2010 Position Grade: Despite a modest downturn, Texas Tech's passing offense remained among the nation's best last year finishing No.7 in passing yardage, albeit No.37 in passing efficiency.
A fair portion of that success was attributable to Lyle Leong who quietly put together a year that should have earned him some All America consideration. Leong finished second nationally in touchdown receptions with 19, a full four ahead of the No.3 receiver in that category. Leong made the clutch grabs and he made the spectacular grabs. He will be missed.
2011 Starters: If there's one certainty about the current group of Tech receivers it's that the present starters will not retain their positions throughout the entire season. And that's not even considering injury. Fact is, the Red Raiders have very good depth in the receiving corps and a pair of talented prospects will debut in fall workouts. This is a unit that will remain in flux throughout the season.
Your current starters on the outside are Eric Ward and Darrin Moore. The latter was arguably Tech's most impressive receiver in the spring, and he will be tough to dislodge from the lineup. Moore is a six-foot-four bruiser who is adept at getting open on deep routes and routinely outmuscles defenders for the ball even when he's not. Moore looks to be the team's primary deep threat.
Ward's job security, on the other hand, is threatened. Now in his sophomore season, the highly touted Wichita Falls product has yet to truly turn heads, and seems to be in the starting lineup based on his seniority. Experience alone, however, won't protect him forever from JUCO transfer Marcus Kennard, a smooth six-foot-four strider who runs tremendous routes and is dangerous with the ball in his hands.
Starters Austin Zouzalik and Alex Torres look pretty secure on the inside. Zouzalik, who along with center Justin Keown is Tech's most underrated offensive player, is a tough, smart player who possesses better speed than most people realize. He is more than capable of turning a short reception into a big gain.
When healthy, Torres is arguably Tech's best receiver. Unfortunately, he has not been 100 percent for almost a year now.
As a freshman, the unknown Torres burst onto the scene and replaced Michael Crabtree. Torres was hardly the dynamic gamebreaker Crabtree was, but he caught everything thrown to him, blocked well and was very productive. Then, in the spring of his sophomore season, Torres was absolutely unstoppable in workouts leading many to believe the Red Raiders might have a future All American at wide receiver.
Torres suffered a lower back injury just prior to the 2010 season, however, and was a shadow of his former self. If he can regain the form he showed in the spring of 2010 the Big 12 is in for a nasty shock. If not, Tech is left with a merely serviceable inside receiver.
The Field: Aside from the aforementioned Marcus Kennard, Tech has two prime backups on the outside in Tramain Swindall and Jacoby Franks. Swindall has started many games on the inside and Franks was a starter in 2010 before injury struck. Both can step in at a moment's notice and make plays.
Depth on the inside is iffier. Backing up Zouzalik is junior Cornelius Douglas. The Oklahoma product can be a handful with the ball in his mitts, but he's inconsistent and his hands are suspect. Douglas is not always the most cerebral player either. Adam James, who is more of a tight end, and the surprisingly impressive Aaron Fisher currently back up Torres.
Augmenting the inside receivers will be talented freshmen Jace Amaro and Jakeem Grant.
Although he is a true tight end, Amaro will see the field immediately on the inside in some capacity. He will bring a new blocking dimension to the offense, and will be a huge target for Seth Doege in the middle of the field.
Grant is a micro-jet who's a huge play waiting to happen. He has the speed and escapability currently lacking among the inside receivers, and will be given every chance to contribute.