LUBBOCK, Texas — A big question for Texas Tech’s defense in 2021 is how much pressure it can get on opposing quarterbacks. Of course, that starts with the defensive line.
Eli Howard was the premiere player on the unit last year, but he’s playing professionally now and someone will have to step up and take his place. One player who could do that is Tyree Wilson.
Wilson transferred to Texas Tech from Texas A&M ahead of last season, and has all the physical tools desirable in an elite pass rusher. He stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 280 pounds, and moves very well for a man that size.
Wilson only had 1.5 sacks last year, but he arrived in Lubbock during preseason camp, giving him less time to learn Texas Tech’s scheme. He didn’t crack the starting lineup until the second half of the season.
While this defensive line unit may not have that marquee player, its strength comes in its depth and experience. Returning starters Jaylon Hutchings and Tony Bradford will both be upperclassmen next year, and Bradford feels that the group could make a leap with another year of experience under their belt.
“It’s one of those things where we’re confident and now we got guys that kind of know the system, because it was kind of the same thing from last season,” he said. “And now we’re more confident in it and we believe in it more. And now we can definitely make way more plays than what we did last year.”
One player who figures to contribute with another year under his belt is Nelson Mbanasor, the senior who missed almost all of last season with an injury. Mbanasor will come off the edge, while senior Devin Drew provides depth at the defensive tackle spot.
A couple of underclassmen, LB Moore and Philip Blidi, are poised to step into bigger roles. Moore turned heads with a disruptive performance in Tech’s Spring Game.
The Red Raiders only recorded 18 sacks last season, the third-worst figure in the Big 12. Just seven of those sacks came from defensive linemen. But the 2021 group goes two deep in experienced players. If someone like Wilson breaks out, the defensive line could see a surge in production.