Tech's JUCO transfer DBs heading new wave attitude for the defense
Chemical compounds are very volatile, fragile things. The slightest of tinkerings can make something stable unravel into a disaster. The opposite can happen as well, with seemingly dangerous components combining for completely safe and sound concoctions.
Team chemistry and makeup in sports treads into that territory as well. You just never know how a handful of players might make or break the mentality of a team. They could be the needed catalyst for a seemingly lost program, or they could tear down what appears to be a strong foundation, the collection of talent be damned.
At the end of the day, it's up to the coaches on staff to know what they need to add and subtract from the team, both from a talent and personality perspective.
And if the Red Raiders representing Texas Tech football at Big 12 Media Days are to be believed, David Gibbs and his defensive assistants may have hit on just what the doctor ordered for that unit in 2017.
Tech brought in a big group of junior college transfers in January as early-enrollees, including cornerbacks Jaylon Lane and Octavious Morgan, safety Vaughnte Dorsey, and hybrid linebacker Tony Jones.
That group apparently brought some much needed aggression and want-to with them, a welcome, fresh new outlook that's been contagious, according to senior receiver Cam Batson.
"They brought a mindset that's like I don't care who you are. I don't care what you've done. I'm going to get on your butt each and every play," said Batson. "If you can make me better, then I can make you better. We consider ourselves to have the best receiving group, so if we can get out there and try to push those guys and expose those guys each and every day in practice, make things hard for them, then in the games it should be easy."
Batson's head coach saw the shift brought on by the new group, too.
"Very competitive. Those guys don't like to lose," said Kliff Kingsbury. "We'd be in one-on-one drills, they'd get beat, and they'd get right back up and want another rep. That wasn't the case in the past. I think some of our younger DBs and even the younger guys have fed off that."
And while Kingsbury and Batson have watched on as those newcomers have brought some juice to the practice field and the weight room, junior safety Jah'Shawn Johnson gets to experience it up close every single day as a member of the secondary with Dorsey, Lane, and Morgan.
"They're so aggressive. There are times with Dorsey where he's just flying in there. In the spring, he may not have been doing the right thing every play, but he's around the ball every play. If you're going to mess up, you need to mess up going 110 miles per hour. That's one thing he's done. Octavious, he likes to hit, and that's beautiful for a corner. Safeties like it when your corners want to hit. Think about the Seahawks guys. They all like to hit. It's just a lot of fun playing with those guys."
It's something that Johnson believes is trickling down to the rest of the defense. It's been contagious, and according to the junior veteran, it all simply starts with a decision to take on a certain mentality.
"It's definitely a mentality thing. It's about just throwing your body in there and selling out for your team, and they've jumped right at it. Everyone appreciates that. They're out there by themselves at times, going seven days a week. It's Oct, J-Lane, Dorsey and Tony Jones. They all room together, and they get out there on their own every day a week. They get in the film room, they know what they're doing now, and this fall camp should be very good for them."
And they aren't just scrappy newcomers with great attitudes according to senior wideout Dylan Cantrell. They're plenty talented, and he's seen enough first hand to believe that the winds of change are blowing in Lubbock.
"Octavious, me and him actually work out together, and he's big, strong, fast, looks like a linebacker while being one of the fastest guys on the team, just has all the tools, and I think he's going to help us out tremendously as a defensive back. Vaughnte Dorsey came in during the spring too, and he's just a hard worker. He's one of those dudes who's not afraid to come downhill and make a hit, which is what we need. I think these additions on defense with what we've got coming back on offense -- You like to be optimistic every year, but definitely a different feeling right now."