Sam Eguavoen is entering unfamiliar territory.
The Texas Tech linebacker will have the same defensive coordinator for the first time in his Red Raiders career as Matt Wallerstedt returns to run the defense for the second straight season under Kliff Kingsbury. The continuity on that side of the ball is one reason Kingsbury believes his defense can reach higher heights in 2014.
"That's big for them," Kingsbury said. "Two years having the same defensive staff in place with the same terminology. I can tell this spring they weren't thinking as much. They were actually flying around with the football."
A key member of Tech's defense since his freshman season, Eguavoen started five games for Chad Glasgow as a true freshman in 2011 and 10 games for Art Kaufman as a sophomore in 2012 before starting all 13 games after Wallerstedt arrived alongside Kingsbury a year ago. It will be the first time since 2009 that the Red Raiders program returns the same defensive coordinator.
"It helps a lot, we all have the scheme down," said Eguavoen, who enters the year with 152 career tackles. "Just because I'm a senior does not mean I know the defense better than someone who was a freshman last year. I was new to that defense just like he was."
The senior insists that with the continuity comes the removal of any excuses for his returning teammates on the defensive side of the football. Even though Tech loses defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, linebacker Will Smith and safety Tre Porter, who joined him in the top four in tackles for Tech last season, Eguavoen expects the Red Raider defense to be as good or better in 2014.
"People talk about we have key losses but it's really like we haven't lost anybody," Eguavoen insists. "Because those young guys were learning the scheme at the same time those guys were. They're coming into this season knowing twice as much as those seniors knew about the defense, so I have full confidence in the people behind me, to the left and right of me."
Tech's defense had plenty of struggles in 2013, finishing in the bottom half of the Big 12 in points allowed (30.5, seventh), total yards allowed (418.5, seventh) and rushing yards allowed (201.5, ninth). But Eguavoen believes the defense's performance in Tech's 37-23 win over Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl can be a spring board for this year's unit.
"If we just pop on the game tape of the bowl game, that just showed what we're really capable of," he said. "That's the expectation this season, we've increased our standards. Incoming freshmen, juco guys, they all know what we expect of them."