On TCU’s first play from scrimmage two weeks ago, with the Texas Tech crowd already charged up by an opening-drive touchdown, Tech linebacker Terrance Bullitt wrapped up a ball carrier for no gain and unleashed his creativity.
Bullitt took a couple of shuffle steps and went into a roundhouse swing, his fists swirling from right of his knees to over his head to nearly pounding the turf to his left.
“I call it the G-Town Hammer. Garland, Texas hammer,” Bullitt said. “It’s like a tribute to all my family and friends from Garland, Texas. I’m playing with them on my back.”
Tech fans should yearn to see the G-Town Hammer this season. Bullitt figures such a celebration is warranted only for a sack, a tackle for loss or some similar big play. And goodness knows, the Red Raiders haven’t had enough of those in recent years, especially from linebackers.
There are signs that’s changing, and Bullitt is at the forefront. Four games into the season, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior from Garland Naaman Forest has 16 tackles, two sacks, six pass breakups, a fumble recovery and a quarterback pressure. The pressure came Saturday against Texas State, when Bullitt rushed quarterback
Tyler Arndt into an off-target throw on fourth-and-goal from the Tech 3-yard line.
Later in the game, Bullitt trapped Arndt in the backfield, which meant it was hammertime.
“I was watching the movie ‘Thor,’” Bullitt said. “I saw him swing that sledge, the big hammer he has. I thought, I’m going to do that after I make a big play. I just went with it, and hopefully people will pick it up.”
Improved linebacker play has been one of the pleasant surprises to Tech’s 4-0 start and 1-0 record in Big 12 Conference play. So far, that position group has accounted for 181/2 tackles for loss, seven sacks, 14 pass breakups, two interceptions, a defensive touchdown and a fumble recovery. In each of those categories, the linebacker group has already topped its total for all of last season.
The Red Raiders have gotten big plays from the entire starting foursome of Bullitt, Will Smith, Sam Eguavoen and Pete Robertson.
That’s what Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was hoping for and perhaps expecting when he hired defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt, who prefers a high-pressure style of defense.
“It’s real fun,” Bullitt said, “moving around, and coach Wally has done a good job of disguising us, blitzing everyone and we all have a competition to see who’s going to lead the team in sacks out of the linebackers at the end of the year — sacks and tackles for loss.”
Like Bullitt, Smith is another senior who’s elevated his game. Last week against Texas State, the Red Raiders’ inside linebacker had a fumble-return touchdown and was in on three tackles in a four-play goal-line stand. He finished with eight tackles.
“The difference for me, I just feel more relaxed,” Smith said. “A lot of things were real tight last year, and I just feel like the defense as a whole, we’re all very relaxed this year and we’re able to fly around.”
Bullitt attributes his strong start to new co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith, his position coach.
“Coach Smith really helps out during the week with the film, giving me keys to look at,” Bullitt said, “so whenever the game comes, it’s kind of like I know what’s going to happen before the play starts.”
Bullitt has had different coaches each of his five seasons at Tech. He can’t say enough about Smith, the former Red Raiders linebacker who came back to the program after three years on the New York Jets’ staff.
“I look up to him like a big-brother type,” Bullitt said. “In my opinion, he’s the coolest coach I’ve ever had in my life, so that’s a big plus. I can ask him anything, whether it’s about football or life in general, and he’ll give me a good answer.”
One thing that’s still missing from Bullitt’s body of work is an interception. His six pass breakups rank second in the Big 12, but he’s yet to pick off a pass — not only this year, but in his entire career.
“I’m getting my hands on the ball,” he said. “Now I just have to catch them.”
In other words, he’s one good-hands play away from dropping the G-Town Hammer.
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