Texas Tech started the season 7-0, thanks in large part to a defense that allowed just 18.7 points per game. The narrative, naturally, was that the Red Raiders had found a defense. Unfortunately for Tech, a crash was coming. The Red Raiders allowed 50.5 points per game over their last four contests, all losses, and showed a huge vulnerability against the run. The Red Raiders now rank 79th in Defensive S&P+, including a low mark of 98th in Run Defense S&P+. They allow 4.4 yards per carry and 186.5 rushing yards per game, while also ranking in the bottom half of the Big 12 in both sacks and passing efficiency defense.
Like several Big 12 teams Texas has faced, Tech runs a hybrid three or four-man front, listing themselves as a 3-4, but just as often running more of a 4-3 look. Kerry Hyder (6-2 280) is the tackle/end player, an extremely active defensive lineman who ranks among the Big 12's best. Hyder has 52 tackles this year, including 10.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two blocked kicks. Dennell Wesley (6-1 310) is more of a space-filler at nose tackle. He's played in 10 games this year, but has just 11 tackles, including 2.5 for loss. Branden Jackson (6-4 240) is the listed starter at end, though both he and Dartwan Bush (6-1 255) should rotate now that Bush is back from a knee injury. In his first game back against Baylor, Bush had two tackles, one sack and two quarterback hurries in 40 snaps. On the season, Jackson has 42 tackles, eight for loss and three sacks.
If Hyder isn't the team's best defensive player, that honor would probably fall to WILL linebacker Will Smith (6-3 220). Smith has 88 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and a team-leading four sacks. He teams with Sam Eguavoen (6-1 220) in the middle of the Red Raider defense, with Eguavoen making 55 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. Terrance Bullitt (6-3 220) has spent some of his Red Raider career at safety, but has settled in nicely at the RAIDER linebacker position. He has 31 tackles, three for loss and two sacks on the year, while he's also broken up nine passes. He should be more healthy for the Longhorns as well. BANDIT Pete Robertson (6-3 225) is one of the team's better edge-rushers, making 46 stops, seven for loss, three sacks and picking off two passes.
The secondary, which was hurt when J.J. Gaines was lost for the season to injury, will roll out two freshman starters against the Longhorns. Field cornerback Justis Nelson (6-2 170), out of Dallas Christian, will make his second career start against Texas. He's played in three games this year, making six tackles and breaking up three passes. Strong safety Tanner Jacobson (5-10 175), a freshman walk-on from Southlake Carroll, will make his third start of the season. He's played in all 11 games, making 30 stops. The best secondary player of the bunch is probably free safety Tre' Porter (6-0 205), who is second on the team with 64 tackles, and tied for first with two forced fumbles. The boundary cornerback spot will be manned by Bruce Jones (5-7 180). He has 42 tackles and has broken up a team-high 10 passes.
Ryan Erxleben (6-1 190) is averaging 44.5 yards per punt.