The Texas Tech defense gave up nearly identical points per game through Big 12 conference play in 2019 and 2020. That's really the only defensive stat that matters, but there's another one that's pretty striking. The Red Raiders defense gave up 365 yards per game through the air against Big 12 teams in 2019. In 2020, they erased 142 yards per game and only gave up 223 yards a contest.

That's a big jump. That's with mostly the same quarterbacks on the opposing sidelines from one year to the next.

The rush defense regressed a bit but the totals are undeniable. The Red Raiders gave up a staggering 538 yards per game in Big 12 play in 2019 and 36 points per game. In 2020, they gave

up 427 yards and 37 points per game. So was the defense better in 2020? It was certainly improved. The defense basically won two games for the Red Raiders with huge plays against both West Virginia and Baylor.

That's not the norm in Lubbock.

In a normal season, most of the starters from 2020 would be heading off to the next level with Zech McPearson, Eric Monroe, Jacob Morgenstern, and DaMarcus Fields all classified as seniors. That's not true in 2020 though with everyone getting an extra year of eligibility if they choose to accept it. So far, Fields and Monroe have already announced they'll return for another season and McPhearson is still deciding whether or not to return.

Fields had more than 130 total tackles as a Red Raider through his first four seasons and had three interceptions in 2019. Monroe came to Texas Tech this year from LSU and was an immediate starter and was third on the team with 60 tackles and had two forced fumbles. Those two defensive backs join senior linebackers Jacob Morgenstern, Riko Jeffers and Colin Schooler as returners.

If all these starters are returning how will the defense look different?

For starters, transfers. Over the weekend Texas Tech had movement both ways in the portal with Grad transfer Nick McCann announcing he'd leave Texas Tech,  sophomore Alex Hogan announcing via social media he was entering the portal, and North Carolina State sophomore Malik Dunlap committing to the Red Raiders via the portal.

McCann only played in four games in 2020 and had his best season back in 2018.  Hogan played in 18 games in two seasons as a Red Raider with 16 tackles, six pass breakups, and one interception. Hogan, in my opinion, was Texas Tech's best cover corner early in 2020 before being replaced in the starting lineup and missing games.

Dunlap played in 23 games while at NC State and 41 tackles and 14 pass breakups. He will have three seasons of eligibility in Lubbock.

There's also a 247Sports report that senior safety Marquis Waters from Duke has entered the transfer portal and might follow his former defensive backs coach to Texas Tech. Waters started all 11 games this season for the Blue Devils and will be a graduate transfer which means he'll have immediate eligibility. Waters would also be an immediate impact guy who had 71 tackles, seven TFLs and seven passes defended in 2020. He's a three-year starter for Duke and would have one year of eligibility for Texas Tech as a senior.

Add the transfers with the returning seniors and exiting players and the personnel will certainly have a different feel next year. It will also look different in Lubbock because it will be the second straight defensive coordinator to stay in place for more than two seasons after having a long line of inconsistency at the position. Can the continuity of the defense staff have an effect on the product on the field?

It hasn't yet, but if there's ever a year that Texas Tech needed it, 2021 is that year.

 

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