Q&A: Assistant Coach Lee Hays

RaiderPower.com caught up with Texas Tech offensive line coach Lee Hays recently to talk about the big uglies, and how they are doing so far in spring ball. Hays is a former United States Marine and has coached at West Texas A&M, Baylor, Tarleton State and Houston (twice).

It's early, but who is standing out for you?

Hays: Yeah it's really early. Right now it's tough to say. Now we're getting a bunch of young guys who are getting their chance, so we're still evaluating.

One of the guys people want to hear about it Baylen Brown. He had a really good end to the season. I heard he's getting some looks at center. How has he looked so far?
Hays: He missed the first couple practices. He had some tendinitis (shoulder), so we're just being careful with that. And then we have (Jared) Kaster out and Tony (Morales) out at the center spot an so that is why Baylen is getting some center work.

I know a lot has been expected of Morales for a long time and he's been hurt, been out. What is the thought around him, where does he fit in?
Hays: You know he's been able to do a lot of the non-contact stuff and he's looking good. He hasn't been able to hit yet, but he should be full-go after Spring Break.

How big of a shot in the arm was getting Rashad Fortenberry back for another year?
Hays: Aw, I love Fortenberry. You know, he has a lot to work on to get better at, but he's a great kid to have in the meeting room and he's just a great guy to be around. He's working hard and has improved so far this spring. I'm just looking forward to having a little bit of that experience in there. But then nobody's job is safe.

Nobody? Not even Le'Raven Clark?
Hays: Well, there might be one (laughs).

What has the difference been this spring compared to last spring, especially with the offensive line and how many guys you have coming back?
Hays: You know for us, because our defense is so multiple, last spring was really, really rough initially, but as we got into the season all the looks, we had already seen them before, so it actually worked out for us. But that first week or two, man, was rough, just from an assignment standpoint and understanding the new tempo and the new expectations from the new coaching staff. I know they were as big eyed as could be, especially with the tempo, the snap and how fast we go. So it wasn't just the new fronts they were looking at and the new plays, it was compounded by the speed of how fast we go. It was really tough for them probably the first ten practices.

The as far as some of the younger guys. Who are some of the guys who red-shirted or maybe didn't play--fans may not be familiar with you are looking at?
Hays: The three guys who red-shirted were Poet (Thomas), Josh (Outlaw) and Cody Hayes; we call him my nephew. All three of those guys are really starting to get thrown into the fire to see what they can do. They all have potential, but they need reps and they need to get after it. All three of them have shown a flash or two, but they have to be consistent and they have to be physical.

I wanted to ask you about Hayes specifically because I covered him in high school in Fort Worth. Where are you looking at playing him potentially?
Hays: Right now Cody is playing guard. Right now Cody is probably one of the best athletes we have on the O-line and he's still learning and thinking too much. As soon as it slows down for him I think he's going to be really good.

What are your biggest concerns right now, what are you looking to improve on the most this spring?
Hays: You'd like to have both your centers practicing right now, but the good thing is it forces us to develop, because right now we are looking at our third and fourth string guys getting reps at that center spot. You always need to get reps for those guys and it's hard to find them when you have one and two sitting right there. So we're developing a good backup or hell, somebody might push for the starter. I don't know. But really just continuity, then I want to be a little more physical at the point of attack. I think we're playing hard, but I want to play more physical up front.

That was my next question. I know coach (Kliff) Kingsbury said a lot in postgame press conferences, when asked why he didn't try to run the ball some more, he said he was worried about the offensive line. Do you feel like by bringing a lot of these guys back, is that going to be a possibility or not?
Hays: Each practice they get a little bit better, but a lot of the time too, fronts dictate what we were able to do and I was surprised by a lot of the run fronts last year, You would think, you know you have a team that is throwing for 400 a game, you know, but I think just the familiarity of everything we are doing will help with that. And you know, shoot, if I can keep a little bit of the continuity there, you know with the calls and that stuff, will help.

There has been a lot of discussion about just how good Le'Raven Clark is. In your opinion, compared to some other guys you have worked with, how good is he and how good could he be?
Hays: You know I have been around some really good one, I've had some drafted. I had one in the first round, the No. 2 pick overall (Baylor's Jason Smith). Le'Raven is as athletic as I have ever seen up front and he's smart, he's extremely smart. Sometimes I just have to watch him because he's too smart. Really, he can be as good as he wants to be and what he puts in is what he'll get out, because he is as big, as athletic and as quick as anybody I have seen.

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