For the eighth time since 2007, Texas Tech has a new defensive coordinator. This time, it's David Gibbs, who arrives after a successful stint calling defense at Houston.
Gibbs has been charged with turning around a Red Raiders defense that ranked 125th out of 129 FBS teams last year.
What is the key to turning this defense around?
Gibbs: Being consistent, and having a plan. I always use the term, don’t be a rat in a trap -- we’re not going to go blitz crazy, stunt crazy. It’s hard to play defense in college football right now, and if you chase ghosts and try to stop every play, in my opinion, you have no chance. You’re better off being sound, making the offense execute and changing the looks as best you can. We’re not going to be splitting the atom. Turnovers also cover up mistakes, and we’re going to coach the heck out of getting turnovers.
You had a ton of success forcing turnovers at Houston. How does one teach turnovers to a defense that has struggled to force them in the recent past?
Gibbs: You preach it, drill it. Most coaches do. You have to practice it in practice. Lot of time there’s a fine line between teaching tackling and teaching turnovers. You have to find the balance. Sometimes you have to sacrifice some of the tackling. The interceptions, you've got to make people pass when you want them to pass, get them in obvious passing situations, when you can change up coverages. Nothing earth-shattering. Once the turnovers start coming, the confidence comes, like anything else. I don’t know that you can go from getting (15) to getting 40. But you can get to 25-30 without being too crazy.
You're not going to be able to get people in obvious passing downs if you can't stop the run. Arkansas didn't have to do anything but hand the ball off last year. How do you improve the run defense?
Gibbs: It starts up front. Texas Tech struggled with some of the front guys, being out of position, being out of gaps. To me, it’s just fundamental football. It sounds easy. But it’s about the defensive line staying in their gaps, and the linebackers and secondary knowing their run fits. That comes with the coordinating of a defense. From day one, I’m going to be preaching run support calls. Is it always going to be perfect? No. But if you have a system and preach a system, you’re going to be better. You’ll have a chance. Does that mean Arkansas still can’t run you over? No, they still can run you over. But when guys start jumping their gaps to try and go make play and screw their buddy, you’re not going to stop anybody. If you don’t gap up, you’re not going to stop the run. It starts up front and ends with the linebackers and secondary understanding run support calls. It’s life or death with me when it comes to run support calls.
I don't know if you realize this or not, but you're like the eighth defensive coordinator at Tech in like eight years. How important will consistency and stability be for this defense?
Gibbs: If I don’t make somebody punt, I might not be here for a second season. They might want a new guy. I’m consistent. A lot of people out there don’t like me. But they know I’m consistent. I bring consistency being who I am. The more time you have with kids -- longevity and consistency breed more success. I’m excited to be here. It’s a great challenge, which I understand. But I’ve been through this a few times. I see opportunity.
Tech fans are excited to see what Mike Mitchell can bring after sitting out last year after transferring in from Ohio State. What has been your early impression of him?
Gibbs: He’s a great athlete. He can run and hit. The only film I could get on him was from the Thursday scrimmages they had with their redshirt guys. But he was flying around making a bunch of plays. Because of the nature of our defense, we’ll start him out at Will linebacker, where he’ll get to run and make a ton of tackles. He hasn’t played football in two years, he’s going to be rusty. But he’s been grinding every day. I’m excited to work with him. He has the skill set you’re looking for. Hopefully it works out.
Another guy people are excited about is incoming defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko (No. 51 in the ESPN 300). Can he help you guys this season?
Gibbs: He’s going to be in the rotation. We’re going to play at least eight defensive linemen. You have to have two racks of defensive linemen nowadays, whether they’re good enough, it doesn’t matter. I don’t think you can play guys 80-90 snaps and function. So he’s going to play, and play as much as he can. There’s a difference between him and most freshmen in that he has phenomenal strength already even as a baby. A lot of guys that young can’t hold up to the pounding. He has the strength to. We don’t need him to be a superstar, we just need him to be functional in the defense. His time [to be a star] will come. If it comes early, we’ll feel blessed.
Tech had a bunch of young defensive backs on the field last year. How can they improve?
Gibbs: It’s hard to play corner. At least these kids have some experience. Even though it was bad experience, at least it was experience. I’m going to take some pressure off them, the way I call the defense because I’m a DB coach. Maybe not have them on an island as much, allow them to build confidence and keep improving.