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August 8, 2012

Early impressions of Tech's DL

Practice Wednesday was a mixed bag.

From the weather to the team's intensity to trying to figure out what the team is and is not good at in its first day in shoulder pads, it was a strange day as the sun came and went between spotted cloud cover on the Texas Tech practice field.

Has the defensive line made serious improvement from last season? The answer fluctuated along with everything else.

We already know Pete Robertson is a big deal at defensive end though and that's a good start.

"You can tell from the offseason to now he's got more explosiveness in his legs and gets off the ball better," defensive line coach Robert Prunty said. "He's more powerful. The thing that concerns me about Pete, I knew he can rush the passer but I want to see how he can play the run. Being 230 (pounds) that concerns me, but he's holding his own. He's got great arm strength and that's been really good.

"Pete's been coming along way ahead of schedule."

Kerry Hyder has been just as impressive on the inside.

"That's because he's played the most," defensive line coach Fred Tate. You've also got Delvon Simmons who played a lot last year and Dennell Wesley played more than him. But in terms of consistency it's Kerry Hyder.

Beyond those guys though, and across the field, there was just something aloof about the first practice with some realistic contact.

This isn't abnormal though. Head coach Tommy Tuberville has come out and said something similar in each of his first two years about early efforts about being disappointed with the team's intensity on certain days. Historically the next day is always better.

It's a problem across the football landscape from high school, college and the pros.

But people want to know how the defense is doing and the Red Raider defensive line holds a big key in taking one of the nation's worst run defense to something better. The defensive line coaches didn't have much to go on Wednesday.

So Robertson, Hyder, Wesley and Simmons are the guys the defensive line staff have a grasp on along with a few other players who have seen playing time and are naturally expected to improve with experience and a summer's worth of conditioning under their belts.

"The biggest thing is that when you come in here and you come from a junior college is the adjustment," Prunty said. "It's hard to make that adjustment. But once you settle in and you go through the program. These guys come in here in January and don't know the system. They go through the summer and they still don't go through the system, they just go through Joe Walker's conditioning program. So it takes that adjustment.

"(In Leon Mackey's case) you can see they're moving better. They begin to understand how to control their body at a Division I level."

There are also some freshmen in the mix that the staff is anxious to see develop through fall camp like Michael Starts and redshirt freshman Branden Jackson.

"Starts is powerful," Prunty said. "We've got him at D-tackle. He came in at defensive end and that's what he wanted to play, but we put him in that three technique and he just is powerful. In that inside drill he's hard to move, man. This kid is a solid 300-pound kid and I wouldn't be surprised if he played this year."

Jackson obviously will play now that he is burning eligibility and he fits in the same boat as Starts back on the outside.

"Branden is getting better each day," Prunty said. "He's improving. Playing with great leverage. I just want to see him use his hands better. You can clearly tell he's a very smart football player. He understands block progressions. He's getting there. Branden didn't play last year so I'm very happy with his progress."


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