Certain big names didn't make a big impression in the public side of Texas Tech's 2014 spring camp. Branden Jackson was invisible. Pete Robertson was more active, but didn't dominate like one would expect. And running back Deandre Washington continues to look serviceable, but not a whole lot more.
But for every potential star who seemingly dozed through camp, a few others rose up and played like they meant business. Below is a reverse order ranking of the 11 Red Raiders who most impressed one observer of the three public scrimmages.
No. 11 Donte Phillips: Given that nobody wants to rely on untested newcomers to solve their problems, Matt Wallerstedt really needed at least one defensive lineman to emerge from the shadows and mark himself as a contributor. That player was the junior from Mequon, Wisconsin, Donte Phillips. In the first and third scrimmages, he was the most active, and difficult to block defensive lineman on the team.
No. 10 Tyler Middleton: Although he was nowhere to be seen in the Red-Black Scrimmage, Middleton made tons of plays in the Petro Scrimmage and Friday Night Lights. As of this moment, the former JUCO running back looks like the best option at the boundary cornerback position opposite Justis Nelson.
No. 9 Jordan Davis: Everybody gets all lathered up over the spectacular plays of Jakeem Grant and D.J. Polite-Bray, but Davis quietly racks up the catches and the yardage. He is a reliable receiver who heads directly up field once he catches the ball (Mike Leach emphasized this trait in receivers), and resembles a current Tech coach by the name of Trey Haverty.
No. 8 Bradley Marquez: The closer to the end zone Tech gets, the more Davis Webb looks to Bradley Marquez. The Odessa senior probably had the highest touchdowns-to-receptions ratio of any receiver this spring. He's also the glue of the receiving corps.
No. 7 Rodney Hall: The big fullback from Angleton had a coming out party in the Holiday Bowl and continued the festivities throughout the spring. Hall wows nobody with his running skills, but when yardage is being made in the ground game or the bubble screen, odds are very good that he is clearing the way. (Hall is also a good receiver out of the backfield.) Kliff Kingsbury has said that Hall will have a big role with the team in 2014, and it's time everybody understands that he wasn't just blowing hot methane.
No. 6 Baylen Brown: Tech's rushing attack was sporadic this spring, but most of the damage was done between the tackles, and often behind Baylen Brown. Very little pass rush came through his corridor either.
No. 5 Micah Awe: This inside linebacker is carrying more weight than he did last season, but it sure hasn't slowed him down. Throughout the scrimmages he was a pad-popping, pass-deflecting son of a gun. With more consistency Awe will make a real name for himself in 2014.
No. 4 Keenon Ward: The strong safety from Snyder still gets beat in coverage on occasion, but he has improved in that area, and is definitely one of the top tacklers on the team. With the return of J. J. Gaines to free safety in the fall, Ward should blossom even more.
No. 3 D.J. Polite-Bray: There was once an open competition for the outside receiver spot opposite Reggie Davis, but this sophomore from Georgia has slammed the door on it. This spring he emerged as a speedy, explosive play threat, and showed sure hands to boot. Tech's offense, unpalatable enough to defenses already, just got a little saltier.
No. 2 Jakeem Grant: During Friday Night Lights, an olde tymer in the seat next to me said Grant reminded him of former Tech All American Tyrone Thurman, and it's a good comparison. Grant has the same speed and similar moves, but is a little bit bigger and stronger than the old Midland Lee great. Kliff Kingsbury expects Grant to have a "monster year" in 2014, and there's no reason to doubt him.
No. 1 Davis Webb: Having your best player at the most important position on the field can make up for a lot of deficiencies, and such is undoubtedly the case now with sophomore quarterback Davis Webb. Simply put, he was almost flawless in three scrimmages. Now he will face tougher defenses than Tech's in the fall, but with the weapons that surround Davis, you've got to like his chances.
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