Injuries running through the Texas Tech receiving corps called for the next line of young receivers to be thrust onto the field in the middle of Big 12 play. So far youth has been served.
Last week’s thrashing of Iowa State saw the Red Raiders break a total offense record with 776 yards, and put 66 points on the board. Meanwhile four of their starting receivers were out, yet four different guys caught a touchdown pass.
Outside receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini said he was proud of the way true freshmen Tony Brown, Keke Coutee and Jonathan Giles approached the situation of being thrust into action with Texas Tech losing three projected preseason starters at receiver, Chiaverini added Saturday’s results speak for themselves.
The receivers are doing more than catching touchdowns. Chiaverini and offensive coordinator Eric Morris mentioned how well the group blocked for each other creating opportunities for other guys to make big plays.
"To me, it’s if a kid wants to do it, he’s going to get out there and do it, if he wants to do it for his teammates and block for each other,” Morris said. “That’s why football is the greatest team sport in America, it’s because these kids actually sacrifice their bodies for each other every single play.”
Morris awards the top blocking receiver every week with a WWE Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin styled belt. This week it went to Ja'Deion High (pictured above) who according to Morris was the best blocker and did not let his guy make a play the entire game.
High has become a household name with Texas Tech fans this season. Mainly because of his ability to create plays for others, but also the impressive plays he has made such as the 31-yard catch on third down and 30 last week against the Cyclones.
“He’s come a long ways from when I got here to where he is now. He’s someone that you can count on and trust him in the game,” Chiaverini said. “He is going to do right things in the blocking game, he’s going to make plays and be consistent. I’ve been impressed with that.”
High said he is just doing what he needs to do for the team, and knows by doing that good things will eventually come to him.
There is no doubt that Tony Brown, who had three catches for 44 yards Saturday, was most likely considered for the belt this week as well. Brown picked up two huge blocks in Jakeem Grant’s 75-yard touchdown catch and run while filling in for the injured Devin Lauderdale.
A competition has been brewing between Lauderdale and Brown said Morris on Monday with the offensive coordinator complimenting Brown's route running ability.
Chiaverini added he is glad to have Lauderdale back this week, but is comfortable with both guys being out there.
“Competition makes you better. You either set up to the challenge or you coward away, both of those guys have stepped up to the challenge,” Chiaverini said. “They have both made plays this year and they have to continue to do that especially in this offense.”
Grant, an accomplished senior and the lone remaining projected preseason starter, said Tuesday after practice the impact the young guys are making with blocking on the outside and cuts made on the inside will lead them to even bigger things in the future.
“I tell those little guys that doing those little things right could bless you with a big play,” said Grant, who leads the Red Raiders this season in catches (44), receiving yards (648), receiving touchdowns (four) and all-purpose yards with 1,049.
With other guys like Jonathan Giles who caught five passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns last week, KeKe Coutee who had three for 27 yards and sophomore Cameron Batson, who hauled in seven passes for 99 yards and a score in the past two weeks combined, in the mix this receiving core has shown that they are nearly unstoppable.
Former walk-on Zach Austin led Texas Tech the week before against Baylor in Arlington in the first extended playing time of his career. The sophomore caught eight passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.
Coach Morris stated in the Monday press conference the work the whole group put in during the summer and fall camp has the receivers prepared to step in and perform:
"We throw with them all summer long. There's been a lot of timing worked for a long time. Over six months now he's (Mahomes) been working with them. The thing is is a bunch of these -- it's not like we pulled the red-shirts. They've been working with him in practice every day since fall camp. So you have KeKe, Ja'Deion's been there for two years, Zach Austin has been here for two years and got plenty of reps with Mahomes. Tony Brown has been playing a ton this year. Giles is working more and more into it right now. I think it's not as surprising to us just because they have had a ton of reps together. They know each other. They know the timing of each and everything. Jakeem's kind of leading us right now. He's playing really hard and explosive and doing things he needs to do in space. So we'll keep leaning on Jakeem and give these guys some time to grow up out there."