Team MVP: With the second scrimmage and the first half of spring football in the books, my Tech football MVP is cornerback Cornelius Douglas. Obviously, the apparent defensive improvement is the top story thus far, and Douglas' play has catalyzed that improvement.
Douglas is adapting to his new position amazingly well. He does not get burned deep, he anticipates routes exceptionally well, and his physical play at the line has short-circuited many routes, usually by Darrin Moore. Douglas plays the game very much like former Baylor great Ron Francis, who the Dallas Cowboys selected in the second round of the draft.
In the scrimmage, Douglas pretty much shut down Moore, snagged a superb interception on a Seth Doege out pass to Moore, and came very close to intercepting another ball. At this point, Douglas is the heart and soul of the Tech defense.
High Expectations: After Douglas came within a whisper of intercepting a deep fade intended for Moore, secondary coach John Lovett shouted at Douglas, "An All American will make that play!"
Punt Returners: Texas Tech's punt returner in 2012 will come from the trio of Jakeem Grant, Javares McRoy and SaDale Foster. There's no way of knowing who will emerge as the victor, but if it is Grant, Red Raider fans may see shades of former All American Tyrone Thurman. Grant is built much like Thurman and has Thurman's moves. Only time will tell if he also has Thurman's instincts and vision.
Starting Units: As best as I could tell, the starting offense consisted of LaAdrian Waddle, Seth Doege, Jace Amaro, Jakeem Grant, SaDale Foster, Le'Ravin Clark, Terry McDaniel, Deveric Gallington, Beau Carpenter, Aaron Fisher and Derek Edwards.
The defensive starters were Eugene Neboh, Will Smith, Leon Mackey, Cornelius Douglas, Sam Eguavoen, Cody Davis, D. J. Johnson, Dartwan Bush, Dennell Wesley, Kerry Hyder and Daniel Cobb.
Another Good Day for Defense: For most of the afternoon, the defense bent but did not break. The offense moved into plus territory, but the defense invariably arose to snuff out the threat and force field goal attempts. (Penalties by the offense were also a huge factor.)
Late in the scrimmage, when the offense was given a short field, it was able to score touchdowns. But frankly, the offense's late success seemed more of a function of the short fields and defensive fatigue than offensive prowess. And in his post-game comments Tommy Tuberville seemed to agree. While pleased with the defense, he was also very downcast about the offense's play.
Clark in the Dark: Le'Ravin Clark as the starting right tackle is now officially a major source of worry. He simply could not block Dartwan Bush in pass protection, and was responsible for more than his fair share of the penalties. If Clark doesn't pick up the pace before the end of spring, it will be time to move to Plan B on the offensive line.
Bustin a Move: Kicker Ryan Bustin had another very good day. He does not have a massive leg, but is extremely accurate from 45 yards and in. If Bustin can get it done in games, he may actually be an upgrade over Donnie Carona who had a good senior season as the team's kicker.
Offensive Bright Spot: Bradley Marquez was the Offensive MVP for the scrimmage. He had a bushel full of catches and no drops. Marquez adjusts his route to the ball very well. I, for one, am happy to see him back at the receiver position, where I think he has a great future.
A Slanted View: Tech worked the center of the field in the passing game much more than they were doing this time last year. A year ago, Tech's passing game consisted of deep balls to Darrin Moore. Right now, slants of varying types are the offense's bread and butter.
A More Traditional Defense: In previous remarks I've noted that the defense has spent a lot of time pressuring the line of scrimmage. In today's scrimmage, however, we saw much more of the traditional 4-3 alignment. The reassuring thing is that the defense has looked solid regardless of the alignment.
Trips: Trips to the field side with one receiver to the boundary side was easily the offense's most common set on the afternoon.
Action Jackson: Jackson Richards had his best practice of the spring so far. He recorded a couple of sacks and seemed to get stronger as the day wore on.
Money Quotes from Coach Tubs:
Offensively it looked like we went the other way mentally. We had 14 or 15 penalties and you can't beat anybody doing that.
We just wasn't very physical today on offense for some reason. Defense challenged ‘em coming out of practice Tuesday and offense kind of spit the bit, so to speak. They didn't compete. They did a little bit better, I guess, the last 20-30 percent of the practice, but the first part of practice was all defense. We're looking for some guys to step up.
Ronnie [Daniels] is a guy who played a little and then went south on us. But now I think he's got things in perspective. Last week he did a few things decent, but today he ran a lot better. We gave him the ball a lot more. Threw the ball to him on the outside. You know, he's a good open field runner. He's a guy who can make plays and he's gonna be big for us. But it's just good to see Ronnie back out here.
We're doing a lot of stuff on defense. Today we played probably four or five coverage's, almost what we'll play next year. We had a couple more fronts and I'd say three blitzes.
You can't win on offense. You gotta play defense.
We knew it was gonna be tough on defense because of the new stuff we were runnin' and we let the offense go at a little faster tempo at times. And we ran a couple of unbalanced sets on offense. So I thought they adjusted well. Mentally it looks like the defense is much farther than I ever thought they'd be after eight practices or so. If we can make that much improvement in the next seven then we'll be off and runnin' to make this defense a lot better. But the jury's still out. We need some more depth. We'll probably have to rely on two or three freshmen who will be here in June to play defense.
Tony [Morales] got off to an awful start and we put Jarred Kaster in as second team center.
We've got a long way to go. Kerry Hyder, for instance, carrying 265. We can't stop the run with a 265 defensive tackle and he knows that.