Skip to main content

The 15 most important assistant coaching hires of 2022 -- No. 15: Tim DeRuyter, Texas Tech

In the new-look Big 12, Texas Tech will have as good a chance to run the league as anyone else. So long as they can play defense.

Who: Tim DeRuyter, Texas Tech

Title: Defensive Coordinator

Previous stop: Oregon defensive coordinator/outside linebackers coach (2021)

Why he's important: Texas Tech played its first football season in 1925. The Red Raiders joined a conference in 1932. In the near 90 seasons since, Tech has hoisted a conference championship trophy 11 times; the most recent was in 1994, the last outright conference title came in 1955, when the Raiders won the Border Conference with a 3-0-1 record.

The point here is not to disparage Texas Tech football, it's to provide context for what comes next.

Despite a remote location and sharing a conference with Texas, Texas A&M and, later, with Oklahoma for almost all their history, Texas Tech has built a successful program with a more-rabid-than-you'd-expect following. Tech has played in 39 bowl games -- more than UCLA, Oregon, and Michigan State. Twenty-one of those bowl games have come since 1993. 

When imagining what this program can be moving forward, it's not as if one has to make improbable leaps of logic to get them to win consistently. That's already happening. In fact, AD Kirby Hocutt fired Matt Wells last October with a 5-3 record at the time. Simply winning more games than one loses is not enough in Lubbock. Texas Tech wants to win championships again.

On that front, Texas Tech received a break last summer when Oklahoma and Texas announced their impending departure for the SEC. (Let's be honest, getting OU out of the way is more advantageous than Texas, whose last conference title came 12 seasons ago.) For the first time since 1956, the Red Raiders will not share a conference with the Longhorns, the Aggies, or the Sooners.

Looking forward to what the Big 12 will be in the years to come, it's difficult to imagine one school lording over the conference as Oklahoma did for years. Every school will have its plusses and its minuses, and championships will follow the coaching staffs that maximize their resources.

Enter Joey McGuire and company. McGuire can't move Texas Tech closer to the Texas population centers, but he's done his best to mitigate that by embracing the "Pumpjack Mentality" (coined by former interim head coach Sonny Cumbie) of West Texas while rallying the support of the Red Raider Nation near and far. Red Raider Nation has responded.

On offense, we know what we're going to get. McGuire hired Tech alum Zach Kittley to run the offense, fresh off coordinating a Western Kentucky attack that led the nation in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and points.

What will ultimately determine McGuire's success level in Lubbock is his ability to field a competent defense, something very few of his predecessors managed to do. 

In the last seven seasons, Texas Tech has finished in the 100s nationally in yards per play allowed more often (four times) than not (three). In the dozen post-Mike Leach seasons, Texas Tech's average finish in that metric is 91st. Part of that is schematic. Texas Tech's offensive style lends itself to a lot of plays, a lot of clock stoppages, and a lot of plays to defend. But part of it is also cultural. Why would a defensive recruit pick Texas Tech over other options?

That's where Tim DeRuyter comes in. 

For starters, DeRuyter is the only coach on staff who's actually been a head coach at the college level. "There's been so many times I've walked in his office and said, 'Hey, take your defensive coordinator hat off, put your head coach hat on, and make sure I'm going in the right direction,'" McGuire said at Big 12 media days. 

A native Californian, this represents DeRuyter's second stop in the Lone Star State. He coordinated two top-20 defenses at Texas A&M before landing the head coaching job at Fresno State in 2012. After five seasons at that job, he ran Cal's defense for four seasons -- a unit that ranked 122nd the year prior to his arrival was ninth by Year 2 -- and Oregon's for one. 

At Texas Tech, DeRuyter plans to run multiple fronts and coverages while disguising his looks from snap to snap.

"I know it's coach-speak to say multiple but that's truly what we are. We're going to bounce between 3 and 4 man fronts, play zone and man, and show sim pressure and hopefully create some angst on the opposing side," DeRuyter told FootballScoop.

“One of the biggest things that I was so attracted to in getting Tim here is that he is very similar to Ron Roberts and Coach Aranda in what they do on defense schematically,” McGuire told The Athletic.

Both defenses utilize a Star, basically the do-it-all fifth defensive back tasked with playing behind the line of scrimmage or deep in coverage from down to down. "You've got to go have a guy that can play some man coverage, pressure off the edge, a great feel for the game so he can disguise when he's coming and get out when he's not," DeRuyter's said. Texas Tech's success defensively likely hinges on finding a Jalen Pitre, a safety who led Baylor's Big 12 champion defense with 18.5 tackles for loss and also swiped two interceptions. (Pitre was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2021, so finding a replica of Pitre may be more realistic than an exact duplicate.)

DeRuyter also stressed the importance of the Edge defenders, and highlighted senior Tyree Wilson as a player with All-Big 12 and NFL potential in that spot. The 6-foot-6, 275-pounder led the Red Raiders a year ago with seven sacks and 13.5 TFLs. "He's got that potential and as coaches we've got to get that out of him," DeRuyter said.

The biggest change Texas Tech expects to employ, though, is effort. A lot of effort. McGuire has pledged since his early November hiring to field the "hardest-working, most competitive team in the country."

"Our brand's going to be how we play. They're going to see a group that's excited to play for each other, that are smart football players, that play exceptionally hard," DeRuyter said. 

On defense, that starts with no longer treating players like second-class citizens. 

"He's obviously not just an offensive head coach," DeRuyter said. "He's preached defense and loved defense. He wants Texas Tech, TTU, to be Take Three University. We've got to play defense to win championships."