December 20, 2006

Defense: Disappointments and Pleasant Surprises

For the first time since his arrival in Lubbock, Lyle Setencich's Red Raider defense actually worsened from the previous year, and that qualifies as a disappointment. With a deep and talented front four returning, plus quality veterans Fletcher Session and Antonio Huffman back to anchor the rear seven, most expected Tech's defense to be on par with last year's, but such was not to be.

The 2006 unit finished up #49 nationally in total defense, and out of the top 50 in rushing and scoring defense. Surprisingly, since only one starter returned, pass defense was Tech's forte. The Red Raider secondary surrendered 176 yards per game, good for #25 in the country. The defensive backfield's cause was doubtless aided by a better pass rush as well. Tech logged a very respectable 29 sacks on the season.

From the perspective of individual performances, the pleasant surprises outnumber the disappointments. And that fact that may indicate that the defense did not play that badly but rather was frequently put in practically impossible positions by a Red Raider offense that habitually turned the ball over deep in Tech territory.

Pleasant Surprises:

BROCK STRATTON: Nobody took more guff from the fan-base coming into this season than middle linebacker Brock Stratton. Repeatedly belittled as too slow, too small, too weak, and lacking in talent, Stratton was being relegated to the bench even before a down of football had been played. Given Tech's history at the middle linebacker position, perhaps the fans should have known better. No, Brock Stratton is no Zach Thomas, but he plays a tough, smart game of football and was hands-down the Red Raiders' best linebacker this season. Fact is he led the team with 84 tackles. Stratton's big, fast, strong, talented replacement will have his work cut out for him.

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