The Texas Tech Red Raiders suffered a tough loss this past Saturday at the hands of highly-ranked Oklahoma. The game was played down to the wire, but a costly mistake on a two-point conversion attempt flipped the game for the Sooners’ favor.
Despite Kyler Murray and company posting 51 points and nearly 700 yards of offense, a playmaker emerged on the Texas Tech defense: Senior safety Vaughnte Dorsey.
The junior college transfer has started for the Red Raiders for the last two seasons, but Saturday night was easily the best game of his career. Dorsey intercepted Kyler Murray twice, capping both off with electric returns that beautifully set up the Texas Tech offense.
Dorsey also had a crucial third-down sack that knocked Oklahoma out of field goal range and forced a punt, and laid a crushing hit on Oklahoma tight end Grant Calcaterra. In total, he finished with 11 tackles and was the long bright spot for the Texas Tech defense.
Dorsey has been quietly making plays for the Red Raiders since taking over a starting position early last season. He's up to 71 solo tackles since the beginning of 2017, with a team-leading 31 solo stops this season. Dorsey has two career forced fumbles, four passes defended, four interceptions, and a fumble recovery.
For a defense that unquestionably qualifies for the "bend but don't break" status, a playmaker of Dorsey's caliber is crucial to their success.
As a prospect, the 5'11 and 200 pounder is built well for the next level. Playing bigger than his size, Dorsey can be a force over the middle of the field when closing on ball carriers in space. He's rangy, and his speed allows him to play underneath throws at a scorching pace.
The wide receivers in those last two plays are N'Keal Harry and A.J. Brown, two potential first round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. As NFL offenses have begun to stretch defenses horizontally, a safety who can play downhill and in the slot has become a valued commodity. Dorsey fits that mold.
An encouraging aspect of his game is his ability to use that closing speed against running backs in between the tackles. With a well-built frame, Dorsey does an excellent job of bringing pace behind his tackles, and rolling his hips to provide force. There aren't many ball carriers that Dorsey can't get on the ground with his initial stick.
What could ultimately land Dorsey a job at the next level is his ability in coverage, as his game isn't limited to making plays near the line of scrimmage. Dorsey has experience playing the deep middle in Cover 3 looks, as well as man coverage on receivers in the slot. This versatility in pass coverage is needed out of safety prospects now entering the league.
Entering the season, the Red Raiders defense looked encouraging with returning pieces. Dorsey's counterpart Jah'Shawn Johnson has battled injuries, and now linebacker and captain Dakota Allen is doing the same. Through it all, Dorsey has elevated his game and has now potentially increased his stock beyond the rest of the Texas Tech defense.