Tech defense no longer seen as 'stepchild'

IRVING, Texas -- Texas Tech quarterback Steven Sheffield admitted it. The poor, often-forgotten Tech defense was treated like, "this sounds bad, but they were kind of like the stepchild."

Of course, former coach Mike Leach was an offensive wizard and so Leach's unorthodox, pass-happy offense came to define Texas Tech football.

Tommy Tuberville says that's about to change. He says he remains commmitted to a passing, spread-type offense, although with a more prominent running game, but Tuberville is a defensive guy and he wants that side of the ball to feel wanted, too.

"We want our defense to tkae a step up. We want to let them know that they're part of the team. For us to win a championship, they have to be accountable," Tuberville said. "The one thing I noticed about our defense is they didn't have a lot of confidence. You know, there wasn't a lot of talk about them. If there was, it was about not playing very well, there was no credit on that side. For some reason, everything was focused on offense."

The most obvious change will be in scheme. Tuberville and defensive coordinator James Willis, the former linebackers coach at Alabama, are bringing in a 3-4 look and blitz-happy approach. The days of the bend-but-don't-break approaach are over.

The two guys who could benefit most are outside linebackers Brian Duncan (6-1, 240), a senior who has started since his redshirt freshman season and first-time starter, senior Julius Howard (6-1, 208). Still, those guys have their work cut out. Tech lost its top three sack leaders from a unit that -- it might surprise some -- ranked third in the Big 12 in sacks last season with 41. Last season's sack leader Brandon Sharpe (15 sacks) is in training camp with the Dallas Cowboys.