MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Back in July at the annual Big 12 football media days event in Dallas, someone chose Kerry Hyder to answer one of those random-sampling surveys that are interesting to read, but seldom very insightful.Among the questions Texas Tech's fifth-year, all-conference defensive end was asked were what other team and coach he would like to play for besides his own.Hyder didn't hesitate. West Virginia and Dana Holgorsen, he said. His answer wasn't all that surprising given that Holgorsen spent eight formative years as an assistant at Tech under Mike Leach."He'd left [by the time Hyder arrived in 2009], but he's still got a little Tech in him,'' Hyder said. "And if I was going to go somewhere, I'd want to go play for somebody who had some Tech in him.''Well, here's the thing, though. If Hyder wanted to play for a former Tech coach, boy does he have options. Now in his fifth season in Lubbock, Hyder is playing for his third head coach and his fifth defensive coordinator.So the college football landscape is littered with guys who have at least "a little bit of Tech in them.''"Yeah, it's a little different,'' Hyder said of the revolving door of coaches he's played for in his five seasons. "But the transition's gotten a little easier each year.''No kidding.
When No. 16 Tech (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) plays at noon Saturday in Morgantown against West Virginia (3-3, 1-2), Hyder will be playing for head coach Kliff Kingsbury and defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt.Kingsbury follows Tommy Tuberville, who was at Tech for three seasons after Leach, whose staff recruited Hyder.Ruffin McNeill was the defensive coordinator under Leach during Hyder's true freshman season, but left when Leach was fired. In his three seasons, Tuberville made it an annual ritual to change defensive bosses, going through James Willis, Chad Glasgow and Art Kaufman. Kingsbury then brought in Wallerstedt.A bit unnerving to the players to keep changing bosses? Well, yes and no, said Hyder.
"It's actually really brought the players together, to be honest,'' Hyder said. "We understand now that coaches are going to come and go. Sometimes they leave. But we're still here playing.''And there's a certain sense of unity in that."Yeah,'' Hyder said. "It's brought the team together in some ways because we're still here.''
Had those coordinators and head coaches been on the same page as far as philosophies go, the constant change might not have been difficult. But in those five years the Red Raiders have played a 4-3 scheme, then a 3-4, a 4-2-5, back to the 4-3 and now back to the 3-4 again.Through it all, Tech has finally managed to improve its defense. This season the Red Raiders rank No. 21 in the country in total defense. Last year it was No. 38. The two years prior to that Tech ranked No. 114, which lends a clue as to why Tuberville fired his first two coordinators.Hyder is certainly thriving in the latest system. The 6-foot-2, 280-pounder is playing end, tackle and nose at times, and last week he had nine tackles and two quarterback hurries in a 42-35 win over Iowa State. He leads the Big 12 in tackles for loss.That and Tech's unbeaten record and national ranking are among the reasons Hyder is glad he stuck it out through all the changes, not that he ever considered doing anything else. Unlike his coaches, he never considered leaving."When I make decisions, I don't go back on them,'' Hyder said. "I felt like I gave my word to Tech and that's where I'm going to play, where I'm going to be at. I never thought - never hinted - about leaving."I chose Tech for a reason, and it wasn't the coaches. I chose it because of the atmosphere and the players I met.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.