Fall Camp: Frosh/JUCO Report

A position-by-position look at how Texas Tech freshmen and junior college transfers are progressing so far in the program.

QUARTERBACK
Patrick Mahomes (Whitehouse): Mahomes steps in and is immediately the backup behind Davis Webb. Mahomes has drawn rave reviews.

In the limited time I have been able to observe him he has looked every bit like the four-star prospect who was named AP Texas High School Player of the Year in 2013 and at other times like the true freshman he is. His release is quicker than I anticipated with his unorthodox delivery and he stands taller in the pocket than I would have imagined. Some of the coaches remarked about his ability to run around and create extra time with his legs. I have yet to see this for myself as he has worked exclusively from the pocket in the small sample I have observed. Arm strength is not a problem. I witnessed him draw coach Kliff Kingsbury's ire once for a delay in getting everyone lined up and in the right place.

All in all, he has lived up to the hype so far and the only negatives I have heard are easily correctable such as making sure everyone is lined up correctly and just managing the offense. Kingsbury mentioned after Tuesday morning's practice that Mahomes threw five touchdowns in the intrasquad scrimmage on Sunday. He did not elaborate on if it was against the 1's or 2's or if he led five drives down the field. I did catch up with offensive coordinator Eric Morris after practice and this is what he said about Mahomes' progress thus far:

"Pat's doing a great job. He did a great job, well obviously coach Kingsbury did a great job, of kind of teaching him the offense throughout the summer and speeding up his progression. Pat's a guy that's a gamer and once you get him in any kind of live situation he feels the pocket so good and he's able to extend plays with his legs and he's throwing the ball really well. Still, there's a lot of things we need to correct just like any other freshman, but yeah, I think he's ahead of pace. He's doing a great job. He's not batting an eye. He's making mistakes out there as fast as we go and he's forgetting things because he has to communicate to all 10 people on what's going on on certain plays. He forgets something now and then, but that's just part of growing pains, but the kid's doing a good job, he's correcting mistakes and getting better every day."

RUNNING BACK
Demarcus Felton (Spring Dekaney): I haven't seen a lot of Felton with my own eyes yet, but by all accounts he is impressing early. Quarterback Davis Webb remarked after practice that he is ahead of fellow frosh RB Justin Stockton in terms of blocking. One of the things that jumped off the screen while following Felton through the recruiting process was his durability. During a three-game stretch in the meat of a very competitive district schedule Felton averaged 40 carries per game! That's an unheard of stat in today's pass-first, running back-by-platoon trend of offenses.

I asked coach Morris on Tuesday if he foresees-of course Felton not carrying the ball 40 times a game in the Air Raid-but with an ability to be a durable, power-back to put away games somewhere down the line in his career and this was his response:

"He's extremely tough. It's going to be hard for him to get that amount of carries around here, but he's a guy you can tell he's been bred to stick it in between the tackles in his system in high school. He's a guy that gets North and South in a hurry which is really good in a lot of our schemes, too. You can definitely see that style of running has transitioned over here and he's a kid who should have a great career here and should pick up a ton of yards."

Justin Stockton (Cibolo Steele): The Class 5A first-team all-state running back has the look of an immediate impact guy who will get a lot of touches beginning Aug. 30 in the season opener. I saw him running both with the 1's and 2's in practice, especially in some two-back sets and let me tell you his speed has not been over hyped one bit. Veteran backs Deandre Washington and Quinton White have both had great offseasons in their own right, but Stockton brings that extra gear they simply don't possess. Not many do. Here is what Kingsbury said about both freshmen running backs after the morning practice Tuesday.

"Those two young kids have a burst which is fun to work with." Then minutes later in response to another question, "Both of them are very talented and we feel comfortable playing with either of them."

RECEIVER
Cameron Batson (Oklahoma City Millwood): The word on the 2013 Gatorade Oklahoma Player of the Year is he is what the coaches expected; a fluid athlete who is dangerous with the ball in his hands. Like fellow frosh receiver Ian Sadler, Batson is a threat as a punt returner and according to coach Morris, Tech will likely redshirt one of the two while the other will see the field some.

Jakari Dillard (Princeton): Not much to report on him other than he is definitely a tall dude. He's also pretty skinny. Morris said the plan right now is to redshirt him, put some weight on him and see how he develops. I haven't seen him play in person so it's difficult to project, but I have stood next to him more than once (I'm 6-foot-4) and he's definitely tall enough to be a red zone threat somewhere down the line.

Devin Lauderdale (Navarro JC): I hesitated to add him, because he was here for the spring. The word is Lauderdale has made a pretty big leap since then and is challenging D.J. Polite-Bray for the starting gig at X. Either way they both will see the field.

Ian Sadler (Argyle): I was able to see Sadler play three times last season; twice in person and once on TV in the state title game. Sadler looks like the same guy to me, maybe a little smaller than he did against 3A competition, but he has been running with the 2's from the sample I have seen and looked physical in some blocking drills. As I stated above, it sounds as if he is competing with Batson for a chance to see the field this season.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Robert Castaneda (Round Rock) and Justin Murphy (Belton): I have not seen either much in action in red and black yet but apparently they are impressing the coaching staff. Here is what coach Morris said about them after practice on Tuesday:

"I have been really pleased with the two freshmen who have come in. They're getting valuable reps right now, they have a great demeanor and so this O-line process is something when we got here, we knew we had to get better up front and been trying to attack that in recruiting and with what we have. There's a good chance one of them doesn't (redshirt) though they're both doing a great job and fighting right now. Hopefully they can work themselves up to getting some reps with the 1's."

Dominique Robertson (Riverside CC): Well, he's a big dude, let there be no doubt that Mr. Robertson looks like a big, athletic Division I left tackle. It's easy to see why they moved Le'Raven Clark back inside to see what the line could be. I haven't been able to discern how he's doing in the limited time I have been afforded to see him play. Coach Morris admitted the line has a way to go but didn't single anyone out, it was more of a statement about the unit. But, here is what junior center Jared Kaster said about Robertson and the line:

"It's going good, you know chemistry is there that's for sure. Having a preseason All-American right beside me, I told everybody else, I'm not complaining about that. But you know it takes time because O-line is the last thing that kind of meshes together because there is five guys working as one. It's getting there, we're improving every day and it's what we need."

DEFENSIVE LINE
Rika Levi (San Mateo): The giant nose guard is one of the most anticipated newcomers in recent memory. I can tell you that Levi looks as if tearing apart phone booths would not be a problem, much less phone books as he is known for. He's just a monster and he's shown the athleticism and desire in camp that was apparent on film in terms of chasing down perimeter plays at 340-plus. There have been several quotable statements from many about him since his arrival on the South Plains, but here's what center Jared Kaster had to say Tuesday.

"Big Rika, good grief, he stands out just standing there. He's doing good, he's probably one of the hardest workers, him and Jackson Richards. He's moving along."

Keland McElrath (Coahoma CC): McElrath was here in the spring, but he showed up with a foot injury which slowed him down. When he did practice he showed surprising quickness for a man his size. He was down for a count in Tuesday's practice but appeared to be OK. If he can remain healthy I expect him to be a serious difference maker for the Red Raiders and a fan favorite. Coach Wallerstedt said he has the ability to be a "special player" for them.

Marcus Smith (Highland CC): I haven't seen or heard a lot about him, but what I have has been good. Coach Wallerstedt said he is progressing nicely and should receive a significant amount of snaps this season. Smith gives the Red Raiders another big body to throw at offenses.

Brandon Thorpe (Highland CC): I haven't seen him a lot in practice, but I can definitely confirm he is another big dude up front for the defense. Defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said he was behind because he was one of the last to make it to campus this summer, but expect him to make an impact at some point.

LINEBACKER
Dakota Allen (Humble Summer Creek): Allen is the only interior linebacker the Red Raiders signed in 2014 so it's imperative they hit on him. Everything points to him being an even better player than the coaches hoped for. Outside linebackers coach Mike Smith confirmed Allen is up to 240 pounds and picking up the schemes quickly. Texas Tech returns several veterans in front of Allen but Smith didn't rule out Allen playing as a reserve this season and added this:

"I think Dakota is going to have a huge, huge career here if he stays focused and does the right things. You just never know with that, but who he is in terms of character, working on stuff, athleticism; he has all that so I am excited to see what he can do. He's a big kid and can run. A lot of these kids are fun to watch, but sometimes you see a kid who has something."

CORNERBACKS
Nigel Bethel (Miami Washington): Bethel returned in the summer after being reinstated. I have heard he has won several battles and then turned around and been burnt by Tech's talented receiving corps. I expect him to continue to grow in this system and see the field at some point this season.

Michael Coley (Irving): Coley is big, fast and athletic. He's also really green. In the small portions I have seen him he has struggled especially in tackling drills on Tuesday. I believe he will develop into a player, but it will just take time. I really like his upside.

Jah'Shawn Johnson (Ennis): Johnson is just a football player. Every time I watched his film when he was being recruited I was impressed more. He has shown a willingness to hit as well as a lot of promise in coverage. Keep an eye on him.

Tevin Madison (Fayette County, AL): Maybe the biggest surprise of the group is Madison. The defensive coaches have raved about him. Madison was an all-state receiver and standout corner at small Fayette County, but apparently he's already adjusted to big boy football. Barring some kind of setback, expect him to see the field this season. Coach Wallerstedt singled Madison out Tuesday:

"Tevin Madison is playing really good football, so we just keep shuffling the deck on a daily basis."

SAFETIES
Derrick Dixon (Dallas Skyline): I haven't heard much about Dixon since the start of camp, but there were some good things said about him coming out of summer. I had the opportunity to see him in person last season against Plano where he recovered a fumble, was a physical presence in run support, the QB in the secondary and picked off a pass late to seal the win. He's going to be a good one.

Payton Hendrix (Dallas Bishop Dunne): The word is Hendrix is making a push to make the two-deep. He is an impressive and imposing looking athlete at safety and looked very fluid in drills I have seen. After initially being concerned I believe safety will actually be a strength for Tech this season. I definitely think Hendrix plays some this season, but mostly in mop up duty or on special teams. I wouldn't be worried if he received meaningful snaps though.

Josh Keys (Mississippi Gulf Coast CC): Keys showed up in the spring with a lot of expectations, but like many junior college transfers, struggled initially. He may have turned a corner since camp started though, as he is noticeably quicker and more aggressive in practice. He definitely appears to be attacking and reacting, rather than hesitating and thinking about what to do next. He looks bigger too. He's at worst a solid backup at this point in my opinion.

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