Observations: Midland Practice

Joe Yeager breaks down the Red Raiders first open practice of the spring.

Jakeem the Focus: Without recourse to official statistics, it is still obvious that getting the ball in Jakeem Grant's hands is a point of emphasis for the Red Raider offense. Grant's unique kit of speed and acceleration seemingly makes him an explosive play waiting to happen. It thus behooves Tech to get him as many touches as possible. That said, Grant's productivity was nothing special in this scrimmage. The ball came his way many times, and he made several catches, but Grant never shook loose for the explosive play. The defense smothered him immediately after the catch—or pitch—and limited the damage. Figuring out a way to get Grant into open space and in stride remains an elusive goal, much as it was last season.


Thin Offensive Line: After the scrimmage, Kliff Kingsbury said that the offensive line went with a seven-man rotation. Those seven players were Tony Morales, Jared Kaster, Le'Raven Clark, Beau Carpenter, Trey Keenan, Matt Wilson, and James Polk. As expected, Clark worked exclusively at left tackle, Polk worked at guard, and Morales and Kaster manned the center spot. Interestingly, however, Wilson spent time at tackle and guard, Keenan worked exclusively at guard, and Carpenter spent just about every snap at right tackle.


I had surmised that Carpenter could be moved to right tackle—a position of extreme need—and it looks like this move may come to fruition. The newcomers who arrive in August could and probably will change the shape of the rotation, but it hard for me to imagine any of them will be better at right tackle than Carpenter. I think this move will be permanent.


Three to Watch on Defense: As expected, the defense was shaky at times, but also showed promise. And there were a few standout individual performances. Cornerback Ola Falemi was Tech's best cover man. He smothered several receivers—including  big Jace Amaro—and recorded two or three pass breakups. Safety J. J. Gaines made his presence felt. He broke on balls exceptionally well and had the look of a guy who can make big plays. The defensive MVP, however, was surely Sam Eguavoen. He was an absolute rock against the run, making numerous, solid and sure tackles between the tackles. Eguavoen was Tech's most physical defender, and looks like he has continued the improvement that commenced in the second half of last season.


Finding the Groove: Jace Amaro didn't start the scrimmage well. Running crossing route after crossing route, he dropped a couple of passes and clearly short-armed a couple as well. He looked tentative. As the scrimmaged progressed, however, so did Amaro. He settled in and began making some solid, tough catches over the middle. It's hard to know for sure whether the hit Amaro took against West Virginia, and which sidelined him for several weeks, is still taking its toll. But odds are very good that any lingering aftereffects will disappear over time.


Tech Defense as Advertised: Word leaking out of the Tech camp was that the Red Raider defense would be multiple, confusing and aggressive. That certainly was the case in the scrimmage. I'm not sure the defense used identical formations once during the scrimmage. Three-, four- and five-man fronts were all employed. Blitzes came from all angles and from myriad players. And while the blitzes didn't always get to the quarterback, the blitzes were never burned for long plays. It is very impressive to be able to blitz regularly without giving up explosive plays, particularly to a passing offense.   

Raider Power Top Stories