Blitzes, Fehoko, Q, Symmank, Other Things

It's always difficult to judge how much to take away from a scrimmage but a handful of players stood out Saturday in Midland. Texas Tech needs a defensive lineman or two to step up and one looks poised for a breakout, linebacker V.J. Fehoko was all over the field, Quenton White looks ready to go and the Red Raiders have themselves a punter.

By their very nature, football scrimmages can be deceptive. Specifically, if one looks only at stats, the quality of pass protection and pass rush appears distorted. The reason for this is the rule that defenders cannot hit the quarterback, and merely touching the QB constitutes a sack.

The results of these rules are that pass rushers are far less aggressive than they would ordinarily be (nobody wants to be suspended for messing up the golden boy behind center), and on the other hand, quarterbacks are "sacked" in what doesn't come close to constituting a sack in a real game. Added up, who knows where the balance lies? But one thing's certain, that balance doesn't reflect reality.

It certainly didn't in the Petro Scrimmage. Sure, there were a few touch sacks, but far more frequent were cases where rushers obviously hit the breaks rather than run the risk of roughing up Davis Webb or Tanner Tausch.

Jacarthy Mack could have had a sack on Tausch but pulled up. Donte Phillips and V.J. Fehoko were in quarterbacks' grills all game, but played gentleman football, and thereby, were not credited with multiple sacks.

The point being that Tech's pass rush, frequently augmented by blitzes from the linebackers, was more effective than one might think based upon stats and write-ups based upon them.

I mentioned Phillips and Fehoko. Both were quite impressive. As noted above, they were a real presence in the pass rush. But there was more to it than that.

Tech's interior offensive linemen simply had a hard time dealing with Phillips when he was in the game. Slap a 91 instead of a 94 on him, and you wouldn't have guessed that the player was Phillips rather than Kerry Hyder.

In a previous column I mentioned that the play of defensive linemen other than Branden Jackson would be something to watch. Well, Donte Phillips is the much needed lineman who rose to the fore. This is major surprise since Phillips didn't show much of anything in his first two seasons.

Fehoko, who most expected to be little more than a situational run-stuffer, was all over the place. He may not have been credited with many actual tackles, but the number 52 was constantly in one's field of vision when a tackle was being made. Perhaps the arrival of Fehoko will prove more significant than we had thought.

Moving right along, it is beginning to look like Taylor Symmank will prove a more than adequate replacement for Ryan Erxleben. The junior from McKinney knocked the living daylights out of the pigskin in the punting segment of the scrimmage.

Symmank's average, aided by a modest tailwind, was around 50 yards per punt, but far more impressive was his hangtime. Symmank's punts were the proverbial moonshots, and reminded olde timers like me of former Tech All-American Maury Buford who also had a long NFL career.

But not only were Symmank's punts high and deep, they often had a funny English on them that may have contributed to the difficulty Jordan Davis and Brent Mitcham had in fielding them. Sometimes the punts were end-over-enders, at other times they spun sideways. Iowa State punter Kirby Van Der Kamp was a master of unleashing tricky punts. Hopefully, Symmank will be able to follow suit.

As has been the case in virtually every scrimmage in which Quinton White has participated, he was the most impressive runner on the field. But the knock on him has been that he is inadequate in pass protection.

I watched him block whenever I got the chance, and he looked good to me. White didn't shrink from contact, but rather got into the chest of rushers and negated them pretty well. Perhaps White has eliminated at least one excuse for not putting the ball in his hands.

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