Photo By Steven Chapman

Insider Mailbag: Spring Ball Surprises

Senior writer Joe Yeager, reporter Alyssa Chrisope, reporter Zach Tanner and publisher Jarret Johnson answer questions from subscribers about Texas Tech football, basketball, baseball and recruiting.

EastTXRR: Recruit reactions through spring thus far, following the spring games: have there been more positive reactions from recruits than in years past or has the amount of positive reactions been pretty normal?

Alyssa: From what I have seen so far the amount of positive reactions is fairly normal. This is a very positive time for every program in the country though, so I would just take it lightly and put more stock into what happens during the season. 

Jarret: The Star was a major recruiting coup, but only if it leads to commits in the future. The truth is Tech hasn't landed a commit since December. It's obvious recruits are waiting to see if Kingsbury and Co. will be around. 

Zach: I would say there have been more than normal and it's because of the Spring Game. There were whole contingents of D1 prospects who would never have been able to come out for a traditional Lubbock spring game that came out with their friends that got exposure to the Texas Tech brand. Admittedly, the coaches weren't able to talk to the prospects while they were there which is a bit of a negative, but the recruiting that's done to win a prospect's commitment is done over the phone and DM these days, not a 5 minute conversation on the field.

I think we are going to see more visitors than usual at Tech games this fall as a direct result of the Star Scrimmage.

juiceboxxx rapid fire: 

-How's John Henry Gonzalez's growth so far this season? We're used to/pampered with the Ace Davis in that spot on Friday and Gingery on Sat, so when runs are given up, it's shocking to some.

Alyssa: John Henry has been up and down so far this season and consistency is his biggest issue so far. He is allowing too many walks, but so are a lot of other guys out of the bullpen. I think he will progress when Davis Martin comes back and he can start only in midweeks. I agree though, Tech fans have been spoiled with a solid weekend rotation. 

-Name someone on the football team who has shocked you all during the spring practices?

Alyssa: Keke Coutee, easily looks like the best receiver on the team every time I see him.

Jarret: Lonzell Gilmore has really come on to the point he was blowing by Terence Steele in practice the other day without breaking stride... no easy task. If he can emerge next season as a legit pass rusher it would be huge for not only the defense, but the whole team. 

Joe: D.J. Polite-Bray. To put it kindly, he had hitherto underwhelmed at cornerback and showed little sign of improvement. I had, therefore, written him off as practice field fodder who would be passed up by younger, and in my estimation, more talented players. DJPB obviously had other ideas! Now needless to say, we need to see how he holds up against Big 12 receivers before we anoint him the next Mel Blount. Still, he has been as impressive as any other defensive player on the roster this spring. He has been Tech's most physical corner, and has not been exposed in coverage. Maybe DJPB will make his senior season one to remember.

Zach: Travis Bruffy. I interviewed him a bunch during his recruitment and he was my favorite prospect to talk to that cycle because of his maturity, poise, and enthusiasm. Honestly I thought he would struggle to put on the weight necessary to excel at LT and thought he would end up losing the job this spring. Instead, he has put in the work in the weight room and is a legitimate blind-side protector for you now. He's young and will have some bad times this season as he learns the ropes, but his rapid progress has surprised me.

-O/U 11 losses for Tech Baseball this season?

Alyssa: Over, but not by much. I see them getting maybe 12-13 losses, which is still pretty impressive. 

Jarret: Over.

Joe: Over. I think Tech loses five more conference games and could easily drop one at Ohio State.

Zach: Over

-Who is the next Jack Anderson like recruit Tech has a strong chance to reel in? 4* or higher.

Jarret: I think Waco Midway quarterback Tanner Mordecai will get bumped to a four-star next season and he eventually commits to Tech. 

Zach: Lawrence Keys. The relationship with Coach E Jones and the clear position of need there with how many they lose after '17 will seal the deal IMO. I actually think Tech ends up signing 3 four-star WRs this class and none at any of the other positions unless Mordecai gets bumped up.

I know in the past I've been high on the number of four-stars that Tech would be able to land this class but the departures of Foster, Patrick, and Hays all really hurt the relationships with the four-star guys you'd been building. Having to reset with a Scout300 kid who is already hearing from 10-20 other Power Five schools every day is not ideal. 

-Best vacation spot you have all traveled too?

Alyssa: Mallorca, Spain. It’s an island off of Spain and is easily one of my favorite trips. I went to New York City though for a second time over spring break and had an awesome time when avoiding the touristy stuff.

Jarret: Ambergris Caye, Belize when I was a kid. 13 I think. We stayed two weeks and I experienced several monumental firsts in my life there on that tiny, beautiful island in the Caribbean. As an adult it has to be the trip to Pensacola Beach last summer. It was the first real trip we took as a young family and for me as a father where my son knew what was going on. Plus, we stayed at a 5-star penthouse condo that we could never afford, but a close family friend hooked it up. It was plush.

Joe: Venice. We went there for our second honeymoon in March of 2002, and I was thunderstruck. The antiquity of the place, the magnificent ecclesiastical architecture, and the strangeness of no cars, only boats, was an intoxicating combination. Then too, the food and wine were also excellent. If anybody has an interest in visiting Venice, I would recommend doing so without a moment's pause. 

Zach: I had a good time in Cabo this year but I still prefer Kailua-Kona in Hawai'i. 

54thStreet: Got a favorite Spike quote?

Alyssa: I loved the quote that is posted in the football offices “I you have to talk a kid into coming here, you’ll have to talk that kid into playing hard." 

Jarret: Yeah, I have to agree with Alyssa. That's an iconic quote from an icon. 

Joe: I had a buddy by the name of Ken Whitfield who played for Spike back in the late 80s. He told me that, in the locker room Spike was once talking about how cold the weather was outside for one game or another. And these were Spike's exact words: "Lemme tell ya', it was cold enough out there to freeze the balls off a........pool table!"

TechFreak: What's your best Spike Dykes memory? I was at his last game where Kliff beat OU and they carried Spike off the field.

Alyssa: I really am too young to have a Spike Dykes memory honestly. I unfortunately did not follow Texas Tech when he was coaching and never saw him since I have been at Tech, but wish I would have.

Jarret: I was at The Jones when Lil Rick out rushed eventual Heisman winner Ricky Williams and Tech won. QB Rob Peters was hit so hard on a run along the sideline his helmet flew 10 feet straight up in the air. I was also there for his last game at The Jones when Kliff hit Sammy Morris for the long pass to win. That was on of my best sports moments ever.

Joe: I actually spoke with Spike just once. This would have been probably February of '87, and I was working at Mr. Gatti's Pizza on University across from Tech. Back in those days the football coaches would bring recruits to Mr. Gatti's for the pizza buffet. That was the case on this particular evening. At one point Spike ambles up to the buffet by his lonesome, checking to see if there was a good pie out. And so I took the opportunity to ask him a question. "Well coach," says I, "how's recruiting going this year?" His answer caught me off guard. He said, "Well it's going alright, but we sure have lost out on some good 'uns." Now I remember on that very day a highly coveted west Texas prospect had committed to UT or OU (may have been Mike McKinley from Perryton, Guy Bobbora from Amarillo or Jay Jaquess from Littlefield), so that bad news was obviously on his mind. But what blew me away was the honesty. When is the last time--when ever?--you heard a coach state that a given recruiting class was disappointing? Well on that night, away from the cameras, the media and the fat cats, Spike laid the truth on me. It's something I won't soon forget. 

BruceLee44: I really never pay attention to our offensive substitution pattern, but in your opinion will our offense (if it does not already) settle on a starting 11 when playing up-tempo so prevent the defense from subbing? Seems like a good way to control the defensive personnel faced throughout the game. 

Alyssa: I really haven’t paid a ton of attention to the substitution pattern either, but sounds like a good idea to me.

Jarret: Yeah, what Joe says below. Tech will sub a lot of receivers in and out and wear out opposing defensive backs. **CLICK HERE FOR RECEIVER DEPTH CHART AND PRODUCTION**

Joe: Tech's offense will substitute, particularly at receiver. When you've got the kind of depth and talent Tech has at that position, you've got to take advantage of it by rotating fresh players in and trying to gas and wear down opposing DBs. Additionally, even a well conditioned receiver who has just run two quick deep routes at full bore will need a blow. A tired receiver is a useless receiver. 

Sos2979: On the O-line, will we see 1-2 backups that learn multiple positions so that it is best guy is next in line or will each have a specific spot and backup for each position and who are the predicted backups?  Just trying to imagine what happens next year if a tackle or guard goes down especially with the miss on Cochran.

Jarret: The primary backups next season will be Bailey Smith, Jacob Hines, Zach Adams, Dawson Deaton, Will Farrar and Tony Morales. 

Zach: There will be less cross training under Coach B Jones, which will be one of the few differences between him and Hays. This is still a spiral-snapping man/zone combo blocking unit. I think you will see specific backups at each position, though who those are I'm not 100%.

recycler: Is the no TT logo having any effect on the players?

Jarret: Yeah, it seems gimmicky, but I do think it's in line with a lot of what they are doing to try and change the culture. I think the T-shirts were more effective, because of the shame element. Nobody wants to be in that dirty brown because everybody, including us in the media see that and that somebody has messed up. The story Nic Shimonek shared about running sprints with the team despite being dead dog sick with the trainers imploring him to just go home spoke volumes to me. He said how could he be expected to lead the team if the rest of the guys were in the next color shirt and he was still back in the previous one. Instead, he stayed, endured, got it done and the Shim Wow legend grew. He also set a great example of no excuses. That sounds like it's working to me.

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