STILLWATER—Watching Texas Tech battle Texas this weekend, a lot of eyes in Oklahoma were on the Red Raiders’ defensive line.
Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer and people around Noble took extra notice of a familiar name — Noble High graduate Colby Whitlock, while plenty of people in Lawton paid special attention to junior Jake Ratliff.
Whitlock wasn’t hard to notice Saturday — he scored Tech’s first points of the night on a safety, then went on to record eight solo tackles, two for losses.
"That’s always a deal when a guy like that starts playing so well,” Brewer said. "How’d we let that one get away?”
Whitlock and Ratliff, a Lawton Eisenhower graduate, are key pieces of Tech’s much-improved defensive line, which is currently second in the conference against the run, giving up just 98.7 yards on the ground.
Under new defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill the Red Raiders have shown dramatic improvement in that area. Since Mike Leach arrived in Lubbock in 2000 the Red Raiders had never held opponents to fewer than 150 yards rushing on average.
"They’re playing very physical,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said of Tech’s D-line. "84 (Brandon Williams), (Whitlock is) 93 and 90 (Brandon Sesay) and the other one I believe is 98 (Ratliff). The guys up front have matured from what I can tell. Three of those guys are the same guys as last year, but they’re a year more into it, so more experienced and playing better.”
Noble coach Ray Crawley, who coached Whitlock in high school, said he watched every play of last week’s game – and watched the replay again on Monday night.
"We’re all so excited for him,” Crawley said of the Tech sophomore. "Colby’s a big, explosive kid and that was evident when he was here.