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March 19, 2013
Jackson Richards and Dartwan Bush anchor a defensive end depth chart that is far more robust than what former head coach Tommy Tuberville inherited in 2010. Kerry Hyder was one of the better interior linemen in the conference in 2012 and should be in the conversation for preseason All-Big 12 honors heading into to 2013.
The defensive line as a whole has a new role to play in the 3-4. As was the case when James Willis was the coordinator, in a 3-4 scheme, the line needs to be quick and athletic. The defensive tackles push the interior offensive line back and the ends have to contain the outside edge with help from the outside linebackers and ideally be quick enough to make a play on their own.
The first set of defensive line starters seems set and the storylines coming from this position will be who is taking steps forward.
Anthony Smith was out of shape when he arrived on campus and had to spend extra time during fall camp training with former strength and conditioning coach Joe Walker to shed unnecessary pounds. The big tackle could run a sub-5 second 40-yard dash time so we're looking to see if he has returned to being the quick player he was in high school.
J.J. Lollar is in a difficult position because his eye issues forced him into bed rest and the medicine he had to take caused severe weight gain. He put in a lot of effort at home to get back into shape but nothing can beat a college strength and conditioning program. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back from what was once feared as a career-ending medical issue.
Other players who might step into the spotlight are sophomore Donte Phillips at defensive tackle and sophomore defensive end Kindred Evans.
There is a lot of potential along the defensive line in addition to some proven leaders so this is a position ground that should be able to take another step forward this spring.
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NEWCOMERS: J.J. Lollar. The College Station product originally signed with Texas Tech in 2012, but was prevented from joining the team last summer due to a serious eye issue that could have cost him his sight. Lollar greyshirted as a result, and has been on campus since the beginning of the spring semester.
PRESSURE IS ON: Hyder's junior season was arguably the best for a Red Raider interior lineman in a decade. Colby Whitlock, for example, never had more than 8.5 TFL or three sacks in any one season; Hyder had 14 stops behind the line and 5.5 sacks as a junior. He'll be expected to duplicate or improve on those numbers as a senior.
BIGGEST QUESTION: Who plays where? For example, Pete Robertson, Branden Jackson and Chase Robison were all defensive ends in 2012, but it seems likely that they will be playing outside linebacker in Matt Wallerstedt's scheme.