Photo By Steven Chapman

Choice Cuts from TTU Training Camp

Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, linebacker Malik Jenkins, defensive lineman Talor Nunez and receiver Ian Sadler spoke with local media following practice on Tuesday. Senior writer Joe Yeager, who was on-hand, breaks down what was discussed.

Kliff Kingsbury

"Justin [Stockton], just precautionary, want to get him to game week. A little banged up. Corey [Dauphine] the same thing."

My take: I didn't think to ask him, but it seems to me like Kingsbury and his staff are being more cautious with established players--and potentially valuable ones--than in the past. Lots of players being rested and nursed rather than exposed to any further injury. This could have something to do with the Red Raiders tackling more in practice than in the past, too.

"T.J. Vasher same deal. Some of these guys have had just little cuts and bruises. We're just getting to game week where we do the planning, as far as executing the game plan, tomorrow and Thursday."

"As of today it was Terence Steele and Madison [Akamnonu] at tackle, [Paul] Stawarz at center, Baylen [Brown] and Justin Murphy at the guards. Tony Morales is rotating in, Travis Bruffy is rotating in with that group. Still haven't settled on the final group, but that's the ones today."

My take: Jarret is officially in heaven. This is his dream lineup, and it looks like it could become a reality. But two freshman tackles in a pass-oriented offense! Many a head coach and offensive coordinator would be sweating buckshot over such a proposition, but Kingsbury seemed cool as a cucumber.

"I would say so. I think it's just getting back into the rhythm. He [Morales] missed a few days in meetings and practices and we're trying to get him caught back up."

My take: Morales is obviously a part of the O-line rotation, but my guess is that the frequently missed practices stemming from constant nicks and dings could keep him out of the starting lineup for the most part. But he'll still be a valuable cog in the machine.

"This [Stawarz at center] is going on about five days. So he played some [center] in high school, played some in junior college. He's familiar with it, just not doing it in our system."

My take: It sounds very much like Kingsbury and staff are trying to find the best place to plug Stawarz in. He must be a pretty good lineman. Better than advertised when he first signed with Tech.

"He [Bruffy] has been great. A very skilled offensive lineman. He was a pitcher in high school and the last real baseball player type guy that I was around was Luke Joeckel at Ayunem. A good athlete, baseball player, and that's who Travis reminds me of. He's gotta get stronger, but things come to him very easily, as far as pass setting and moving around, so he's got a chance to be a pretty good player."

My take: Kliff really perked up when asked about Travis Bruffy. And comparing him to Luke Joeckel, wow. Another very skilled technician at offensive line was Charles Odiorne for Tech back in the late 80s. And he actually received All America honors as a senior. With Bruffy, Akamnonu and Steele, the future of Tech's O-line looks extremely bright.

"No, he [Bruffy] will play. He's not gonna redshirt. I don't know if any of the other ones are. We'll try to get 'em in there and get 'em goin'. You know, we have this big class of offensive linemen so we're trying to get 'em playing time, get 'em experience and go from there."

My take: The desire to play all of the frosh linemen speaks to the lack of experienced depth in this group. The pups will have to grow up very quickly indeed.

"I think Quinton White is a guy who's really emerged. He's been here for quite a while but playing that lead back, fullback and running back, he's caught some passes, played special teams, he's really, he's grown up, matured a lot the last couple of years, and I think knowing it's his senior year he's taken on a bigger leadership role, so that's great to see."

My take: Got to like the depth in the backfield. Stockton, Felton, White, Dauphine, possibly Ward--there's plenty of talent and a wide array of skill sets.

"Yeah, we're throwing 'em [Jordyn Brooks, Brayden Stringer] in there. They really have a nose for the football. You want someone who can see and chase it quickly and both are not afraid to stick their nose in there. So they'll play a bunch. Early probably on special teams and find their way into that linebacker rotation."

My take: It seems like Tech hit on just about every prospect in their latest recruiting class. Virtually every freshman that gets mentioned draws praise. Of course, nobody will know for sure until the actual games start, and it will be extremely interesting to see how the youngsters develop and how they are used.

"He [Brooks] can [start]. He can. I'm not sure if he will, but I would not bet against it. Particularly as the season goes on. He's got that type of ability."

My take: It's hard to overstate the importance of Brooks being ready to play meaningful snaps immediately. With Dakota Allen gone, and with D'Vonta Hinton's history of injury, having at least one of those freshmen being ready to play quickly is crucial.

"I'd say he [Des Smith] is more game-ready at corner, just because he's long and physical and can get his hands on people. We'll do some things to help him out if he has to play safety in key situations that he feels comfortable. But at corner he can kind of just use his instincts and be a good athlete and be physical."

My take: This isn't too much of a surprise really. Corner is all about athletic gifts, while safety is a more cerebral position. But there's probably more depth at corner than safety, so ready or not, I wouldn't be surprised to see Smith actually play a bit more at safety, even though he would be a bit more vulnerable there.

Malik Jenkins

"I think it's always good when the defense scores on turnovers. I think the energy is getting better and better every week so I'm pretty proud of the whole group, offensively and defensively."

My take: This was Jenkins' remark about the scrimmage on Saturday. It's sounding like turnover generation could well carry over from last year to this year. Perhaps it will even improve.

"I think his [Jordyn Brooks'] size. He's big and he's starting to get used to it a little more, just him adjusting to the speed of playing college ball instead of just, you know, being in high school he was probably bigger than everybody. He's still a big kid and he can run to the ball and he has an eye for the ball and he has a good motor so Jordyn's gonna be a really elite football player in the future."

My take: It's interesting to compare Jordyn Brooks and Travis Bruffy and why each of them both look ready to play immediately. With Brooks, it is apparently his size and physicality, which allows him to take on blocks and shed them and get to the ball. Smaller linebackers can often be engulfed to big linemen. But in Bruffy's case it is his overall technical skill as a lineman, which is so substantial that it can largely make up for his lack of Power 5 physical strength. Different ways to skin a cat.

"We [the defense] had an awesome scrimmage, in my opinion. I think we were out there tackling. We're just trying to get better. That's something coach Spav [Spavital] emphasizes is to improve on two things every day, and I think it's just tackling as a whole defensive unit is awesome. I feel like we still have a lot more things to get better at but I think we are taking a step forward every day and every week."

My take: Tackling will be one of the most scrutinized aspects of the team against Stephen F. Austin. We will see if Jenkins is right.

"Cause fumbles, like coach Gibbs always emphasizes. Stripping the ball. We had a caused fumble, Jah'Shawn [Johnson] picked it up, took it to the house. Toward the end of the scrimmage we had R.J. Hester pick six, scored on that one so it's always good to create turnovers and of course, score touchdowns at the end of 'em."

My take: Jenkins was talking about the scrimmage here. Sounds very much like Jah'Shawn Johnson is picking right up from where he left off last season. Needless to say, he will be a key piece to the defense this year.

"He [R.J. Hester] is a corner."

My take: For those of you who may not know, Hester is a 5-foot-9 185-pound junior who transferred from East Texas Baptist. He is originally from Arlington, Texas. Perhaps he'll be the next Khalid Naziruddin, a very good Tech corner who transferred from Howard Payne.

"We're gonna be, if not bigger than everybody else, we'll be as big. And I fell like we're gonna be ready. Come the fourth quarter and the end of the game--we plan on dominating the whole game--but come fourth quarter or overtime, we're gonna be ready."

My take: Before every season you hear wild optimism from coaches, and especially players, and most of the time the optimism doesn't make much of an impression on me because it almost sounds rehearsed, and there's nothing really unique upon which to hang that optimism, but this year is different. The players--and Jenkins is the signal example--really seem to believe what they say, and they are making specific points that would appear to justify the optimism. Jenkins' comment on Rusty Whitt's impact, which he expects to really show up late in games, is a case in point.

"Yes, for sure. Me playing linebacker like I wasn't a linebacker size but I feel like after being with coach Whitt and his staff I feel like all the linebackers are over 220 and we're ready to roll."

My take: In this case Jenkins was asked if he felt like Tech was the smaller team last year "getting off the bus." The admission is unusual, and I don't think you would have heard it last year.

Talor Nunez

"It's very simple: bigger, better, faster. I means we have coach Whitt who's big on strength. We also have coach [Scott] Salwasser who I would call him like a genius when it comes to speed training. He's real big on that. So I think we've not only gotten bigger and stronger, but also faster. And it's showing on the field because I feel like there's a lot more competition in camp and in practice, and we have guys coming at each other harder than the last three years I've been here. So I'm really excited about the season going ahead."

My take: Interesting remarks about speed. We always hear about guys getting bigger and stronger--this is easy to quantify and see with our own eyes--but improvements in speed are less commonly discussed.

"I would agree with him that over the last three years we have been the smaller--we would pride ourselves on the speed because we were a bit smaller--but now I think we can compete with anybody. And especially with the mental aspect there's nobody we can't go out there and compete against. So I'm really excited this season to get after it and go. It doesn't matter who we're playing against. We're gonna keep our mental mindset the same for every game."

My take: This is Nunez concurring with Jenkins' remarks about feeling like they were the smaller team. You almost wonder if Tech might have been almost mentally defeated before the ball was even kicked off a few times last year. It's not good to feel small in the game of football.

Ian Sadler

"We [Sadler and John Giles] have a great relationship; he's kind of like my little brother. We're best friends. Competition is great. We're always pushing each other to the limits on the field and in the weight room."

"He [Giles] is fast. He's gotten a lot better. You'll see when the Saturdays come around."

My take: This is Sadler's answer to why Giles has made such a jump from his freshman season. If Giles has really improved to the point that he's leapfrogged Sadler, he is going to be a special player. 

"Most definitely. This camp they [the defense] have looked really good. The best I've seen them look since I've been here. So I'm really excited to get into the season." 

My take: More positive reviews on the defense. This time from an offensive player.

"What I've done here has been fun. I've had a good time, but when it comes down to it the best player's gotta play and if it's Giles it's Giles, if it's me it's me. I just want the best outcome for the team to be on the field."

My take: Sadler has a remarkably mature and selfless approach to the situation with him and Giles. There are a lot of players who would sulk and even transfer if a younger player was threatening to take some of their playing time or start over them. Sadler will add to the team's intangibles. 

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