When you think of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, you don’t usually think about their defense. All things considered, they were pretty good in 2012, ranking No. 38 in the country in total defense thanks in large part to the senior leadership of safety Cody Davis. With the four-year star now out in Lubbock, who will step up in his place?
Whoever gets called on will have some major shoes to fill. Davis had played four years in the Raiders’ secondary and really stepped up in 2012 to lead the team. He led the team in tackles with 101, including 3.5 tackles for loss. He made three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, while breaking up seven other passes. He was as effective a center fielder for Tech’s defense as they could have asked for.
But finding a replacement for Davis in the secondary is going to be difficult. Fellow safety D.J. Johnson, who finished second on the team in tackles, is also gone. On top of that, their backup last season, Chris Yeakey, has graduated as well and left Lubbock, leaving new defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt scrambling to find bodies to fill out his secondary.
Sophomore J.J. Gaines will get a shot at stepping up this spring at safety after seeing sparse playing time during his freshman season. He appeared in all 13 games, though he only recorded nine tackles. He doesn’t have the experience that fills the coaching staff with a ton of confidence, so the safety position could become an open competition this spring.
It wouldn’t be out of the question to move one of the more experienced corners back to safety in 2013 to try and protect the defense over the top. Whether that involves moving Terrance Bullitt or Jarvis Phillips remains to be seen, but strong safety play is key to the success of the Red Raider defense.
New head coach Kliff Kingsbury will likely spend a bulk of his time this spring and next fall revamping the offense into the wide-open Air Raid style that he played in during his time at Tech. But if he wants to have any chance of success in his first year at his alma mater, he better devise a plan to replace Cody Davis and the rest of the outgoing senior secondary.