*This event was billed as an open practice, but might as well have been called the Red-Black Scrimmage or Spring Game. The festivities commenced with about 15 minutes of calisthenics and drills, which was followed by an hour-long scrimmage in which the ones and twos got almost all of the reps. This event proved more illuminating than the term "open practice" would suggest.
*In my on-air exchanges with Jarret Johnson and Alyssa Chrisope I stated that what I most wanted to see in this event was a defense that improved over the one that basically got trucked in the Petro Scrimmage. To say I'm satisfied on that score would be an understatement. And it all started up front. Where the defensive interior was pretty well mauled in Midland, in Lubbock it was the defensive interior linemen who took the fight to the offense. And much of that improvement, suffice it to say, was due to the presence of Ondre Pipkins in the lineup. He was, hands down, my MVP of this event. Pipkins was a bona fide run-stuffer the likes of which we've rarely seen in scarlet and black. He was pretty much an immovable force, and occasionally penetrated to disrupt plays and record a tackle for loss or two. If what I saw in this practice is what we can expect to see from Pipkins in the fall, then the combo of Pipkins and Breiden Fehoko will salve many defensive woes and improve Tech's overall prospects considerably.
*Another defensive standout was freshman safety Christian Taylor. And he stood out because of strong open field tackling. On a day when starting safeties Jah'Shawn Johnson and Keenon Ward had problems getting ball-carriers to the turf, Christian Taylor, and Payton Hendrix, made some noise. And Taylor, for my money, was the best safety on the field.
*The only time the offense clearly had the upper hand was on the scrimmage's first series. With Pat Mahomes pulling the trigger and Justin Stockton burning the defense on wheels and flairs, the offense marched swiftly downfield and scored a touchdown via a 3-yard Stockton reception. On this drive the defense was either unprepared to cover Stockton, or blew coverage. At any rate, for the rest of the afternoon Stockton was not a thorn in the defense's side as a receiver.
*The one area in which the offense really shone was in pass protection. In Midland, Gary Moore and Kolin Hill had big games rushing the passer as the defense recorded multiple sacks. In Jones Stadium, Moore and Hill were basically invisible, which speaks well for tackles Baylen Brown and Terence Steele.
*Nic Shimonek didn't participate in the Petro Scrimmage, but served as Pat Mahomes' backup in the Lubbock scrimmage. And I must say, I still have doubts about whether Shimonek has the accuracy necessary to be effective in Kliff Kingsbury's spread offense. He made a few nice throws, but also missed open receivers, threw into double coverage (Justis Nelson pilfered one of those), and threw completions that were errant enough to prevent the possibility of runs after the catch. He also threw an intermediate out route to an open receiver that Payton Hendrix broke up because it hung in the air too long. To my mind, backup quarterback is a position of concern.
*While Tech's quarterbacks--including Mahomes--looked ordinary, part of the reason was drops by receivers. In Midland I saw only one drop; in Lubbock there were at least three drops--one of which resulted in a Malik Jenkins pick-6 of Mahomes--and one case of alligator arms from Quan Shorts on a hot crossing route. (Otherwise, Shorts had a solid game, by the way.) The bright spot in the receiving corps was arguably Zach Austin who had two spectacular one-handed grabs.
*It is quite clear the the position battles between Reg Davis and Dylan Cantrell at outside receiver, and Payton Hendrix and Keenon Ward at strong safety, are still up in the air. Hendrix ran with the ones in Midland; Ward ran with the ones in Lubbock; Davis and Cantrell seemed to rotate reps with the ones.
*For the most part, the running game was ineffective. Justin Stockton, however, had a couple of tough runs between the tackles and was clearly more effective than Demarcus Felton. Corey Dauphine did not participate.
*Defensive end Lonzell Gilmore flashed. Gilmore, who looks considerably larger than his listed size of 6-foot-3 250, was not necessarily a force in pass rush, but really made a difference in run stoppage. On one play in particular, he beat Paul Stawarz for a TFL on Stockton.
*Punters Michael Barden and Clayton Hatfield were both impressive. Each was given a rep in coffin corner, normal punting, and rugby style punting, and all six punts were quite effective.