Texas Tech mostly made offensive players and coaches available to the media Monday before practice, but that didn't keep the discussion from turning towards the Red Raider defense.
The general consensus from those interviewed was the defense is more physical, showing a concerted effort to create turnovers and one single voice is directing the whole production. Of course that voice is new defensive coordinator David Gibbs.
I asked the head man himself, coach Kliff Kingsbury, what his impressions of Gibbs has been on the field in the first couple practices.
"He's good. He's very patient," Kingsbury said. "I think he has a plan and I think he knows how he wants to install it. He seems to be a great teacher, those guys are picking it up quick and enthusiasm is there. The biggest thing I've noticed is the physicality has picked up and that's something he's coaching towards. It's good to see that."
What about off the field? What has Kingsbury noticed about his new defensive coordinator in the meeting room and around the facility?
"From what I have seen (he's a) player's coach," Kingsbury said. "The guys know who he's been around and who he's coached so there's that credibility, especially in the National Football League, so he definitely does a good job owning the room and these players respect him."
Offensive coordinator Eric Morris said the defense has gotten under the skin of the offense some this spring.
"One thing my receivers hate is they (the defense) rip at the football more than we have ever seen," Morris said. "They are really emphasizing getting turnovers and everyday they are trying to rip at it. It's making it hard for us to finish up field so the receivers and running backs don't like it as much."
Rising senior running back Deandre Washington echoed Morris' sentiments about the defense getting after the ball and he thinks it will pay off for the Red Raiders come fall.
"You know those guys have definitely been trying to get at the ball," Washington said. "They're going to get a lot of the bounces go their way this year. That's one of the major points of their defense."
Receivers Have Plenty to Prove
The overall performance by the receiving corps last season was underwhelming. The amount of drops, lack of separation from defensive backs and blown blocking assignments mounted up and cost the team.
According to offensive coordinator and inside receivers coach Eric Morris, no one knows this more than the players themselves.
"We talk about it all the time, not just making the big play, but being consistent," Morris said. "They are well-aware of their flaws last year and how many passes we dropped and some chances we had and we didn't make plays on it. That's why we are practicing extra hard right now."
Perhaps no one is looking to redeem himself more than rising junior Reginald Davis. He entered last season with a lot of hype buzzing about him, but struggled for most of the year. Several players and coaches said Monday it's obvious Davis is practicing this spring with a chip on his shoulder.
"This game is more mental than people think it is," said outside receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini. "I sat him down this offseason and told him, 'it's not about ability with you, it's about how you approach practice and you are going to have good days and you're going to have bad days, but even if you have a drop you have to come back the next play'. I think he's seeing himself differently in how he's approaching things, he's practicing much harder and if you do that it's going to transition to playing better."
Chiaverini added he played the position both in the Big 12 (at Colorado) and in the NFL and added that approach to practice is something you have to have consistently in order to succeed at this level.
Rising senior Jakeem Grant also spoke with the media Monday and was quick to point out he too needs to be a more consistent player for the Red Raiders and that is his No. 1 goal his spring and entire offseason.
Ian Sadler, coming off his true freshman season at inside receiver, spoke with the local media for the first time of his collegiate career and handled himself well.
I asked him what the biggest difference playing in the Big 12 was compared to high school, where he led Argyle to state title in 2013.
"I would have to say the size difference of people I was blocking and the speed of the game was a big change. It took me a couple of weeks to get used to," Sadler said.
He added the two aspects he's working on most this spring is his blocking and route running.
All-in-all, Morris said the receivers as a whole are coming on, he's really happy with the top seven and they are just looking to keep grinding.
Q to Fullback?
Quinton White is getting a look at fullback and apparently he has impressed coach Kingsbury not only with his blocking ability, but his willingness to add weight and attack the new role.
"We're asking him to do some things blocking that he hasn't in the past and he's gained some extra weight for us," Kingsbury said. "He's a guy who has always been good with the ball in his hand and he's really come a long way in protections and blocking in the run game. We're proud of that."
Mahomes Flies In
I was among a small group of photographers waiting to be allowed on the practice field to shoot some footage when quarterback Patrick Mahomes burst through one of the open doors at the front of the practice facility.
Mahomes had apparently headed straight to the facility after returning back in town with the rest of the baseball team from its trip to California to take on Cal State Fullerton. The freshman headed directly to the locker room to grab his football gear and was on the field in a mere handful of minutes directing the offense.
Hereford in the House
Ja'Deion High may not be a name many are familiar with, but it appears you will be soon.
The 5-foot-11, 182-pound receiver from Hereford redshirted in 2013 and played sparingly last season on special teams. Yet, apparently he's impressed many early this spring with his versatility.
"He's caught more balls so far in spring than anybody out there, so it's been fun to watch him progress and make some plays," Morris said. "He knows multiple positions which has paid off well for him."
Morris added High is currently backing up Devin Lauderdale at the X position where they would like to keep him at.
Dream Still Fastest on the Team
I prompted senior receiver Jakeem Grant to talk a little smack about who is the fastest player at Texas Tech and he did not hesitate to oblige.
"Definitely me, I'm going to keep saying that," Grant said. "I will always be the fastest at Texas Tech until I leave. I raced Devin all summer and he still hasn't beat me, I even posted a bike race on Twitter that I beat Devin at too and I told him, 'you are going to find something you can beat me at'. I mean Nigel [Bethel] wanted to race me and I know Nigel's fast, but I haven't raced him yet. I raced J-Stock (Justin Stockton). I beat him, too. All those guys are fast, it's not like I'm beating them and blowing them out, I'm barely beating them, but I just have to show them I'm the fastest on the team no matter what. They might tell the media or whatever they are the fastest, but hey, I'm still the fastest and if y'all want to come out and record one day we can do that."
I am efforting to make an epic Tech football race happen this spring and record it.
Redshirt freshman running back Demarcus Felton is a name that came up several times Monday, beginning with Kliff Kingsbury, who named Felton first when listing early standouts this spring.
Senior running back Deandre Washington took the praise of Felton even further.
"I'm interested for you guys to find out about Felton," Washington said. "He's a stud and one who's bound to be remembered around here."
Moore Coming On?
It looks like sophomore Gary Moore will be Pete Robertson's primary backup at standup defensive end this spring. The staff has been looking for a backup for Robertson, the reigning Big 12 sacks leader, for two years and Moore might be the guy.
According to Kliff Kingsbury, the 6-foot-5, 224-pound receiver turned defensive end has continued to impress the coaching staff with his length and athleticism, but it remains to be seen if he'll get some meaningful snaps there in the fall.
Kicking Game Competition
Special teams coordinator Darrin Chaiverini said there's a good battle going on for the starting place kicker gig between redshirt freshman Clayton Hatfield, a former U.S. Army All-American, and veteran standout punter Taylor Symmank, who could end up pulling double duty.
I saw both kick in practice Monday and the each displayed aaccurate, powerful legs.
Chiaverini is also looking for a new holder to replace Bradley Marquez. So far they are trying out sophomore receivers Cameron Batson and Ian Sadler, who Chiaverini said both are doing a very good job.
The coaches can only comment so much about recruiting due to NCAA rules, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury did answer a question about Saturday's junior day in general terms.
"It was the biggest one we've had since we've been here," Kingsbury said. "With our location unofficial visits aren't the easiest thing, but our guys did a great job of setting those up. There was a lot of enthusiasm a lot of big time prospects so it went well."
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