The defensive line could make or break the Red Raiders’ defensive attack this season. Led by two talented upper classmen, this unit could be the bright spot of this team. Here is who you should look out for on the defensive line!
Tony Bradford, Jr. will anchor the defensive line at Tackle in 2021 following a solid 2020 campaign that saw him post 28 tackles and six tackles for loss. Bradford, Jr. missed two games due to injury in 2020, but otherwise posted quality starting efforts. His sack numbers are a little underwhelming on paper, but that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Bradford, Jr. proved to be consistently disruptive with five QB hurries to go with the 6 tackles for loss, so he was in the backfield making things tough on opponents fairly often. Expect to see the sack numbers rise this year as he continues to elevate his game from an already impressive Honorable Mention All-Big XII season.
Jaylon Hutchings is a well-rounded player who proved to be a run-stopping, gap-filling force in 2020. Hutchings occupies a good amount of space at the nose position. It helped to have a very strong second line of defense of Krishon Merriweather, Riko Jeffers, and Colin Schooler. Hutchings’ presence clogging things up in the middle allowed the linebackers and his fellow defensive lineman to do some damage in what proved to be one of the best front sevens that Texas Tech has seen in a long time. He is a star off the field as well, having made himself a mainstay on Academic All-Big XII lists, and he and Bradford Jr. make a great team.
Tyree Wilson filled in very capably for Eli Howard when Howard suffered an injury late in the season. The Texas A&M transfer showed some terrific promise and flashed some of the abilities that made him a highly recruited player coming out of high school. With Howard now joining the NFL ranks, the starter at the end spot for the Texas Tech defense for 2021 is likely to be Wilson. Having Bradford, Jr., and Hutchings returning as starters along with Wilson’s starting experience from the latter half of 2020 puts the Tech front well in a position to have a big year.
Nelson Mbanasor suffering an early-season injury is likely the only reason he’s not currently listed as a starter. He has proven to be a talented player during his career and is poised for a breakout campaign in 2021. His small sample size of work in 2021 against Houston Baptists was impressive with four tackles and .5 tackle for loss before his year was cut short. Don’t be surprised if Mbanasor works his way into a major role in the trenches this year, and Red Raider fans should fully expect to see him make some contributions at the very least.
Devin Drew played a semi-starting role in 2020 and was one of the only players on the defensive line to appear in every game. Drew earned a bigger share of the rotation with his play throughout the year and ended the year on a strong note with performances of five and four tackles against Oklahoma State and Kansas. Expect him to continue seeing plenty of snaps in rotation, and if needed, he is a capable starter as well. With Bradford, Jr. missing the TCU game due to injury, Drew posted four tackles in a starting role. He will add key depth and more for 2021.
E’maurion “Dooda” Banks was one of the biggest stars of the 2021 Tech recruiting class. Banks is a Texas Top 100-level talent who held offers from programs all over the country, and for good reason. He will come into Lubbock with game-ready size and a resume of high school production that should enter him immediately into the rotation. It’s likely not a matter of if Banks will play his way into a starting role, but when. For 2021, he may not be asked to play those kinds of minutes, but he certainly can force his way up the depth chart in a hurry.
Texas Tech will have a two-deep defensive line filled with experience from a strong season for the unit overall in 2020. The emergence of Wilson and Drew in 2020 was welcome for Red Raider fans, and the return of Mbanasor with the addition of a potential star newcomer in Banks make this a quality group from top to bottom. With a talented linebacker group behind them once again and more starts under their belt, expect things to only get even better for the Tech Defensive Line in 2021.