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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Most observers would think that replacing Graham Harrell at quarterback and the likely loss of record-setting wide receiver Michael Crabtree to the NFL draft would be the biggest challenges facing Texas Tech next season.
But as the Red Raiders prepare for their Jan. 1 Cotton Bowl game against Mississippi, Tech coaches also are confronting a difficult defensive rebuilding job as well.
Starting safeties Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet both will leave school after their eligibility expires after the bowl game. The loss of veteran substitutes Anthony Hines and Jordy Rowland will leave the Red Raiders without much experience at the position.
It means that junior-to-be Franklin Mitchem and redshirt freshman Cody Davis will have the edge at nailing down the starting position. And non-scholarship junior-to-be Brett Dewhurt might have a chance to earn playing time after developing into one of the Red Raiders' key special-teams players.
And the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal said earlier this week that one-time top recruit Steven Harris might have a chance to return to the roster. Harris was suspended before the start of the season, but is currently not in school. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach told the newspaper he's not sure whether he wants to bring him back to the program.
"We'll see. It'll be (reviewed) after the first of the year," Leach told the Avalanche-Journal. "I haven't heard anything from him. I'm not holding my breath. We're going to worry about the kids that are here. I haven't talked to him. I haven't met with him. I don't know anything about his status."
It means it will be imperative for the Red Raiders to look at some of the young players during bowl practice before they head into spring practice. The Big 12 again looks stacked offensively next season and starting two new safeties does not sound like the most intriguing scenario if Tech hopes to duplicate its unprecedented shared South Division championship next season.