Another year, another new face at the helm of the Texas Tech defense.
It has become an all too familiar sight for the seniors on the defensive side of the ball, such as Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson, as they will play under a different defensive coordinator for the fourth year in a row.
This season it will be former North Carolina defensive coordinator Art Kaufman who will come in and try to turn things around defensively for the Red Raiders.
Kaufman said the key to making the team better and implementing the style of defense he wants is by making the players familiar with what they need to be doing at each position.
“If you want to have success, I think the biggest thing is with practice and reps and confidence with what you’re doing,” he said. “And that’s the whole thing we do. We try to come in and install the system and make sure everyone knows what to do and then make sure everyone knows how to do it.”
Kaufman will have an extensive amount of work to do to try and make this Red Raider defense better, as it ranked at the bottom of many categories last year under defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow.
In the 2011 campaign, Tech — out of 120 schools in the FBS — ranked 114th in total defense giving up an average of 486 yards per game, 113th in passing efficiency defense, 120th in rushing defense and 117th in scoring defense.
These numbers were part of the reason Tech finished the season 5-7, marking the first losing season since 1992 for the Red Raiders.
Being an upperclassman, and one of the leaders on the defensive side of the ball, Johnson said he felt like he took a major hit to his pride because he, and the rest of the team, did not perform to the ability he felt like they were capable of.
“Yes, it was extremely hurt,” he said. “I, personally, felt like I went down. I felt like I didn’t do what I was capable of doing and I place that blame on myself because I felt like I lost a little bit of confidence in myself after taking a bad loss or a devastating loss.”
After knocking off No. 3 Oklahoma 41-38 in the seventh game of the season, Tech fell apart, especially on the defensive side of the ball, as they allowed an average of 51.2 points per game leading the Red Raiders to five straight losses to round out the season.
After such a tough way to end the season, some of the upperclassmen decided they needed something to “link” them together. This is when the Chain Gang was put together.
Johnson said they have a chain that symbolizes unity and brotherhood among the defenders, giving them a bond to one another.
“For us, when one person falls short it doesn’t just let down the person to the left, but also the person on the right, and we’ve really stressed that with each other,” he said. “Believing in each other is something we really have to do.
“We want to show that we are a brotherhood, no matter what goes on the field during adversity, or off the field, in the classroom, in the weight room, anything. We have each other’s back and we are going to stick together and link up as one unit.”
With this new team mentality, and Kaufman going back to running a 4-3 defense instead of the 4-2-5 defense Glasgow ran in 2011, the Red Raiders hope the defense will help out an ever-potent Tech offense to turn things around this year.
The leader of the offense, quarterback Seth Doege, echoed these sentiments saying his counterparts are going to shock people this season.
“We feel like our defensive guys have worked really hard to surprise a lot of people, and I personally think that a lot of people will be surprised,” he said. “I know the leaders on the defense have really worked hard to get the guys going, and I think they are going to have a great year, and offensively we are so talented that as long as we continue to get better we are going to be hard to stop.”
The Red Raiders will premiere their new defense at 6 p.m. Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium, as they will take on Northwestern State. Although many players are optimistic about this year’s defense, head coach Tommy Tuberville said, there are still improvements to be made and this team is going to go as far as the defense allows it to.
“You’ve got to have something to cling to,” he said. “For us to have a chance to win that championship, we’ve got a lot to do on defense.”