Spring Practice Report 4/7

After a strong outing on Monday the Texas Tech defense tries to prove that it wasn't a fluke performance, and the quarterback race continues to heat up.

On Monday, the Texas Tech defense put on one of the best defensive practice performances since Mike Leach arrived in Lubbock, and Coach Leach was quick to give praise at the beginning of today's practice. The defense tried to improve on the outstanding performance today, but didn't quite reach the same level. Despite the slight drop in performance, the defense is continuing to look better than they did at any point last year. For the second practice in a row, the defense came out on top in the run drills. It all started with Fred Thrweatt and Patrice Majondo-Mwamba at the defensive tackle positions. Both players proved to be a handful for the offensive line. Despite the solid performance, the coaching staff is still looking for more consistency from both players. The two tackles were backed up by Brock Stratton and Chad Johnson, both of which have been forces in the run drills.

The quarterback competition took another turn today when Sonny Cumbie and Robert Johnson split all of the snaps in today's skeleton and team drills. Cumbie got things started quickly, his first pass of the day was a nice ball to Nehemiah Glover, who was in double coverage but things went downhill from there. Cumbie missed on six of the next seven passes, including a nice breakup by Chris Parker. Cumbie got back on track later on, completing six straight passes before throwing an interception to Jabari Smith on his final pass. The final count for Cumbie's first fifteen passes was 8 of 15 with one interception.

Johnson got off to a quick start with a deep pass to Trey Haverty for a touchdown. Johnson went on to complete the next six passes before he overthrew the ball on a pass intended for Jarrett Hicks. Johnson got back on track after the miscue, and completed his last seven passes, including a touchdown pass to Hicks. Johnson's completed 14 of his 15 pass attempts, and threw for two touchdowns.

Next up were third down drills. Cumbie went a perfect 5 of 5, while Johnson completed 3 of 5 attempts. Johnson was forcing the action a little bit, which led to the two incomplete passes, both of which were knocked down by defenders.

The quarterbacks continued to square off in the team drills. Cumbie once again took the field first, amd got off to a quick start when he threw a screen pass to Johnnie Mack. Mack took advantage of some nice blocking, and turned the short pass into a touchdown. Following a rush by Taurean Henderson, Cumbie threw an interception to Chad Johnson. If not for the whistles, the Johnson interception would have been an easy touchdown for the speedy safety who had nothing but open field in front of him. The rest of Cumbie's reps were fairly uneventful. Cumbie completed 7 of 10 passes and threw one interception. Robert Johnson took the field and ran into problems almost immediately when Adell Duckett swatted away the junior's first pass. Johnson completed 5 of his 8 pass attempts in the session. The difference in pass attempts can be attributed to more rushing attempts during Johnson's reps.

In the third down drills, Cumbie completed 3 of 4 passes, while Johnson suffered due to good pressure from the defensive. Johnson scrambled once, and was sacked by Paul Williams on his last attempt. Johnson completed 1 of 2 attempts in the drill.

The final drill of the day was an overtime simulation. This time Johnson took the field first. On first down Johnson just missed Ricky Wegner in the back of the end zone. On second down Johnson was flushed from the pocket, and rushed for 11 yards in the first down. On first down from the 14 yard line, Johnson found Brian Bishop for a 6 yard pass to bring up second and four. On the following play Mack rushed for 4 yards, and the first down at the 4 yard line. On first down Johnson scrambled for a single yard, but on second down the speedy quarterback ran 3 yards for the touchdown. Keith Toogood converted on the extra point.

Cumbie was next, and on first down he found Glover for a 5 yard gain. On second and five, Taurean Henderson rushed 13 yards for the first down at the 7 yard line. On first down, Cumbie threw the ball to Hicks, who was brought down at the 2 yard line. On second down Joey Hawkins dropped a pass in the end zone bringing up third down. Cumbie tried to throw to Glover on third down, but Chris Parker made a nice play on the ball to force the incomplete pass. On fourth down, Henderson tried to rush for the touchdown, but was stopped at the 1 yard line.

The simple fact that Cumbie and Johnson shared all of the snaps is a huge step in the quarterback competition. Prior to today, every practice has seen at least three quarterbacks had taken snaps in the skeleton and team drills. This gave both quarterbacks a level playing field on which to prove themselves for the first time this spring. The final stats for the day have Cumbie completing 25 of 38 (65.8%) passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions. Johnson completed of 24 of 32 (75%) for two touchdowns, and rushed for a third. The overtime drill showed just how dangerous Johnson can be in the red zone. His scrambling potential adds another threat to an already lethal offense. Over the last four practices Johnson has made a very strong case that he should be the Red Raiders' starting quarterback. He has simply been the better quarterback, making fewer mistakes, and being more productive on the field. He's clearly in the lead for the job, and I think he could seal the deal with a good performance in Saturday's scrimmage.

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