Texas Tech Football: Spring ball draws focus to defensive line

With the official first day of Texas Tech football practice approaching this upcoming week, the Red Raiders find themselves with some unfamiliar faces along the defensive line.

Tech graduated three star senior interior defensive lineman, Kerry Hyder, Dartwan Bush, and Dennell Wesley, all of whom dominated in the trenches for a number of years. Because three of the four key defensive line offseason additions aren’t on campus yet, their departure presents the opportunity to develop depth at the nose guard and defensive tackle position.

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Tech’s defensive will work with five interior lineman for spring training, including defensive tackles Jackson Richards, and Demetrius Alston, both of whom saw playing time last season. Richards is the most seasoned of the interior down lineman and showed solid potential in the 2013 season. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound junior, played in 13 games last year, starting four of them. He recorded 15 tackles, three tackles for a loss, one sack, two fumble recoveries, and an interception. Not to shabby numbers for a big man inside, making Richards a valuable presence for the Red Raiders.

“I think Jackson will be in the same role like he was last year.” defensive line coach John Scott Jr stated.

Richards and Alston will anchor first teams snaps at the D-tackle spot in the spring backed up by the versatile defensive end/ defensive tackle Tyler Scalzi.

As for the nose guard position formerly dominated by Kerry Hyder, Anthony Smith the 5-foot-11, 325-pound sophomore is expected to take first team snaps. Smith did not play last year, but his massive size and strength is promising.

Smith and the four other interior line present for spring ball need to have a productive season. Come summer practice they will be joined by the likes of 6-foot-2, 379 pound nose guard Rika Levi who is expected to compete for a starting spot right away. Levi is one of four junior college transfers along the defensive line for Tech, all of whom possess the talent to compete for playing time.

The late summer additions allow Texas Tech to utilize spring training to enhance it’s depth chart and develop young defensive talent.

“Were bringing three more bodies in the summer, so now these guys are banking valuable reps, and with the three new guys we bring in, now you’ve got some depth.” said coach Scott.

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The defensive end position, the lone spot on the edge of Tech’s unique 3-4 defensive line is more familiar. Tech returns the experienced Brandon Jackson, who had a break out season for the Red Raiders in 2013, obtaining 44 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss, and four sacks.

When kickoff to 2014 Red Raider season rolls around, due to summer defensive line additions such as Levi, it’s possible none of the interior lineman present for spring training will be starters, but they all can expect to be in rotation to see the field.

For defensive line coach Scott, spring ball will be spent creating and sharping depth all along the defensive line, preparing to reveal the new faces of the interior Red Raider defense to Big 12 offenses and the rest of the nation in 2014