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Texas Tech Learning Another New Defense
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Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 25 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference.

LUBBOCK, Texas – The coaching change that returned prodigal son Kliff Kingsbury to Double T Nation also meant shuffling in the Texas Tech coaching offices. Matt Wallerstedt followed Kingsbury from Texas A&M and is the Red Raiders’ fifth defensive coordinator in the last five seasons.

Pause for a moment and let that sink in: five different defensive coaches with five different coaching schemes … different terminology, techniques, styles.

“I think some of the older guys, it’s been easier to adjust because we’re used to it,” senior defensive linemen Kerry Hyder said. “We know what it’s like and what it takes to learn something new. And coach Wallerstedt came in and told us he wanted to the best for us and that we should trust him.”

Wallerstedt had experience dealing with players whose heads were spinning because of coaching changes. He coached at Texas A&M last season, a school that had four defensive coordinators in six seasons.

“I’m sensitive to it,” Wallerstedt said. “As a player, number one, I know how anxious and how nerve wracking it can be. It’s a whole new group (of coaches). They’re not the ones that recruited you and all that stuff, let alone learning new verbiage and all that.”

Kingsbury, when he was offensive coordinator at Houston, noticed Wallerstedt when the latter was running the defense at Air Force. Despite being undersized, the Falcons were adept at slowing the Cougars’ high-powered attacks.

While Texas Tech’s new coach plans to run the type of fast-paced, spread-the-field offense that Red Raiders and Big 12 fans are familiar with, Wallerstedt’s charge is to field a unit that will force turnovers and slow the run-and-gun attacks.

His typical method is to use a 3-4 defense that features a variety of looks and coverages. While Big 12 offenses at Baylor and Oklahoma State revel in keeping the opposing defense off-balance and befuddled, Wallerstedt wants to do the same to opposing offenses.

“The scheme will be aggressive enough and confusing enough to make the quarterback earn his scholarship and keep the offensive linemen guessing,” he said. “We’re going to have to play full speed and know where our fits are and play aggressive.

“I think the biggest thing here is the takeaway numbers have to go up. We’ve talked about that and stressed that since we hit the ground here. If we can get the takeaway numbers up, we can win a couple more games from that alone.”

Special Teams Looking Special
Texas Tech appears to have a solid kicking game and the potential for an explosive return game.

Senior punter Ryan Erxleben will start for his fourth season; he’s averaged 41.4 yards per kick in his career. Sophomore Ryan Bustin tied a school record with 17 field goals last season.

Neither Jakeem Grant (kickoff returns) nor Sadale Foster (punt returns) have much experience. But last season two of Grant’s six kickoff returns went for touchdowns. Foster had 18 kickoff returns last season but zero punt returns. However, two years ago in junior-college he was an all-conference return man.

“We think we have good returners, explosive guys,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

Quick Slants
* Freshman Dee Paul could be in the mix at cornerback. He was dominant in football and track at Munday (Texas) High School. He was a four-time champion in the 300-meter hurdles and won seven other gold medals. “The one thing about Dee Paul, he’s competitive,” Texas Tech cornerbacks coach Kevin Curtis said. “He’s self-motivated. You can’t put a pricetag on self-motivation. He’ll work.”

* Sophomore defensive end Branden Jackson ended last season and went into spring practice weighing 262 pounds. He was moved to the “bandit” (outside linebacker-defensive end) position and slimmed down to 250. Jackson didn’t like how he was moving in pass coverage so he trimmed off another 20 pounds. … And then the coaching staff switched him back to defensive end, so he’s bulked up to 248.

* Texas Tech will be breaking in a new deep snapper. Alex Chester handled those chores in all 13 games last season but he left school two days before preseason practices started. Sophomore David Brenner and redshirt freshman Parker Bradham, both walk ons, are competing for the job.

* Associate athletic director Erik Book reports that Texas Tech has sold 30,500 season tickets to the general public. With 12,500 seats reserved for students and 4,000 going to the visiting team, approximately 47,000 seats have been sold. Capacity at Jones AT&T Stadium is nearly 61,000. Texas Tech sold a school-record 33,000 season tickets in 2010.

Audibles
Offensive line coach Lee Hays on his unit’s inexperience and lack of depth:
“They know we’re the weak spot right now and we’ve got to make sure we do our part as an offensive line. I think we’re as good as anybody in the country skill-wise. We’ve got to handle that part of the offense up front. The only way we’re going to get there is hard work.”

Coach Kliff Kingsbury:
“We’ve just got to get to the game and watch our players make plays. I think we have some really good players who are going to become known at the national level after a couple of weeks.”

Sophomore quarterback Michael Brewer, who is competing with freshman Davis Webb for the starting quarterback job:
“I’ve been through three spring practices. This is my third training camp, so at this point, nothing’s really new. It’s just a matter of going out and being consistent, using the confidence and experience I have and just going out and executing.”

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