September 28, 2011

Notebook: Defensive woes

After a performance like last week's against Nevada, it was only natural that head coach Tommy Tuberville was going to get questions about his Red Raider defense on the final day of media availability.

Nevada was able to outgain the Red Raiders 562 yards -- including 312 yards on the ground -- to 441 yards despite ultimately losing to Tech, 35-34. That poses concerns against Kansas, albeit a struggling team it does have a Big 12 Conference offense.

"We probably had them a little confused," Tuberville said after Wednesday's practice. "We might have been doing too much. We got lined up wrong quite a bit Saturday and we weren't able to take good enough angles on their running game. Obviously we want them to play hard and play fast and play smart, but you can't do that if you don't know what you're doing.

"So, we've made some changes trying to make sure everybody knows what they're doing, how they're doing it. We'll see a lot of formations out of Kansas and they'll try to get us in a situation like we were in last week. Hopefully we play better and play smarter on the defensive side of the ball and tackle better. We almost had 20 missed tackles, that's way too many to win a game."

Tuberville said he expects Kansas, a team that would prefer to run the ball anyway, to test Tech's running defense early and often Saturday up in Lawrence, Kan.

"I'm concerned about everybody's running game," Tuberville said. "We haven't stopped anyone yet. But we're working on it and we should be much better in the running game because we're better on the defensive line, we're a little inexperienced at linebacker but they've gotten better, we've just got to tackle when we get there and play with a lot of aggression.

"They play with four good running backs and they have a big offensive line and I'm sure they're looking at the film of the last three games we've played and chopping their gums ready to play because we haven't played that well."

Tuberville added he didn't expect the defense to be farther along than it is.

"There's really not a barometer on where we want to be because, especially defensively, there are so many young guys and their heads are spinning," Tuberville said. "At times we've looked pretty good, but at times we haven't. So, hopefully we can grow up because we don't have a lot of time."

There's an easy way to tell if the Red Raider defense is a better unit than it was last week. The answer will reveal itself shortly after kickoff.

"Just playing smarter," Tuberville said. "Playing with a lot of confidence. You can tell on defense if there's a lot of running around and making good contact and not hesitating and those things."

KANSAS DEFENSE HAS STRUGGLED, TOO

Tech's defense isn't the only one looking to redeem itself Saturday.

Kansas' defense got steamrolled by Georgia Tech in Atlanta last week. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 604 yards against the Jayhawks offense en route to 768 total yards in a 66-21 win against Kansas.

Tuberville said he doesn't expect Kansas to have a repeat performance of that game, especially considering the offenses in the Big 12.

"Their last game, you can throw that out," Tuberville said. "They played the wishbone and that's a totally different game plan than you'll see. They're much better than they played. They just got down and it's just hard to keep up once you get the ball rolling against you.

"Kind of like how we looked last week (against the pistol offense), we looked confused a little bit. They'll be much better against us. We're much more conventional, if you can call anything conventional nowadays. They'll play with a lot more confidence against us."

KEY RED RAIDERS RETURN

Tuberville said right tackle Mickey Okafor, cornerback Tre' Porter and weak safety Cody Davis[/db] all will be back in the lineup for the Kansas game.

Davis and Porter missed the entire Nevada game while Okafor was knocked out of the game with an injury.

"(Porter and Okafor) have been out here practicing, Tre' has been practicing all week, just non-contact but he's running full speed," Tuberville said.

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