December 6, 2007

Reed's move from wideout to safety is intriguing

One of the unfounded gripes one occasionally hears about Mike Leach's Texas Tech football program is that he doesn't put enough "athletes" on the defensive side of the ball. Never mind that the recruiting numbers show that Leach has signed an almost equal number of defensive and offensive players, the perception still persists that he does not devote enough personnel resources to the defense.

This complaint will be even more difficult to sustain now that Leach has seen fit to allow outside receiver L.A. Reed to move to safety.

The move is a timely one. Over the second half of the season Ed Britton used an injury to Reed as an opportunity to make the X receiver position his own. In Reed's absence, Britton truly came to the fore, developing into a reliable and dangerous receiver. With Britton's development, Reed would have been hard-pressed to garner extensive playing time at X, let alone regain his starting position.

Additionally, the Red Raider defensive backfield sustained a double shot of attrition in the season-ending victory over Oklahoma. Safeties Anthony Hines and Daniel Charbonnet both exited the Oklahoma game with what, as a matter of course, remain unspecified injuries.

Speculation about the severity of those injuries is pointless, but until we see Hines and/or Charbonnet suited up for duty in the Gator Bowl, we must entertain the possibility that both players may be done for the season. If that's the case, Reed could actually be pressed into action at safety against the Virginia Cavaliers.

There's really no telling how quickly Reed will pick up his new position. As a junior, he is an experienced player who knows Tech's overall system well. Even playing exclusively at receiver, he has surely assimilated some of what Red Raider defensive backs do schematically simply by playing against them day-in and day-out in practice. And Reed will certainly get a crash course in the coverages and defensive plays in the coming weeks.

One area in which there is very little doubt is Reed's overall abilities as a football player, his toughness, and his defensive mentality. Ruffin McNeill, Reed's new boss, recommends the six-foot-two 200-pound junior from Conroe highly.

"L.A. is a 'football' player. He has size. He's fearless, and has very good football instincts. L.A. has the aggression needed on defense, [the] physical power and explosion I feel can help us on defense. His speed is fine because he plays full speed all the time."

Regardless of how much action Reed sees in the Gator Bowl, he definitely figures to be a factor in next year's defense by virtue of his general athleticism. That said, the depth at both safety positions in 2008 will be impressive.

Tech loses starting strong safety Joe Garcia, but returns everybody else including Darcel McBath, Steven Harris, Daniel Charbonnet, Anthony Hines, Franklin Mitchem, Jordy Rowland and Lance Fuller.

McBath and Charbonnet reside at free safety, while Hines and Mitchem figure to work exclusively at strong safety. The others may alternate a bit in a scheme in which free and strong safety are practically interchangeable anyway. Based upon his size and the fact that McBath is a returning starter at free safety, my guess is that Reed will be groomed as a strong safety.

No matter where Reed ultimately winds up, however, McNeill is thrilled to add him to his battalion.

"I think L.A. will be a definite asset to our defense and our team. I welcome his talents and toughness to our side of the ball."

It is a sentiment shared by many.

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