Dallas Colleges: Terrance Bullitt

Big 12's future two-way standout?

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
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Maybe he was inspired by UCLA’s Myles Jack. Or maybe he got frustrated watching from the sidelines while knowing he could help.

Either way, Texas Tech’s Kenny Williams wants to be the Big 12’s answer to the Pac-12’s Jack, who was named Pac-12 offensive and defensive freshman of the year after starring at running back and linebacker for the Bruins last season. According to the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, the Red Raiders senior has spent the majority of the spring taking first-team reps as a linebacker after leading the squad in rushing with 497 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior.

[+] EnlargeKenny Williams, Jordan Evans, Dominique Alexander
Alonzo Adams/USA TODAY SportsKenny Williams may see time at running back and linebacker this fall.
“He’s looking great, I love that kid,” Texas Tech defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “Everybody here knows about him. He’s accountable. He’s reliable. He loves football.”

Williams had 14 tackles as a special teams standout last season, showing a hunger to make plays and a willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team.

“He wants to come over and help,” Wallerstedt said. “He’s learning and doing and great job, and he comes over with credibility.”

Williams wanted to make the move and the coaching staff was receptive as it searches for a replacement for Terrance Bullitt at outside linebacker. He immediately brought a veteran voice and senior leadership to the linebackers.

It could be an ideal fit. It would be difficult for Williams to start on offense and defense and then play both ways for the duration of any game, particularly since Tech led the Big 12 and FBS with 87.4 plays per game. Yet, having a veteran playmaker and leader as a viable option at running back and linebacker would do nothing but help the Red Raiders’ chances for success in 2014.

Ultimately though, Williams’ destiny could be decided by his teammates more than himself.

Fellow running back DeAndre Washington was right on the heels of Williams with 450 rushing yards in 2013 and could be in line to share carries with him this fall. Meanwhile, Williams’ ability to slide into the mix at linebacker means it will be important for other players to emerge at that position in Wallerstedt’s defense.

Even as Williams works at linebacker, spring is unlikely to decide where the Pflugerville, Texas, native could end up helping the Red Raiders the most during the 2014 season. The lone certainty is the Williams’ experimentation at the linebacker position gives the Red Raiders options and additional competition for playing time.

OSU-Tech to stage first elimination game

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
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With six teams snagging first-place votes in the preseason poll, this conference race had potential to be the most wide-open in Big 12 history.

Two months into the season, five teams remain in the thick of the race. But this weekend, that will begin to change, as Oklahoma State and Texas Tech will stage the first in several looming de facto Big 12 title elimination games.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Tech linebacker Terrance Bullitt. “Going to be a lot of elimination games coming up. We just have to take care of our part.”

[+] EnlargeKliff Kingsbury
Brad Davis/Icon SMIIf Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders want to celebrate a Big 12 title, the first step is beating Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Due to a quirk in scheduling, only two games so far have been staged featuring Baylor (7-0, 4-0 Big 12), Texas (5-2, 4-0), Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1), Tech (7-1, 4-1) and OSU (6-1, 3-1) playing each other. On Oct. 12, the Longhorns beat OU, 36-20. Then last weekend, the Sooners knocked off Tech, 38-30.

As a result, the top five teams will slug it out for the conference title over eight games over the next month, beginning Saturday in Lubbock.

“We’re going to have to win this one have a shot at the Big 12,” said OSU wide receiver Charlie Moore. “This game is huge. A win this weekend would give us a ton of momentum. But it all starts this Saturday.

As the preseason favorites to win the league, the Cowboys have been searching for a momentum-building performance all season. Instead, they’ve been shuffling their backfield trying to find the right combination offensively.

Last weekend at Iowa State, they may have finally uncovered it.

With Clint Chelf getting his first start since the opener at quarterback, and Desmond Roland getting his first career start at running back, OSU racked up 342 yards on the ground while averaging 7.3 yards per carry.

With J.W. Walsh at QB and Jeremy Smith the featured running back, the Cowboys had rushed for just 433 yards combined in their previous five games for an average of only 2.5 yards a carry.

Against the Cyclones, Roland rolled up 219 yards on the ground with four touchdowns. Chelf struggled with his accuracy on a gusty afternoon completing just 10 of 26 passes. But he added 85 yards rushing on just nine carries.

“We’re looking to build off that,” Moore said. “As far as the passing game, we’re going to work on the little things and see if we can put it all together.

“We’re not even close to our full potential.”

The Red Raiders feel the same.

Last weekend, Tech churned out 24 first downs and 388 yards through the air. But three turnovers in OU territory as well as a couple of devastating penalties wiped out several promising scoring opportunities.

Penalties and turnovers have plagued the Red Raiders all year. They lead the Big 12 in both categories, and that finally caught up with them in Norman.

“We have to minimize mistakes and penalties and execute our opportunities,” said Tech receiver Eric Ward, who caught two touchdowns against the Sooners. “It just didn’t go our way last week.”

The Red Raiders had surged into the top 10 before the loss. To remain a contender, they’ll have to respond to adversity better than they did the previous two seasons under Tommy Tuberville, who oversaw a pair of late-season collapses in Lubbock.

“When we had Coach Tuberville, it was kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh, we lost, we're panicking, we're in full frantic mode,’” said Tech defensive end Branden Jackson. “Now, we know what we did wrong and what we have to improve on to move forward.”

Like Tech, OSU has no margin left for error after losing at West Virginia in its conference opener. And for both teams, the defining parts of the schedule lie ahead.

But the winner this weekend will take a strong step forward toward contending for the league crown. The loser will be all but eliminated.

"We're excited about it," Ward said. “Everything is still in front of us.

"Everything is still up for grabs.”

Tech plays to win in huge road victory

October, 19, 2013
10/19/13
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- With a chance to run the clock out and kick a field goal, Kliff Kingsbury went for the kill instead.

And with a freshman quarterback, no less, in his first career road start.

But in the final minute of the fourth quarter, Davis Webb answered his coach’s cool confidence with a cool, confident touchdown pass, clinching Texas Tech’s 37-27 win Saturday at West Virginia.

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
AP Photo/Chris JacksonFreshman quarterback Davis Webb, making his first road start, was 36-of-50 for 462 yards and two touchdowns in the Red Raiders' win over West Virginia.
“We talk about it all the time, fortune favors the bold,” Kingsbury said. “We’re going to go try win the game.

“We’re not going to leave it on anybody else.”

Kingsbury’s play-to-win attitude has the preseason pick to finish seventh in the league sitting at 7-0. And it has solidified the Red Raiders as legit contenders in a wild, wild Big 12 season heading into next weekend’s showdown at Oklahoma.

“That call showed how much trust Coach has in us,” said tight end Jace Amaro, who hauled in the 10-yard touchdown pass from Webb at the back of the end zone that put the Red Raiders up by two scores with 1:01 to play.

Kingsbury’s call especially showed trust in Webb, who has blossomed since losing the starting job in the preseason to freshman walk-on Baker Mayfield.

In Webb's first start last week, he broke the Texas Tech freshman passing record in a victory over Iowa State.

In Morgantown, Webb broke the record again.

He completed 36 of 50 passes for 462 yards and two touchdowns to also become the first Texas Tech freshman to throw for more than 400 yards in his first two starts.

“Losing the job really kicked him into overtime as far as determination and work ethic,” Kingsbury said of Webb, who, as a freshman, remains off limits to the media. “He has handled himself very well since.”

Webb was far from perfect Saturday. And his fumble at the West Virginia 1-yard line in the second quarter completely reversed momentum of the game. The Red Raiders led 13-3 and were primed to make it 20-3. But off a quarterback draw, Webb tried to embody his coach’s play-to-win attitude and went for the touchdown instead of sliding. At the goal line, three Mountaineers converged on Webb and popped the ball loose and West Virginia recovered. The Mountaineers answered with a 99-yard touchdown drive, and scored on five straight possessions to take a 27-16 lead in the third quarter.

“That one I was mad about, because we talk about sliding all the time; he's not the most nimble to try and do something like that, either,” Kingsbury said. “But he said, ‘I got you, Coach. I’ll make up for it.’ That’s the kind of kid he is.”

Webb more than made up for the fumble.

And the Texas Tech defense, which was on its heels for two quarters, finally gave him the opportunity to do it.

After the Mountaineers took the 11-point lead, the Red Raider defense allowed just one first down the rest of the way over West Virginia’s final five possessions.

Losing the job really kicked him into overtime as far as determination and work ethic. He has handled himself very well since.

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury on quarterback Davis Webb.
“West Virginia had a lot of opportunities there (to put the game away),” linebacker Terrance Bullitt said. “But we never panicked. We were like, ‘Let’s go, let’s get this.’ We knew we were going to stop them. We stepped up as a defense, then the offense stepped up and put the game away.”

The drive before Webb’s final touchdown pass, West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett completed all three of his passes. But the Mountaineers still went three-and-out, as Texas Tech’s Bullitt, Derrick Mays and Bruce Jones all made sure tackles to force yet another punt.

“We knew if we got that stop, we were going to win the game,” said Amaro, who had another monster performance with nine catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns to fuel Texas Tech’s comeback.

“We got that stop.”

After that stop, the Red Raiders got the ball back with 4:30 still to play. But instead of just sitting on the ball, Tech gunned for first downs. On 3rd-and-6, Webb lofted a pass 27 yards downfield to Jordan Davis, who came down with the reception in coverage at the West Virginia 5.

Then three plays later on third-and-goal, Kingsbury called another daring pass. And Webb delivered.

“When we’ve had to have big drives, Davis has made them,” said Kingsbury, who was the first to meet Webb at the hashmarks to celebrate the score. “I’m really proud of how he handled himself in the fourth quarter.”

A fourth quarter Texas Tech played to win. And a win that stamped the Red Raiders as Big 12 contenders.

Tech D surging thanks to 'money down'

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
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LUBBOCK, Texas -- The Texas Tech defense has a motto for third down.

“We call that the money down,” said linebacker Terrance Bullitt. “That’s when you get paid.”

This season, the Red Raiders have been cashing in. And due in large part to their sweeping defensive turnaround, Tech is 6-0 for the first time in five years.

“When you hear about Tech, you think about how explosive our offense is,” said defensive end Branden Jackson. “We want to show the world that Tech isn’t just an offensive school.”

So far in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s first season, the Red Raiders are doing just that.

In the Big 12, they’re third in total defense, second in scoring defense and first in “money down” defense. Opponents are converting just 27 percent of their third downs against the Tech defense, which dating back to the Mike Leach era has long been a drain on the Red Raiders’ perennially high-scoring offense.

This season, the defense is carrying its weight.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the defense has contributed more than nine points per game to the Red Raiders’ scoring margin. When adjusted for the offenses they’ve faced, that ranks 17th in the country.

That’s a massive improvement over the last two years. Tech’s Adjusted Defensive Efficiency last season was -0.3. And in 2011, Adjusted Defensive Efficiency showed the Tech defense cost the team more than a touchdown a game, which ranked 100th in the FBS.

“It’s a different attitude,” Bullitt said. “We wanted to put the team on the defense’s backs.”

Despite rotating true freshmen quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb, the offense has continued to hum like past Tech offenses. The Red Raiders trail only Baylor in Big 12 scoring offense with an average of almost 42 points a game.

But offense has rarely been a problem.

Since Leach’s first year in Lubbock in 2000, the Red Raiders have never averaged less than 30 points a game. And yet, they’ve never won a Big 12 title, either.

Defense is why the preseason pick to finish seventh in the Big 12 is thinking it can contend this season.

“Our offense is capable of putting up a lot of points,” said nose guard Kerry Hyder. “So we feel like the faster we can get them the ball, the faster than they can put up points.”

But unlike past years in Lubbock, when the offense hasn’t put up the points, the defense has been there to back them up.

In Tech’s marquee win so far -- a 20-10 Thursday night victory over TCU -- the defense came up big. The Red Raiders defense gave up 23 first downs and 401 yards of offense. But they bucked up when it mattered, forcing TCU to go 3 of 16 on third down, while stuffing the Horned Frogs twice on fourth down.

Eventually, after a dormant second and third quarter, the Tech offense finally woke up late in the fourth quarter, as Webb found Bradley Marquez with a 19-yard touchdown to break a 10-10 tie.

Its a different attitude. We wanted to put the team on the defense's backs.

Texas Tech linebacker Terrance Bullitt on the Red Raiders' improved defense.
“This has definitely been in the making,” Hyder said. “We’ve got a lot of older guys, especially in the front seven. I can feel the energy around the defense right now."

Hyder is a big reason for that energy.

A catalyst in the middle up front in coordinator Matt Wallerstedt's 3-4 defense, Hyder leads the Big 12 with nine tackles for loss. Last weekend in the win over Iowa State, he produced a team-high nine tackles with two quarterback hurries, despite facing constant double teams.

“He's probably not as big as some of the guys I've seen,” Kingsbury said of Hyder, who weighs just 280 pounds. “But he plays hard and he shows up on tape over and over again. He's been a real leader for that defense.”

Others have stepped up, too.

Inside linebacker Will Smith has helped Hyder plug the run and leads the team in tackles. Bullitt has been wreaking havoc from the outside, either dropping back in pass coverage or bringing pressure off the edge.

Together, those three have helped set the tone for Tech's defensive revival.

"We’ve come out here, tried to outwork the offense since the spring, and listened to our coaches," Bullitt said.

Up next, Tech faces back-to-back road tilts at West Virginia and Oklahoma in a pivotal stretch that will denote the Red Raiders as Big 12 contenders or pretenders. But if the defense keeps delivering on the money downs, the Red Raiders just might be the former.

"It’s finally coming together," Hyder said. "We’ve got a lot of confidence building.”

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 3

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
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Oklahoma and Oklahoma State rolled, Texas capitulated, Texas Tech prevailed, TCU scuffled, West Virginia and Kansas State cruised, Iowa State and Kansas faltered and Baylor watched. The third weekend that was in the Big 12:

Team of the week: Texas Tech. So far, the Red Raiders have been the big surprise of the Big 12. The first two games Tech won with quarterback Baker Mayfield and its air assault. Thursday, the Red Raiders beat TCU 20-10 with hard-nosed defense. Tech is off to a phenomenal start and could keep it going with four winnable games coming up next. Those games will be even more winnable if this defense proves to be the real deal.

Disappointment of the week: Iowa State. After a disappointing opening performance, the Cyclones had high hopes they could turn their season around against their instate rival. Instead, Iowa jumped to a 27-7 lead, then withstood Iowa State’s mild fourth-quarter rally. The Cyclones have not looked good offensively through two games, and outside Sam Richardson throwing the ball up to Quenton Bundrage, have really shown no pop. The Cyclones desperately need a running back and a running game to emerge. So far, neither has.

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsBlake Bell took charge as quarterback for Oklahoma.
Big (offensive) man on campus: Blake Bell. After losing the preseason quarterback battle to Trevor Knight, Bell roared back to recapture the job for good. Bell completed 27 of 37 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 51-20 win over Tulsa. Accounting for both rushing and passing, Bell finished the game with a QBR of 96.7. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that’s the highest single-game QBR (before opponent adjustment) by a qualifying Oklahoma quarterback since Sam Bradford recorded a 99.0 at Baylor in 2008.

Big (defensive) men on campus: Terrance Bullitt and Will Smith. Several different Red Raiders qualified for the honor, but the senior linebackers were instrumental in the win over TCU. Bullitt collected six tackles and batted down four passes, which helped prevent Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin from generating any rhythm on his shorter passes. Smith, who led Tech with nine tackles, helped stuff TCU’s run up the middle. With Tre’ Porter anchoring the secondary and Kerry Hyder wreaking havoc up front, the Red Raiders have the makings of a very solid defense, if this level of linebacker play from Bullitt and Smith continues.

Special teams player of the week: Anthony Fera. Don’t blame the Texas kicker for the Longhorns’ 44-23 loss to Ole Miss. Fera nailed all three of his field goal attempts in the defeat, including a 47-yarder that put Texas up two scores just before halftime. Of course, the Longhorns failed to score the rest of the game. Fera was effective punting, too, pinning Ole Miss inside its own 20 twice. The Longhorns don’t have much going for them at the moment, but at least they have a reliable kicker and punter.

Play of the week: Texas Tech’s DeAndre Washington appeared to have scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 49-yard pass in the fourth quarter against TCU. Washington, however, let go of the football just before crossing the goal line. The ball rolled into the end zone and came to a stop, but no one touched it after the field judge signaled touchdown. The play was reviewed and the touchdown was overturned, but Tech was given the ball at the half-yard line (though a celebration penalty pushed the ball back to the 15). The Frogs have a beef about the field judge signaling touchdown prematurely, but, according to the rulebook, officials made the right call on the replay. Had a Frog picked up the ball or had the ball rolled out of the end zone, TCU would have taken over possession, but none of that happened. Instead, Tech was given back the ball, and Davis Webb found Bradley Marquez for the game-winning touchdown -- a play that could have long-lasting effects for both the Red Raiders and TCU.

Stat of the week: After giving up 272 rushing yards to Ole Miss, Texas now has the third-worst rush defense in college football. The Longhorns are allowing 308.7 rushing yards per game. No one else in the Big 12 is giving up more than 223.

Quote of the week: “Forget the coaches, come for the kids. Come for the young guys who are really trying, and come watch them try to beat Kansas State, which we haven't done very often.”

-- coach Mack Brown, in a plea to Texas fans to keep filling the stadium despite the Longhorns’ 1-2 start.

Opening camp: Texas Tech Red Raiders

August, 2, 2013
8/02/13
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Texas Tech opens up preseason camp on Saturday after players report today. Let's take a closer look at Kliff Kingsbury's squad going into camp.

Schedule: The Red Raiders begin practice on Saturday, and will also host a local media day that day. The Red Raiders open their season in Dallas on the road at SMU on Friday, Aug. 30.

Setting the scene: Tommy Tuberville's exit came out of nowhere this season, but AD Kirby Hocutt gave Tech fans exactly what they wanted: Kliff Kingsbury. He took a measured approach in spring practice, waiting to learn more about his personnel before he locked in what he wanted to do on offense or defense.

Eyeing clarity: Michael Brewer was the assumed starter in Lubbock, but true freshman Davis Webb enrolled early and made a big impression on the coaching staff. For now, there's no starter, but Kingsbury wants to name one in about two weeks, or halfway through fall camp. "We did that last year at Texas A&M and it worked out a little bit for us. Hopefully, we have that same success," Kingsbury noted. Jameill Showers was the assumed starter for the Aggies until midway through fall camp when Johnny Manziel pulled a big surprise and won the job. He did OK once the season arrived.

PODCAST
Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to talk about the quarterback battle in Lubbock, his expectations as a first-year head coach and what he makes of Johnny Manziel's offseason.

Listen Listen
Fixing a big hole: Delvon Simmons was a solid defensive lineman for the Red Raiders after signing as a blue-chip recruit, but he left for USC back in June in a surprising decision, his second school change since signing a letter of intent with North Carolina in 2011. Tech has to figure out what to do with the tackle spot the 290-pounder left behind. Another top-level recruit, Michael Starts, also transferred. Kerry Hyder is a star, but the Red Raiders need Jackson Richards to step up in their absence. Hyder might slide over and replace Simmons in the middle, with Branden Jackson moving to defensive end. Redshirt freshman Anthony Smith has an opportunity in camp, too.

All eyes on: Kingsbury. He's attracted a ton of attention since taking the job, which is no surprise after he helped Manziel win the Heisman and returned home to his alma mater at 33, making him college football's youngest major conference coach. He brought back a ton of young assistants to Lubbock with Texas Tech ties, and the youth across the staff can be argued as a major positive or negative. Wins will decide which it is. There has been so much talk between visits with media and alumni. Kingsbury said this week he's tired of it. The heavy-duty work will start on Saturday. I'm sure you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more excited than him.

On the mend: Linebacker Terrance Bullitt is a big-time talent that's a little underrated across the league. He suffered a shoulder injury down the stretch in 2012, and that shoulder has been a constant issue since he first hurt it back in 2011. He sounded psyched this spring, saying the game was "fun again" and he's back to full health. Tech's defense will benefit.

Emphasis: Kingsbury knew two big things had to be fixed right away: Penalties and turnovers. The Red Raiders committed almost a full penalty more than any team in the Big 12 and ranked 121st nationally in the stat. They also forced just 11 turnovers in 12 games, less than all but two teams in college football. That has been the focus all offseason, and if he fixes that, Tech will improve in a hurry.

Outlook: The Red Raiders didn't get a vote in the coaches poll, and the Big 12 media picked the Red Raiders seventh in the league. That's a fitting spot, but Tech is an experienced team with a lot of upside, even if it is short on truly elite talents. Eric Ward and Jace Amaro are fantastic 1-2 targets in the passing game, and Jakeem Grant adds some major explosiveness to the offense. Tech will be able to beat anybody in the Big 12, but in a deep league, they can lose to most teams, too. This looks like a 7-8 win team to me.

Quotable: Kingsbury, on the SEC's dominance as he moves into the Big 12. "I think anytime you win seven national championships in a row, you're on top. That's hard to dispute that. Great defenses, great coaches in that league, and I feel the same about the Big 12. I think it's cyclical in a way that in a couple years the Big 12 may be making the same sort of run."

The Big 12's official 2012 All-Name Team

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
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It's time to officially unveil the Big 12's All-Name Team for 2012.

Any player on a current roster, regardless of role on the team, is eligible. The only requirement: Your name must be awesome.

These are, quite simply, the best names of players in the Big 12. Some are catchy. Some are fun to say. Some are just the best. I love all of these.

Here goes:

Coach: Major Applewhite, OC, Texas

OFFENSE

QB: Daxx Garman, Oklahoma State
RB: Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
RB: Brandon Bourbon, Kansas
FB: Glenn Gronkowski, Kansas State
WR: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
WR: Lynx Hawthorne, Baylor
WR: Kolby Listenbee, TCU
TE: Kurt Hammerschmidt, Iowa State
OL: Dylan Admire, Kansas
OL: Will Ash, Kansas State
OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
OL: Blaize Foltz, TCU
OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

DEFENSE

DL: Keba Agostinho, Kansas
DL: Beau Blackshear, Baylor
DL: Noble Nwachukwu, West Virginia
DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU
LB/DE: Toben Opurum, Kansas
LB: Curtis Smelley, West Virginia
LB: Shaq Petteway, West Virginia
DB: Yves Batoba, Oklahoma State
DB: Terrance Bullitt, Texas Tech
DB: Happiness Osunde, Texas Tech
DB: Kip Daily, Kansas State

SPECIALISTS

K: Bobby Stonebraker, Oklahoma State
P: Ryan Erxleben, Texas Tech

Who's your MVP? Anybody get snubbed?

Opening camp: Texas Tech Red Raiders

August, 10, 2012
8/10/12
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Camp is open over in Lubbock. Before we get too deep in sweltering practices, I'll offer up a quick preview of what you need to know heading into the season.

See more fall camp previews.

Next up: Texas Tech.

Media's predicted finish: Ninth.

Biggest storyline: Texas Tech is on a little redemption tour of its own after breaking the Big 12's longest stretch without a losing season, one that reached back nearly two decades. Last year's 5-7 season was aided by injuries, but the defense simply wasn't good enough. The pundits clearly aren't convinced Texas Tech is ready to rebound and reach the postseason, but the Red Raiders should have the offense. Can they stay healthy and finally turn the corner after a couple of rough seasons to begin the Tommy Tuberville era? He's recruited really well. The Red Raiders have the athletes to make it happen.

Biggest question mark: The entire defense. Texas Tech was by far the nation's worst run defense last season. That's an accomplishment especially in the Big 12, where passing is the name of the game. The Red Raiders gave up 12 more yards a game than New Mexico, the next-worst rush defense and a team that won one game. They gave up 25 more yards a game than the 116th-ranked rush defense. New coordinator Art Kaufman is the fourth man in four years to be in charge of the Texas Tech defense, which fell victim to poor depth in 2011. Coach Tommy Tuberville says the basic terminology and schemes haven't changed, even though the alignments have, from a 4-3 in 2009 to a 3-4 in 2010 to a 4-2-5 last year and back to a 4-3 this year.

Who needs to step up: The defensive line. Even with the injuries, the offense was good enough to win 7-8 games or more last season, averaging almost 34 points a game. Still, there's no underestimating the importance of this unit's improvement. If Tech can't stop the run any better than last year, the offense won't have a chance. Defensive tackle Delvon Simmons must emerge at the front line of the defense. Tackle Kerry Hyder and ends Branden Jackson and Dartwan Bush are the guys who can have the biggest influence on whether or not Texas Tech's rise begins in 2012.

On the mend: This list could go on and on and on, but we'll focus on the biggest guys who need to be back on the field. That starts with running backs Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington who are returning from knee injuries. Receivers Alex Torres (knee) and Darrin Moore (ankle) are back and healthy, though Moore is facing disciplinary action after an offseason DWI arrest.

Breaking out: Texas Tech may have a pair of linebackers who are household names by the end of the season. Juco transfer Will Smith took over this spring and earned a starting spot at middle linebacker. Tuberville wants him on the field as much as possible. Terrance Bullitt, a converted safety, is playing outside linebacker and the 215-pound senior is a big hitter who can fly around and be everywhere. He just needs to prove he can be where he needs to be when he needs to be there. He's got the athleticism to make it happen.

Don't forget about: WR Eric Ward. Torres has had a great career already, and Moore has all the potential in the world, but Ward was the guy producing in 2011, and returns as the team's leading receiver. He was steady during a rocky 2011, catching 84 balls for 800 yards and 11 scores.

Video: Texas Tech safety Terrance Bullitt

August, 1, 2012
8/01/12
2:00
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David Ubben talks with Texas Tech safety Terrance Bullitt about how the Red Raiders will rebound from a disappointing 2011 and staying healthy in 2012. He also offers his thoughts on Tech being picked to finish ninth in the Big 12.

Under the radar: Texas Tech Red Raiders

June, 26, 2012
6/26/12
12:38
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Time for the next team in our series examining one player on each Big 12 school who will enter 2012 with a profile that doesn't quite match his worth.

In other words, they're coming in under the radar. Click here for more players under the radar.

Next up: the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Under the radar: Linebacker Terrance Bullitt

Bullitt, an All-Name teamer among All-Name teamers, played strong safety last season in Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5, but did so close to the line of scrimmage.

Now, he's moving to linebacker, and it's a great move that fits exactly what's needed for Big 12 defenses. Bullitt has good size, and is putting some weight on his 206-pound frame. Texas Tech's defense struggled last season, but Bullitt showed a penchant to make big plays, and he just may be the most talented player on the Red Raiders' defense this year.

He made 56 tackles (fourth-most on the team) and made 9.5 tackles for loss, 11th most in the Big 12.. He broke up four passes, forced a fumble and also blocked a kick. He earned just honorable mention from the coaches on last year's All-Big 12 team, and didn't receive any recognition from the media, but that may change in 2012. Tech's defense under Art Kaufman this year needs playmakers to emerge.

Bullitt, a versatile, experienced defender with two years of experience on the field, fits the bill as the most likely to become one of the league's breakout playmakers.

Wrapping up Texas Tech's spring

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
2:00
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Got a chance to catch up with Red Raiders coach Tommy Tuberville this week, and if you missed it earlier this week, here's a look at a couple stories from that conversation:
He had plenty more to say, though.
    [+] EnlargeTommy Tuberville
    AP Photo/Eric GayTexas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville came away encouraged with spring practice despite having to deal with numerous injuries.

  • Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are the Big 12's only teams without indoor facilities, so Tuberville readily admits the Red Raiders roll the dice every year with weather when they start spring. This year, Tech began practice on Feb. 17, before any other Big 12 team. They only missed two practices, and made up the time before last Saturday's spring game. Tech is already finished with spring practice, but Kansas State hasn't even started.
  • You know football teams have 22 starters, right? Texas Tech was missing six to seven starters this spring from injuries suffered during the season. Nobody got beat up last year like Tech did. Mizzou was a distant second. Oklahoma had big-impact injuries (Ryan Broyles, Dominique Whaley), but had nowhere near the volume Tech did.
  • Texas Tech has hauled in top 25 recruiting classes in each of the past two years, two of the best in school history. But for the players even in the 2011 class, it's easy to forget most are entering their first spring. Tuberville thought this spring was really valuable for guys like DL Delvon Simmons, LB Branden Jackson, DE Kindred Evans, QB Michael Brewer, RB Kenny Williams and OL Le’Raven Clark. "They didn’t know what to expect but that’s where you can get better. That’s where you work on a lot of fundamental techniques, so that was the main objective, trying to bring up the level of the young guys on the team," Tuberville said. "Some ended up playing, but we didn’t have a lot of time to spend with them on fundamentals because of game planning in the fall."
  • Tuberville loved what he saw from juco transfer Rashad Fortenberry out of Mississippi. "He’s going to be a real solid left tackle behind LaAdrian Waddle, and that was a big concern with him coming out of junior college," Tuberville said. "He had a very good spring, but I think we really readied ourselves there in terms of depth on the offensive line."
  • Looking for leadership? Tuberville feels like he identified it during the last 15 practices. Defensively, S Terrance Bullitt, S D.J. Johnson, S Cody Davis and DE Kerry Hyder emerged this spring. For the offense, Tuberville saw leadership out of offensive linemen Waddle and Deveric Gallington.
  • There was plenty of hype around Brewer at quarterback this spring, and Tuberville loves what he's seen from the apparent heir to the Red Raider QB throne. "He’s got the ability and the luxury of playing behind [Seth] Doege and learning from him and how he handles himself and how he’s worked through adversity. Seth’s been a very good coach," Tuberville said. "He’s got a lot of room for improvement, but the main thing is his leadership and his knowledge of the offense were much, much better this spring."
  • The offense had a rough spring at times, but Tuberville pointed to his reliance on a lot of different players and combinations at receiver and on the offensive line that produced some short-term struggles he hopes are long-term advantages. "We’ve got so many receivers that we’re looking at," Tuberville said. "There wasn’t one day that we had the same guys playing the same position at the same time, so timing was off a little bit, but that’s a luxury for us." Among the receivers who made great strides during the spring: Javon Bell, Tyson Williams and Derek Edwards.
  • Art Kaufman is Texas Tech's fourth defensive coordinator in four years, but Tuberville says his scheme isn't much different from the 4-2-5 Texas Tech ran under Chad Glasgow in 2011. "We’re pretty much running our same things, we just changed a little of our philosophy and some of our techniques that we’re playing in the secondary and at linebacker," he said.
  • From my estimation, Texas Tech may have the best special teams duo of any squad (outside of do-everything Quinn Sharp at Oklahoma State) in the Big 12 next year. New kicker Ryan Bustin "picked up right where Donnie Carona left off." Tuberville estimates he made 90-95 percent of his kicks in game action this spring. Punter Ryan Erxleben averaged about 48 yards on his eight punts in the spring game, and Tuberville called it some of the best punting he'd ever seen. "I think Ryan has finally bought into the situation that golfers and basketball players and a lot of skill guys finally come to the conclusion of, 'I’ve gotta get stronger.' A lot of kickers and punters don’t believe that," Tuberville said. "They believe in more flexibility, but Ryan’s bought into the fact that he’s got to get his leg stronger and in the last eight or nine months, he’s worked on that, and I’ll tell you, he had a really good spring."
  • Tuberville was disappointed in his secondary for good reason in 2011, but likes what the unit showed during the spring, especially after moving receiver Cornelius Douglas to defense and keeping him there. "We’re much better with him and Eugene Neboh and Derrick Mays who, I think, is making a lot of progress. We still don’t have the depth we need at defensive line," Tuberville said. "It’s a work in progress, but we’ve got two more coming in from the high school ranks."

Season recap: Texas Tech

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
4:30
PM CT
The season started with promise, and ended early. Despite playing the Big 12's easiest nonconference schedule (Texas State, New Mexico, Nevada) and starting 4-0, Texas Tech endured a historically bad season. It had been 18 years since the last losing season in Lubbock, but Tommy Tuberville's Red Raiders (5-7) went through one in just his second year on the job.

Both sides of the ball struggled at times, but the biggest culprit was injuries. Leading rusher Eric Stephens was the first big loss, dislocating his knee in a loss to Texas A&M. The defense was riddled with injuries all year, bad enough that during the final few games, former receiver Cornelius Douglas was forced into a role as starting cornerback.

Despite a huge win over Oklahoma, one that ended the Sooners' 39-game home winning streak, this was a season to forget in Lubbock. After that game, the Red Raiders didn't win another game, and gave up 66 points in losses to both Oklahoma State and Baylor, sandwiched around a last-minute loss to Missouri.

Offensive MVP: Seth Doege, QB. Doege was on the money early in the season, and though he struggled at times, still put together a pretty good season. He set the NCAA record for single-game completion percentage against New Mexico, completing 40 of 44 passes and finished the season with, believe it or not, more passing yards than Baylor's Robert Griffin III. He completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 4,004 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Defensive MVP: Scott Smith, defensive end. You could maybe go with Terrance Bullitt or Cody Davis in this spot, but Smith, despite sitting out the first four games with a suspension, returned and had a huge impact. It's a bit ironic, considering Texas Tech was 1-7 once Smith returned, but he was a pass-rushing force. He finished with nine tackles for loss, only half of a TFL behind the team leader, Bullitt. He also had 5.5 sacks, 3.5 more than any other Tech defender. He forced three fumbles and made 37 tackles.

Turning point: You might think it's the Oklahoma win, but clearly, that's not the case. The 41-7 loss to Iowa State seemed shocking at the time, but it was clearly a sign of what was to come. That was a 5-2 Tech team losing to a 3-4 band of Cyclones, but Iowa State finished 6-6 and Tech finished 5-7. It was the first of three huge blowouts, and against Iowa State, Texas and Oklahoma State, Doege threw two touchdown passes and three picks, including zero touchdowns against Iowa State and OSU.

What’s next: Time to reassess what went wrong this season and get healthy. Texas Tech wasn't a great team even before the injuries. They've got plenty to fix. The good news is a lot of top talent returns. Stephens isn't a 100 percent guarantee, but he should be back next fall. Darrin Moore finally got back to health late in the year, though Alex Torres should be back after tearing his ACL against Mizzou. Doege will return with his top three receivers (five of his top six, too) and his running back, and the defense returns its top six tacklers. The upside for this team is high next year.

Big 12 position rankings: Linebackers

July, 2, 2011
7/02/11
11:00
AM CT
We've taken a look at the Big 12 offensive skill positions in our position rankings, and we'll circle back along to the lines eventually. For now, though, we'll flip to the defensive side of the ball, starting with linebackers.

There's a lot of turnover in this space, and the bottom half was pretty hard to sort out. We haven't seen a lot of these new faces on the field for extended periods of time, so it's somewhat of a crapshoot. I don't feel like there's a wide gap between teams 7-10, and each of those squads have at least one linebacker who could be due for a huge year and shoot them up this list.

I see Nos. 1-3 possibly being great, with dropoffs before the No. 4 and No. 7 teams.

Also, if you missed them, here are the other position rankings we've done so far.
So, without further ado, here's how I ranked the linebackers. (Nickel backs are included in this list, hybrid DE/LBs will be with defensive lines)

[+] EnlargeTravis Lewis
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireOklahoma's Travis Lewis is the Big 12's top returning defender.
1. Oklahoma -- The Sooners boast the Big 12's top returning defender in Travis Lewis, who has notched at least 100 tackles in each of the past three seasons, and he'll be joined by the Big 12's co-Defensive Freshman of the Year, Tony Jefferson. Tom Wort and Corey Nelson are both loaded with potential, and will fill out the rotation, after the starter at middle linebacker, Austin Box, died on May 19.

2. Iowa State -- The Cyclones boast two of the Big 12's best in Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, who combined for more tackles than any two teammates in the Big 12 last season. They had 241 stops, and, after healing from a broken leg suffered midseason last year, Matt Tau'fo'ou should join them at middle linebacker.

3. Texas -- Texas' offense may be lacking, but the defense will be strong once again, led by two others likely to earn spots as some of the Big 12's best. Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho were Texas' top two tacklers last year with 187 stops, and return as likely captains come fall camp. Texas' depth chart is wide open, but look for former blue-chip recruit Jordan Hicks to emerge as another star this year, despite being forced to sit out spring camp with a broken foot. Dravannti Johnson played some defensive end last year at the Buck position for the Longhorns, but may find his way back to linebacker. Tevin Jackson was ineligible last year, but he's ready for 2011, and could make an impact.

4. Oklahoma State -- The Cowboys "Star" linebacker is occupied by co-Defensive Freshman of the Year Shaun Lewis, and sophomore Caleb Lavey is charged with replacing Orie Lemon, the leader of last year's defense. Oklahoma State has questions on the weak side, but LeRon Furr and Chris Dinkins will compete next fall. Kris Catlin could be a factor, too.

5. Texas A&M -- The Aggies must replace their leading tackler, Michael Hodges, and don't have a clear replacement heading into fall camp. The good news: They've got two others with lots of experience in the linebacking corps that look like budding stars. Garrick Williams should be one of the defense's leaders and Sean Porter returns after making 74 tackles last year to rank third on the team.

6. Missouri -- The Tigers have lots of experience at middle linebacker, where a pair of seniors (albeit frequently injured seniors) Will Ebner and Luke Lambert will be on the field a lot. One of the Big 12's most exciting players, junior Zaviar Gooden, will hold down the weakside and perhaps become a household name by season's end. Sophomores Andrew Wilson and Donovan Bonner, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, will likely compete for strongside duties in fall camp. Andrew Gachkar, the team's leading tackler, is gone, but here's guessing Gooden emerges as the defense's top playmaker.

7. Kansas -- The Jayhawks linebackers were solid last year, and could be pretty good again, despite losing Drew Dudley and Justin Springer, two of the team's top four tacklers. Steven Johnson, the team's leading tackler in 2010, is back and he'll be joined by possible star Huldon Tharp, who missed all of last season with a leg injury. Fellow sophomore Darius Willis earned a starting role after spring.

8. Kansas State -- K-State's front seven struggled last year, but will get a big boost from Arthur Brown. One man won't be enough to totally fix the Wildcats rush defense problems, though. K-State gave up 26 more yards on the ground per game than any other team in the Big 12 (more than 231 per game) but Brown may be playing in a 4-3 next fall rather than the 4-2-5 the Wildcats have employed since Snyder's return. Alex Hrebec, Emmanuel Lamur, Tre Walker and Blake Slaughter will likely fill the rotation along with Brown.

9. Baylor -- Baylor's defensive depth chart, like Texas', is a bit amorphous after bringing in a new coordinator, but Elliot Coffey figures to be the Bears biggest playmaker at linebacker. Chris McAllister should be solid and Ahmad Dixon is promising at nickelback, too. Brody Trahan is a great story, but him going from third-string quarterback to starting linebacker isn't a ringing endorsement for Baylor's depth at the position.

10. Texas Tech -- Tech will be moving to a 4-2-5 this year under new coordinator Chad Glasgow, and could rise up this list, but the Red Raiders lose a lot of talent from last season's team, which ran the 3-4. Bront Bird and Brian Duncan are both gone, and youth will be a big factor with this group. Cqulin Hubert's outstanding potential is matched by his more outstanding first name, and freshman Blake Dees showed promise after arriving early this spring. They'll likely be the rotation at middle linebacker spot alongside Daniel Cobb and Zach Winbush. Terrance Bullitt could be a playmaker at his new safety spot, listed as a strong safety but with plans to spend lots of time near the line of scrimmage, a la nickelback.

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