Texas Tech: Building a Tommy Tuberville Defense

Barking CarnivalAnalyst IJanuary 19, 2010

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 29:  Head coach Tommy Tuberville of the Auburn Tigers watches his team take on the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 29, 2008 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Tommy Tuberville has built an excellent reputation as a defensive game planner. He’s also known as a strong recruiter, and solid evaluator of talent. 

We’re located in the state that produces more D-I football players every year than any other, enough for TCU to find the number of athletes that could field a top 10 unit.

While he definitely pulled in some highly regarded talent at Auburn, he also specialized in finding 6′1″, 260-lb, two-star DTs like Sen’Derrick Marks, and turning them into All-Americans.

Will Herring, who is a 6′3″, 205-lb high school linebacker which Tuberville beat out Middle Tennessee State to recruit, now plays for the Seahawks. 

These stories are all over the college football scene in Texas, and I’m confident that, if John Goodner can field a top 10 defense in Lubbock with predominantly goat ropers, so can Tuberville.

He’ll fit square pegs in square holes and round pegs in round holes. Whether we end up playing with mostly three or four-man fronts won’t be determined until the spring, at which time Tuberville can assess what we really have.

I would like to believe that we have better talent than TCU in some places, but I can’t say for certain:

1.  NG/DE Colby Whitlock

Not really a traditional 3-4 NG, but he’s been requiring a double team in our 4-3 scheme. I don’t expect anyone on our roster will be able to duplicate his effect, so most likely he stays put in the middle of whatever we do. I can finally say I feel he’s a true first-team all-conference player, and worthy of it.

2.  ILB Brian Duncan

I’m curious to see if Tuberville will keep him on the field for three downs. He may not run like we’re looking for at the position down the road, but we won’t be able to keep his run stuffing ability off the field this year. Disciplined and physical, but a touch on the slow side.

3.  OLB/ILB Bront Bird

He served best for us in perimeter run-defense as an OLB. You can use one of those guys in a 3-4, but we also might play him on the inside on passing downs to get more speed on the field. I think Bird is a guy who will really benefit from this hire.

4.  DB Will Ford

He’s the most talented secondary player on our roster as it stands right now, so Tuberville will have him on the field in some capacity. There’s not really anything he doesn’t do well, and he has the potential to become a weapon under the new regime.

5. CB Laron Moore

Physical and can run, which serves well for the backside corner position. We may try to play a little more man coverage with him against right-tendency QBs. 

6.  CB D.J. Johnson

I don’t think Tuberville will like his size for a safety, but he’ll like his quick hips and recovery speed as a potential cover corner. Really needs to get much stronger as he gets pushed around on hitch screens and running plays in stretches.

Jarvis Phillips might be ready to go, and he seems to fit the mold of past Auburn CBs a little better. I’m guessing we’ll roll with the more physical of the two.

7.  S Cody Davis

Davis was solid for most of the season but fell apart over the last three games. I’m not sure what to think of him yet, but I know he doesn’t run well for SEC standards, or Big 12 standards for that matter. I would say this job is up for grabs, but he’s a better player than Mitchem was this season.

8. S Frank Mitchem

It seemed like this position wasn’t an issue until Frank got healthy and received his starting job back. He looks like he belongs at filling in run support, but counters with Labrador Frisbee instincts in play-action, and slow recovery speed. I predict we see fresh meat at one of the safety positions.

9. NG Myles Wade

I think this guy has a boatload of talent and can be a qualified interior Big 12 player with the dropped weight. People sure weren’t pushing him around like he was Victor Hunter or anything. A lot of what we do next year will depend on if he’s a reliable option.

10.  ILB Sam Fehoko

This might be the break Sam needs, and he could see the field a lot against teams like OSU and Colorado.

11. S Brett Dewhurst

Hell, I liked him better than the starters.

Bullpen Players

I have no idea if these guys will be good, so there is more speculation than usual from here on out and a lot of blind optimism.

12.  OLB/DE Aundrey Barr

By all recorded accounts, he’s going to be the best player for this position on our roster. Can’t say for sure how good that is, but he’ll be the man. Good high school film. Good practice reports. We really need him to be our Brandon Sharpe this year in a bad way.

I think he’ll benefit from the coaching change, as his 6′3″, 240-lb frame is more suited for OLB than DE in a 4-3. 

13.  DT/DE Pearlie Graves

Practice reports detail promising signs. We’ll have to play him at DT and DE, regardless. Everyone on here will receive a free Tortilla Retort subscription if he’s a downgrade from Hunter. I won’t be surprised when I like him better than Rajon Henley.

14.  OLB Daniel Cobb/Dion Chidozie/Brandon Mahoney

One of these guys will be too good not to find a place on the field. I have no idea which guy it will be, but early reports seem to indicate Cobb has made the biggest impression. He’s a former high school RB/S/PR, so the option of pressing WRs will be hard for Tuberville to pass up, I suspect.

I could also envision that they don't beat out Bird or Barr until they become trusted as run defenders. Barr/Bird will most likely start out as our ground defense options.

15. S Terrance Bullitt/CB Jarvis Phillips

Our new coaching staff may like these guys better than our starters, so keep them in mind. Positive feedback this fall in practice.

Regarding Phillips, the guys from Carter always end up being at the top tier of talent on our roster. Bullitt probably has a high football IQ and isn’t scared to hit. If he outruns Mitchem, I bet he plays a significant role going forward.

Crystal Ball Summary

It’s tough to place a permanent label on the front seven of past Tuberville units, and the long-term answer will be dictated by the capabilities of our personnel. I could ramble on with speculative verbal diarrhea all day, so instead I’ll take a stab at the big picture philosophical differences I think we’ll see.

I think one of the qualities that attracted Tuberville to Tech is the offense and the tempo of defense it allows you to play. 

We’ll more than likely dare teams to try and throw it over the top of us versus challenging them to stay in front of us and not make mistakes.

If we can diversify our offense with balance, you may see Tuberville take on the strategy of being extremely aggressive with the passing game and defense early in the game to try and jump out to big leads, then start dialing in on the run game once we’ve loosened up the safeties and LBs.

If teams come out with two-deep safeties and nickel personnel early, you’ll see an increased commitment in our effort to make them appropriately pay for it. I predict a Tuberville unit will thrive with a two TD lead and an offense that still has a lot of quick-strike firepower, regardless of the coach. 

He’ll play to get the ball back and overload running downs to set up third and longs, where colleagues of his have shown a tendency to execute trap reads on QBs to force turnovers.

More of what you’ll become accustomed to is game plan variety as the season progresses. Schemes will be based around taking away the two or three things an offense is good at and forcing them to beat you with role players. 

Take away the run with the minimal requirement of bodies, whether it be three, four, six, or eight. Rush as many players as required to pressure the QB into making quick and unwise decisions. Your first priority is either run or pass on each play, and reads focus around simplicity and leverage.

You’re also cheating one way at the snap based on the formation and down and distance, playing the odds your coaching staff has correctly charted the play-calling tendencies of the opponent. 

We’ll revisit the subject after signing day, as I imagine all the JUCO guys will play a significant factor.


This was written by dedfischer at The Tortilla Retort  

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