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Choice Cuts From Texas Tech Fall Camp

Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, receiver Dylan Cantrell, linebacker Luke Stice and safety Jah'Shawn Johnson spoke with the media following practice Monday.


"We're giving the two older guys a little bit of a rest, letting Murphy coming off of that injury and Tony being a sixth-year guy every now and then getting a little bit of a break. So they're good. We just wanted some young guys to go. We let Baylen play center today, which he's kind of the go-to guy if something were to happen to Tony so I thought it was good. Good to sit them down and let some of the young guys have an opportunity."

"He [Baylen Brown] is [at left tackle]."

JY: This reads like a straight bill to me. The coaches know pretty much what they've got in Tony, Baylen and Justin, and it makes sense to reduce their overall reps somewhat. Doing this also underscores just how important those three veterans are to the team.

"I think just ball security offensively. The quarterbacks played as efficiently as I've seen since I've been here, all of 'em. Moved the ball well. Then defensively coming out fast. They stopped us on the first two drives, which is good to see, that good energy. So I thought it was one of the more competitive scrimmages we've had since I've been here."

JY: The competitiveness of the scrimmage lends credence to the idea that the defense is making some strides. Sure, there are competitions at each position, but there also seems to be much needed and very healthy competition between offense and defense.

"Player of the Day. That's a great question. I thought Keenon Ward had a very solid day. His tackling has improved dramatically. I saw it in the spring; it continues to happen through fall camp. And then Keke Coutee had a good day. He's playing in some of our empty packages along with Zach [Austin] and I thought he had a good day."

JY: Great to hear that Ward's tackling is improving. If that holds true during the season many an explosive play will be eliminated."

"T.J. Vasher has really come a long way since getting here in fall camp. Hadn't been here long. Just got here this summer but a big, talented guy who's gonna do some things for us this season. Jett Duffy played really well. His operation of the system has been fun to watch. And then Shimonek continues to improve. I think his stats are probably the best of all the quarterbacks as far as percentage right now, so that's encouraging."

JY: That bit about Shimonek's completion percentage comes as a very pleasant surprise to me. I've always had questions about his accuracy, but maybe as he settles into the system and becomes more comfortable, he is also becoming more accurate."

"He '[Derrick Willies] should be back. He was running around today, did almost everything, so he should be full go tomorrow."

JY: And everybody breathed a sigh of relief.

"He [Damarcus Fields] has a shoulder that he'll get worked on I believe this week, and we'll redshirt him this season."

JY: Too bad about the injury, but I suspect he probably would have redshirted anyway."

"Well, we're gonna start him [Desmon Smith] at safety because we feel like we can teach him corner easier. So we're gonna get him a bunch of reps at safety in case we need him there, but he's a guy that we see playing both. Long and physical so you could put him at corner but we're gonna start off at safety and try to get that under his belt."

JY: Sounds to me like Smith will play this year. Not much urgency to bring him up to speed at both positions if he's going to redshirt anyway."

"Yeah, Joe Wallace is gonna get in there. He's been having a heckuva camp. He's explosive, still figuring out how to do it, but he fires off the ball and he'll definitely be playing for us this year."

JY: The situation on the D-Line just keeps getting better. I wasn't counting on Wallace to contribute this year, but if he's too good to sit then more power to him."

"Yeah, he [Corey Dauphine] could [make a splash]. We gotta keep him healthy. When he touches that ball, he's kind of that different speed, kind of like Justin. So we're gonna try to work him into it these first few games and go from there, but he's a guy who's got to continue to get reps and get comfortable in our system."

JY: Sounds like being nicked up has prevented Dauphine from getting the reps necessary to be a major factor early, but the talent is definitely there.

"Yeah, I'd say that Madison [Akamnonu] is ahead right now in that guard competition."

JY: Kinsbury said he wanted to make a decision about left guard early this week and it sounds like he's done so. Two freshmen and one sophomore will be starting for Tech's O-Line.



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"It [receiver performance in the scrimmage] was pretty good throughout, but I thought Johnathan Giles made some big catches over the middle. On third down and long he made some big plays, so he had a pretty good scrimmage."

"It [Giles' key improvement] has got to be toughness and confidence. Last year he was a skilled player who could make some big-time plays but he didn't have that tough, going-over-the-middle making big-time catches. This year you can see that he trusts himself and is confident enough to go over the middle, make some tough catches, take some tough hits, and that's really where he's progressed."

JY: If Giles and Ian Sadler can both be reliable targets in the middle of the field it will do wonders for the offense. The chain-movers are as important in the spread as are the running backs, and they perform similar functions.

"It [pass protection] been good. It's been a little spotty at times, but I've really seen the freshmen progress as the camp's gone along and really learn how to protect, and I've really worked on my game inside of the pocket and I feel like in the scrimmage in the pocket I got a lot of good protection."

JY: In time pass pro will probably be very good, but expect a few glitches here and there early in the season. With a line as young as Tech's this is to be expected. Just so long as there is improvement throughout the season, not too big a deal.


"He [T.J. Vasher] is picking up the offense really well. For a guy that size he's probably about as athletic I've seen. Yeah, you can throw it up and he'll go get it, but you can also throw him a screen and he'll make people miss and run, so definitely keep an eye on him in the future. When he gets a little bit more size on him and gets the offense down in the next couple of years, yeah, I expect big things outta him."

JY: Sounds like Vasher is the real McCoy. His name keeps coming up. And the fact that he'll play this year on a team with crazy wide receiver depth just speaks to how much talent he's got.


"As I mentioned before, their [Gibbs' and Spavital's] biggest deal is fly to the ball and create turnovers. That's the thing that pretty much equals success wherever you're playing and at the end of the day football is football."

JY: You often hear that defense is all about want-to, and it sounds like David Gibbs buys into that idea.

"Yes sir, I believe it [playing linebacker] a good opportunity for me to give all-out effort and just fly to the football. Just run to the ball. And that's where I feel the most comfortable. At the end of the day you do whatever you can to help the team win, but without a doubt, that's where I feel the most comfortable."

JY: Like all people, sometimes coaches make mistakes. And one mistake is playing a player at the wrong position. Talent is squandered that way. I really wonder if Houston didn't screw up by playing Luke Stice at fullback rather than linebacker where he was so good as a high school player. This season will tell the tale on that one.


"You don't know what they [the offense] are gonna do now. They've got 10 great receivers on this team--it's probably more than that--but then you've got great running backs, three, four deep so they can throw the ball, run the ball, Pat can run the ball. It's hard to go up against them, but you just gotta try to limit them to what they can do, but it's gonna be great."

JY: I seriously doubt Tech has ever had this much talent at the skill positions. As long as the offensive line can just hold serve, this offense could be the nation's best.

"They [the new players in the defensive front seven) are gonna be a big help this season. I was joking with them earlier in practice like, 'Can y'all stop doing all that? It's kind of boring back here not being able to tackle.' They're all staying in their gaps. A lot more mature this season, doing what they're supposed to do, and not trying to do too much."

JY: Staying in their gaps sure sounds good. Better run defense may be the single biggest must for this team to improve over Tech teams from the last several years.

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