Texas Tech '05 Depth Chart & Preview

The only good thing about the conclusion of college football season is that it brings us one step closer to next year's opening kickoff. And while the Texas Tech Red Raiders still have a bowl game to play before the 2004 season is through, I have never been one to allow the pressing reality of the present interfere with my fevered speculations about the future. In that regard, I suspect I am like just about every other football fan out there.

So, having already been overcome by the Ghost of Football Future, I would like to take this time to make my projections about what the 2005 Red Raiders will look like when they take the field against mighty Florida International. Next season, by the by, looks to be cracking good fun despite a puny non-conference schedule that includes Indiana State and Sam Houston, in addition to the Golden Panthers of FIU.

Quarterback: Returning starters (0); Phillip Daugherty, 6' 3" 220, So.; Graham Harrell, 6' 2" 190 Fr.; Cody Hodges, 6' 1" 210 Sr.; Robert Johnson, 6' 2" 205, Jr.

If you thought the competition for the starting quarterback position was intense in 2004, you are in for several months of you ain't seen nothing. The leading candidates appear to be Harrell, Hodges, and Johnson. Head coach Mike Leach has served notice throughout his coaching career that he prefers a deep understanding of his offensive system, which is usually conferred by experience. He also allowed in this week's press conference, however, that having a quarterback start multiple years would be nice because quarterbacks improve dramatically with time on the field. Such a statement would seem to provide a glimmer of hope for borderline rookie Johnson and raw recruit Harrell. Both of those players certainly have the credentials and skills to pilot the Raider ship. Until, however, Leach makes fast his statement about the desirability of multiple-year quarterbacks with deeds, I will be skeptical.

The projection: Hodges.

Running back: Returning starters (1); Marcus Bunton, 5' 7" 185, Fr.; Taurean Henderson, 5' 10" 205, Sr.; Taurance Rawls, 5' 10" 200, So.; Shannon Woods, 5' 10" 195, Fr.

Assuming he squares away his academic requirements over the spring and summer (early indicators are positive on this score), Henderson is the man. He started the 2004 season slowly, but has gotten progressively better as the year has gone along. In fact, Henderson has played so well of late that he is making a very strong case for being the offensive focal point next season. That is difficult for a running back in a Mike Leach offense to do. Rawls, a physical, straight-ahead type looks to be Henderson's main caddy in 2005. Freshman recruits Edward Britton and Kobey Lewis look like potential stars of the future, but not next season.

The projection: Henderson.

Wide receiver: Returning starters (2); Danny Amendola, 5' 11" 175, So.; Brian Bishop, 5' 11" 180, Sr.; Brandon Douglas, 6' 0" 190, Jr.; Joel Filani, 6' 3" 215, Jr.; Cody Fuller, 6' 0" 200, Sr.; Jarrett Hicks, 6' 4" 210, Jr.; Slade Hodges, 6' 1" 215, Sr.; Anthony Jenkins, 5' 11" 185, Fr.; Marquis Johnson, 6' 2" 225, Jr.; Eric Morris, 5' 8" 170, Fr.; Bristol Olomua, 6' 6" 235, Sr.; L. A. Reed, 6' 2" 190, Fr.

Fuller, a solid, clutch possession receiver, and Hicks, a phenomenal talent who early on looked like a Belitnikoff Award candidate but has recently tapered off, are the returning starters and will not be dislodged. This leaves the two inside receiver positions to be filled. Olomua, a big target with amazing agility and talent the equal of Hicks is a strong candidate, as is Amendola, who has demonstrated hands of glue and great elusiveness as a true freshman. The only thing keeping him from stardom is physical strength, which conditioning coach Bennie Wylie will rectify in the off season. Douglas is a practice-field demon who is yet to convert this play into game-time performance. Filani is slowly rounding into form and may push for a starting nod in 2005. Reed is a dark horse who looked very good in limited time in summer workouts. This unit would benefit from an infusion of speed.

The projection: Hicks, Fuller, Olomua, Amendola.

Offensive line: Returning starters (2); Josh Aleman, 6' 3" 285, Fr., Cody Baker, 6' 4" 285, Fr., David Chatterton, 6' 4" 305, Fr., Daniel Christian, 6' 5" 305, Sr., Ben Griffin, 6' 4" 305, Fr., Matt Grisell, 6' 5" 295, Fr., Gabe Hall, 6' 4" 285, Jr., Glenn January, 6' 7" 295, Jr., Brandon Jones, 6' 4" 290, Jr., Bryan Kegans, 6' 5" 290, Sr., Lance Lusk, 6' 5" 330, Fr., Josh Morris, 6' 3" 285, Fr., Manuel Ramirez, 6' 4" 335, Sr., E. J. Whitley, 6' 6" 295, Sr., Jared Williams, 6' 6" 225, Fr.

Ramirez, a guard, and Whitley, who can play any position on the line are the returning starters. Kegans, January, and Jones have all gotten playing time at guard, tackle, and center respectively. Christian is a superb talent who, so far, has yet to produce. He has one more year to turn it on. The bet here is that he will.

The projection: Whitley, Ramirez, Jones, Christian, January.

Defensive line: Returning starters (3); Dek Bake, 6' 6" 260, Sr., Brett Bischofberger, 6' 3" 285, Sr., Randall Cherry, 6' 3" 280, Sr., Keyunta Dawson, 6' 2" 260, Jr., Charles Glover, 6' 4" 270, Sr., Sione Havili, 6' 3" 260, Sr., Chris Hudler, 6' 3" 285, Jr., Brian Jones, 6' 0" 275, Fr., Seth Nitschmann, 6' 4" 255, Jr., Jake Ratliff, 6' 6" 235, Fr., Ken Scott, 6' 3" 315, Jr., Fred Thwreatt, 6' 3" 330, Sr., Tyler Yenzer, 6' 4" 235, So.

Bake, Hudler, Nitschmann, Scott, and Thrweatt have all started multiple games, with Nitschmann a fixture at one defensive end position. Improvement is needed here across the board, insofar as the returners on the defensive line have recorded a paltry six sacks between them in 2004. Run defense up front has also been sporadic. Heralded incoming recruit McKinner Dixon could make an early impact at defensive end, as could newcomer Brian West at defensive tackle if he has the physical strength to do so.

The projection: Dawson, Bake, Hudler, Nitschmann.

Linebacker: Returning starters (2); Sylvester Brinkley, 6' 3" 235, Sr., Chad Hill, 6' 1" 220, So., John Saldi, 6' 5" 240, Sr., Fletcher Session, 6' 0" 225, Jr., Brent Slaughter, 6' 1" 215, Jr., Brock Stratton, 5' 11" 230, Jr., Kellen Tillman, 6' 1" 235, So., Paul Williams, 6' 1" 230, So.

Another position desperately in need of improvement. Saldi and Stratton are the returning starters, and it is unlikely that they will be evicted from their posts. If 2004 recruit Marcus Smith makes the grade, he could very well start before the season is through alongside Stratton and Saldi.

The projection: Saldi, Stratton, Session.

Defensive backs: Returning starters (4); Caldwell Brown, 5' 10" 165, Fr., Lance Fuller, 6' 0" 210, So., Joe Garcia, 6' 2" 205, So., Anthony Hines, 6' 1" 215, Fr., Antonio Huffman, 6' 0" 180, Jr., Chad Johnson, 5' 11" 195, Jr., SirDon Lewis, 5' 9" 175, Sr., Darcel McBath, 6' 0" 175, Fr., Vincent Meeks, 6' 0" 205, Sr., Khalid Naziruddin, 5' 10" 180, Sr., Chris Parker, 5' 11" 180, So., Dwayne Slay, 6' 3" 215, Sr.

The secondary will be the strength of the defense in 2005, and probably the strongest unit on the entire team. Meeks and Johnson are returning starters at safety; Huffman and Naziruddin the returning starters at cornerback. As good as this quartet is, however, there are no guarantees that they will all start most of the games next season. Parker is a talented cornerback who will push hard next season, as will gifted redshirt freshman Darcel McBath. Slay, the team's hardest hitter will be hard to keep on the bench, and it is possible that highly touted recruits, LaShawn Vation and Ishie Oduegwu, along with redshirted safety Anthony Hines, and sophomore Joe Garcia will make strong bids at safety. The players who show the greatest ability to create turnovers may be the ones seeing the field most next season. So far in 2004, the Red Raider defense has created only 18 turnovers, and the secondary has picked off only seven balls.

The projection: Huffman, Naziruddin, Meeks, Slay.

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