Spring Practice Report 4/12

Spring workouts entered its final week with the offense trying to recover from a bad outing in Saturday's scrimmage. Despite the offense's efforts, the defense came through with another strong outing.

Monday brought another solid performance for the defense, the fourth such performance in the past five practices. One or two of these performances can probably be attributed to sloppy play by the offense, but at some point the improvements by the defense have to be acknowledged. This surge in defensive performance has started with the safeties. Chad Johnson has been playing magnificent football now that he has moved to safety, the position he played in high school. C. Johnson followed up an impressive Friday and Saturday with two interceptions in seven on seven drills, and a third in team drills. As if that wasn't impressive enough, C. Johnson has been a major factor in run support. Vincent Meeks has also been a major contributor in the last couple of practices in both run and pass support.

The fact that the defense has been better than the offense for most of the past week should excite Texas Tech fans. This is the first time since Defensive Coordinator Lyle Setencich arrived in Lubbock that the defense has not only been truly competitive with the offense, but has also sustained the competitiveness for an extended number of practices. That's not to say that the defense constantly laid down for the offense. In the past, the defense has certainly made its share of plays, but never at this level. Some have speculated that simply playing against the best offense in the nation was enough to make the defense improve. Last season the defense played against the best offense in the nation, but they were hardly competitive. Fall practices consisted of a series of dominant performances by an offense that seemed to be toying with the weaker defense. The missing ingredient was competition. Right now the defense is competing with the offense every practice. They may not win every meeting, but they have a legitimate chance of coming out on top every day. While simply playing against a great offense won't make a defense better, competing with a great offense will yield improvements. The change has been staggering, with the defense showing some of the very same swagger that the offense used to show in practices. Red Raider fans everywhere have been hoping for an improved defense. Barring injury, that's exactly what fans will get in the upcoming season. It's hard to say how good they will be, but the difference will be substantial.

The quarterbacks continue to be the center of attention on the offensive side of the ball, with Robert Johnson and Sonny Cumbie splitting snaps once again. Cumbie started things of fin the seven on seven drills. the senior had a rough time, completing just 6 of 11 passes and throwing an interception when Chris Parker tipped a ball intended for Jarrett Hicks, and Chad Johnson snagged he interception. R. Johnson got off to a quicker star, completing his first 7 passes, though he did take a long time to find receivers on a couple of passes. C. Johnson got his hands on another pass when R. Johnson was slightly off on a throw to Joel Filani. R. Johnson completed 8 of 11 passes in the drill. In third down drills Cumbie was 4 of 5 thanks to a drop by Filani. R. Johnson sruggled early in the drill ,and completed his final two passes to finish 2 of 5 in the drill.

Cumbie's struggles continued in the team drills. His first pass of the drill was nearly intercepted by Antonio Huffman. His second pass of the drill was intercepted by C. Johnson, who would have scored a touchdown, his third in three practices. C. Johnson continued to be a factor, tipping a pass to Brock Stratton, who made the interception. Cumbie completed 5 of 9 passes in the team drill. R. Johnson faired better in the team drills, completing 5 of 6 passes. In third down drills Cumbie completed 2 of 3 passes, while R. Johnson completed his only pass attempt in the drill.

Both quarterbacks have seen their play decline in the last two practices, though Johnson did rebound to finish with a solid performance today. Johnson should still be the leader for the starting spot, though he needs to finish spring workouts strong. If Johnson can finish strong, he should be the clear leader heading into the summer. If he doesn't finish strong, he should still be at least even with Cumbie for the job. Barring a total meltdown by Johnson, I don't see how Cumbie can move back into the lead before the end of spring workouts.

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