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August 2, 2012
Preview: Secondary is a concern
The coaching staff did what it could to help out the secondary during the offseason with the addition of cornerbacks Bruce Jones, Olaoluwa Falemi and Austin Stewart from the junior college ranks plus a few freshman players who could potentially help out immediately.
Tech can also hope that Tre' Porter is ready to make an impact after missing five games last season due to a head injury. Derrick Mays and Jarvis Phillips return after making a handful of starts in 2011, and Jeremy Reynolds had a very solid spring.
That being said, the Red Raiders will really be counting on senior safeties Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson to help over the top and the team needs both players to go injury free throughout the season. Both are solid football players -- Davis is the NCAA's active career-leader in solo tackles -- but the team will need them to be difference makers this season.
Behind Davis and Johnson, the Red Raiders have viable options between Porter, Stewart and J.J. Gaines. Freshman athlete Keenon Ward has been assigned to the defensive backfield, but he won't be ready to contribute this fall.
[ More RRS: No need to worry about the safeties ]
At cornerback, Cornelius Douglas is Tech's clear No. 1 option. He started out last season as a receiver but was converted over as attrition hit the secondary depth as bad as injuries hampered the Red Raiders' running game.
Douglas, who was recruited out of high school as a defensive back by some programs, has committed himself to learning the cornerback position. He dramatically improved his body for the position over the offseason and had a good spring.
Who will line up at the other cornerback spot is a huge question. Jones or Falemi will get a good look this fall, as none of the returning players made a definitive case during the spring.
Behind those three cornerbacks the Red Raiders will be counting on a combination of Happiness Osunde, Mays, Phillips and Reynolds to round out depth plus maybe freshman La'Darius Newbold, although Newbold will likely start out at safety.
Depth isn't ideal in the secondary, but Tech is at a good starting point. As long as the injury bug doesn't bite too hard, the Red Raiders' defensive backfield should be expected to show improvement from last season.
NEW FACES: Both Jones and Falemi should make an impact right away after transferring from junior colleges. Jones is more polished at this point, but Falemi may have more upside.
Stewart, another junior college transfer, will be relied upon as a backup this fall. He's still adjusting to the Division I level, but he could be a major factor in 2013 and 2014.
[ More RRS: Not many answers in the defensive backfield ]
Ward could play either receiver or safety, but has been handed over to first-year secondary coach John Lovett to bolster depth at safety. There's a good chance Ward will redshirt.
Newbold rounds out the newcomers, and could conceivably play this season. He has great athletic ability and very good size, so it will just be a matter of how quickly he can adjust to playing Big 12 football.
Thierry Nguema joined the team in the spring after greyshirting last season.
PRESSURE IS ON: Cornelius Douglas. If Douglas isn't an answer at cornerback -- remember, he's only played a handful of games on defense -- then the Red Raiders are in deep trouble.
BIGGEST QUESTION: Who emerges as the starter at boundary cornerback? Will it be newcomer Bruce Jones or Olaolua Falemi, or a returning player like Eugene Neboh? Either way, this is arguably the biggest question mark of camp for Tech.