Every college football pundit is quick to point out that Mike Leach is stuck with the unenviable task of replacing Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree. However, the issue being continually overlooked is where the heck is Defensive Coordinator Ruffin McNeill going to find a pass rush. He's charged with having to replace Brandon Williams, McKinner Dixon, and the 19 sacks that they took with them.
Who will Ruff turn to?
A converted defensive tackle.
A player who played in the "Joker" package almost exclusively in 2008.
A 2* JUCO player whose career best game consisted of two tackles (one assisted) at Texas A&M.
A local boy who has never played in a Big 12 game.
At first glance, that list is sure to inspire confidence.
But as Mr. Corso would say...
Not...so fast my friend!
Rajon Henley, a close friend of Brandon Williams (4th round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys), has talked with him at length about the position switch and what Henley needs to do to get ready for the NFL. As a result, Henley has dropped at least 20 lbs, shaved over a tenth of his 40 time and by all accounts has made a very smooth transition to the outside.
The other three players referenced above are Daniel Howard, Brandon Sharpe, and Ryan Halliburton. Depending who you ask, Howard and/or Sharpe have been unstoppable at times during fall camp . Both have welcomed the increased playing time and responsibility that comes with replacing a pair of All-Big 12 players. Halliburton is coming along nicely as well but won't be asked to shoulder quite as much of a burden as Rajon's backup.
One player that I failed to mention is Brandon Sesay. One of the top JUCO prospects in the country when he signed in 2008, Sesay has continued to struggle both on the field as well as off it. He wasn't fully qualified until just before the season started last year and then failed to perform up to his abilities on a consistent basis once he stepped onto the gridiron.
By all accounts, he was starting to "get it" during spring practice and was going to be a nice compliment to Henley. Unfortunately, his lack of interest in going to class caught up to him yet again. He is still listed on the fall camp roster and no official announcement has been made regarding his status (both academic and athletic) with Texas Tech, but it doesn't look like we will see Mr. Sesay donning the red and black this fall.Despite Sesay's loss, the Red Raiders still have a promising and experienced group of defensive ends suiting up on Satudays. The optimist in me hopes Henley logs eight sacks and nabs Second Team All-Big 12 honors. As a group, expect 18.5 sacks (down from 23.5) and a high level of energy from the defensive bookends this fall.