With spring football less than a day away, RedRaiderSports.com is breaking down the 2012 Texas Tech football team position-by-position.
Today we continue with the linebackers.
The Texas Tech linebacking corps was a disappointment in 2011.
Often times true freshmen Sam Eguavoen, who just picked up football a few years ago, and Blake Dees and Cqulin Hubert and Daniel Cobb struggled at times last season.
Part of the blame can fall at the feet of the 4-2-5 defense which only put two linebackers on the field in its most basic form to work against the pass happy offenses the Big 12 had presented in the past. With some of the less athletic teams, successfully, putting in option-based run offenses in addition to passing the Red Raiders struggled to defend the run game.
With only two linebackers on the field there was a lot more ground to cover and Tech's linebacker ultimately proved they couldn't handle it.
Tech's run defense was among the worst in the country and the linebackers hold some of the responsibility for the failure.
The group was relatively young. Hubert and Cobb were just sophomores to go along with the freshmen tandem and linebacker Zach Winbush also was a sophomore.
Blame can also go to a defensive line that struggled all season.
The linebackers and defensive line combined to allow opposing running games to run for 3,000 yards last season.
Hopefully for the defense's sake, the linebackers have made big strides in the weight room, will take a step forward in spring ball with the 4-3 defense back in place after a two-year hiatus and will continue progress this fall.
WHAT TO EXPECT
For starters, Art Kaufman's 4-3 defense puts the linebackers in a better position to play. There's less ground for everyone to cover and the defense is one almost any football player has experience with in the past.
Taking Terrance Bullitt away from the strong safety position and putting him with the linebackers will be big for the Red Raiders. He's a guy that can defend the run and the pass and should be a starter at his new position by the kick off of the 2012 season.
Additionally, junior college transfers Chris Payne and Will Smith should provide immediate fixes to the group and eight linebackers to work with altogether rather than the five linebackers last season. Adding experience beyond the varsity level of high school football should pay off in a very good way.
We'll pay extra close attention to those two guys as spring ball progresses.
But we're also paying a lot of attention to Dees and Eguavoen who still have good upside and we're expecting Hubert and Cobb to have made some big strides since the end of 2011 as well.
What we do know is this:
Between a combination of some talented players joining the linebacking corps and a new defense the 2012 linebacking group should be an improved group of players. One way or another, the linebackers are going to help stop the run better than they did in 2011.