Today, we take a look at the five best defensive players the Texas Tech football team will face this season.
Contrary to what many talking heads around the nation will tell you, teams in the Big 12 do attempt to play defense. But given how prolific the offenses in the conference are, that is a rather difficult chore. Still, the Texas Tech football team will see its share of quality individual defenders on the schedule in 2019.
There are two trains of thought about the Big 12’s perceived lack of defense. Fans and observers of other conferences believe that the teams in this conference are simply inept when it comes to that side of the ball. Meanwhile, Big 12 sympathizers say that it is harder to play defense in this conference because nearly every team in the league has an offense that is capable of lighting up the scoreboard.
Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that defenses in the Big 12 have not been as statistically dominant as those in the other top conferences. Last season, the Big 12 was the only Power 5 conference that did not have a team finish in the top-20 nationally in total defense.
TCU was the conference’s highest-ranked defense checking in at No. 24 overall. Meanwhile, each of the other four top conferences had at least two teams finish in the top 20 with the Big 10 fielding three top-10 defenses.
On the other hand, Iowa State (No. 33 overall) was the only other top-50 defensive team in the Big 12 last year. What’s more, the conference champion, Oklahoma, finished the year with the worst defense in the league, No. 114 overall.
Joining the Sooners in the bottom 30 of teams nationally were Texas Tech (No. 108) and Oklahoma State (No. 112). Meanwhile, Kansas State (No. 71), Kansas (No. 81), and Baylor (No. 85) all ranked in the bottom 60 in total defense.
So it is not surprising that the vast majority of the league’s premier talent has played offense. Since 2015, the Big 12 has produced eight first-round NFL picks on the offensive side of the ball and just three on the defensive side.
In 2015, Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown was taken with the No. 32 overall pick by the New England Patriots. The next year, West Virginia safety Karl Joseph went No. 14 overall by the Oakland Raiders. And this year, T.C.U. defensive end L.J. Collier was selected at No. 29 by the Seattle Seahawks.
As for the Red Raiders, they have not produced a ton of NFL talent on the defensive side of the ball either. Since the 2001 draft, which was the first after Mike Leach implemented the “Air Raid” offense in Lubbock, only 10 of Tech’s 28 draftees have been defensive players.
Taking it a step further, only six of the 15 Red Raiders currently on NFL rosters play defense. That group includes LB Dakota Allen with the Rams, LB Sam Eguavoen with the Dolphins, S Cody Davis with the Jaguars, DT Kerry Hyder with the Cowboys, DE Branden Jackson with the Seahawks, and LB Pete Robertson with the Cardinals.
It will be interesting to see if Tech’s defense can take a step forward this year under new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. And if the Red Raider offense can continue to be a top-10 unit nationally, Patterson’s defense will not have to be anything other than average for 2019 to be a success.
At the same time, most fanbases around the conference are repeating a similar refrain about their defense as the majority of teams in the Big 12 are more than confident in their ability to move the ball. Ultimately, the team that is able to get its defense to outperform expectations could be the one that rises to the top.
While TCU and Iowa State have reason to feel confident in their talent on defense, the rest of the conference will once again be searching for players to step up and keep the opposing offense in check well enough to allow their own offense to win the game. So let’s take a look at some of the best defensive players that will be trying to slow down the Red Raiders this year.