Eguavoen. Eguavoen was second team at the time. But the junior from Garland Lakeview Centennial has picked up where he left off in the spring, when he impressed Wallerstedt with his instincts and his knack for blitzes.
Wallerstedt expects to have five playable inside linebackers counting Awe, Blake Dees and Zach Winbush.
With their team’s 13-game winning streak in the series, Texas Tech fans might take SMU lightly. That’s not so of the Tech staff, particularly new defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt.
It’s enough that SMU’s coming off a 7-6 season and a Hawaii Bowl rout of Fresno State. Then Mustangs head coach June Jones hired Hal Mumme as his passing-game coordinator. It’d be hard to find a pairing anywhere of two coaches more revered for passing offense.
“I think that’s a pretty potent offensive attack and guys that can bounce ideas off one another,” Wallerstedt said. “I think they’re going to be a handful for us to defend, and we’ve got to go do what we can do.”
Mumme went to SMU after spending the last four seasons as head coach at McMurry. He was head coach at Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State and Kentucky, during which time he had Mike Leach as an assistant.
Compiled by Don Williams