Wednesday marked the final media availability of fall camp. RaiderPower.com caught up with outside linebackers coach Mike Smith, safeties coach Trey Haverty, outside LB Pete Robertson and inside linebacker V.J. Fehoko.
Coach Trey Haverty said safety Keenon Ward has made a tremendous leap forward since last season, but still needs to work on his consistency. "He'll make several great plays and then make a knucklehead one."
Haverty added that Ward definitely has the ability to be good in coverage due to his speed (10.7 second-100), but must tweak his technique.
Haverty on if it's hard to keep the confidence level of the secondary up despite playing against Tech's offense every day in practice: "Yes and no. We got to do it and if you want to win a Big 12 championship, this is a similar offense that Baylor runs, so if you want to win a championship you have to be able to shut those offenses down. The good thing is when you get in a game against certain opponents receivers aren't going to be as fast, receivers aren't going to be as fast so it's going to slow down for you. But if you can come out here and have success, then when you get in games you should feel confident you can go out there and play well."
J.J. Gaines has been a stabalizing force in the secondary and is the unquestioned leader of the group.
Haverty also said JUCO transfer Josh Keys has been the biggest surprise in fall camp, that he is doing much better than he did in the spring due to his work ethic. Expect him to see the field a lot this season.
Freshmen Payton Hendrix and Derrick Dixon have shown flashes, but are still struggling to adjust to the speed of the game. Haverty said bigger guys lke Hendrix are struggling against smaller guys like Jakeem Grant (who doesn't). Both are expected to play some this year, but the hope is both will be serious players in 2015.
The freshmen CB's on the other hand have impressed. Look for Jah'Shawn Johnson, Tevin Madison and Nigel Bethel (after his suspension is up) to take significant snaps this season.
Pete Robertson has emerged as the premier player on the defense according to OLB coach Mike Smith and he expects big things from him this season.
Texas Tech is still looking for Pete's backup at Bandit. Not good news.
Robertson told me there is a huge difference playing behind the added beef of the junior college players along with bigger Brandon Jackson and Jackson Richards. He said the hype was legit. Size matters.
When asked what will be the biggest surprise of the defense this year Robertson didn't hesitate to say: "The D-line. I say the D-line because we got men up there now. We had guys up there like Kerry Hyderand Dartwan Bush this past year (who were good), but now we have Branden Jackson, who has grown a lot, gained a lot of weight and is faster. We got the Rika [Levi], we got Keland [McElrath]... all those guys, DA [Demetrius Alston], Jackson Richards; it's awesome having those guys up front, because I know with them being in front of me they gonna handle the offensive line Even though I go against the offensive line sometimes, I know they going to control the O-line to let me and V.J. and Sam just move around, play like we want to and be free."
Robertson is up to 240 pounds. More on him in another story later.
Coach Mike Smith said 2015 Under Armour All-American defensive tackle commit Breiden Fehoko is still being recruited heavily, despite signing a financial aid agreement with Texas Tech last week. Teams still calling him on a regular basis inclusde Oregon, Oklahoma and Alabama.
"You hate, especially with recruits and stuff, to say this kid's going to be a great player, but I truly believe this kid's going to be a game changer. I really do. I'm not one to give titles to people, but I honestly believe that because I know his work ethic, I know who he is, I know he'll do well in school, I know all that stuff. This kid's going to be a big time player. He's almost 6-foot-3, 300 pounds right now. He's got a chip on his shoulder. His family comes from very little and that's why all these Fehokos you see out here practice the way they do because it means something to them. He has the size, he has everything. You know Sam and V.J. are probably a little undersized, still huge hearts. Breiden's got all the size and the same heart, so he's almost your complete defensive tackle so it's going to be exciting when he gets here."
Smith added he always knew Breiden was going to end up at Tech, even if coach Smith wasn't at Tech, that the commitment and signings are all formalities.
V.J. Fehoko said Texas Tech fans can expect this from Breiden, his little bro: "Expect the most. That guy doesn't sleep. He wants to be perfect. Everything he does is to a T, whether it's working out, running, just a freak athlete with God given talent, but just a kid who's a workhorse. I mean that kid will work and has the mentality of a smaller guy. Usually big guys tend to be a little more relaxed, but Breiden has the mentality of like a running back, someone who just wants to be a game changer. He firmly believes that and I can see it. I can see it coming. We've had him on college workouts since he was like six or eight. So, it just shows you the hard work and dedication he's put in and what he's about."