Defensive Line Counts on Experience

<p>"We're coming around," affirmed Coach Ruffin McNeill, defensive coordinator and special teams coach for the Texas Tech Red Raiders after Monday's practice. "We've got more experience there.

"The young guys are coming around, Bryan Jones and Jake Ratliff," McNeill said.

Jones, who redshirted last year, stands six feet even and tips the scales, according to the roster, at 276 pounds. A Big Spring native, Jones graduated from Everman High School and was named to the Dallas Morning News' Top 50 Area recruits list as well as First Team All-District 8-3A his senior year. Clocked at 5.2 in the 40, he possesses formidable strength with lift marks of a 400-pound bench press, 600-pound squat and 550-pound deadlift.

Ratliff, another redshirt freshman, comes to Tech from Lawton, Oklahoma, where he caught a pair of touchdown passes as a senior. A 4.8 40 time graces his resume, which includes 42 tackles and two sacks on defense for Eisenhower High School. Ratliff, who boasts a 30-inch vertical leap, is a rodeo participant as well as a basketball and baseball player.

"Fred Thrweatt, and Kenny Scott -- he's really having a good last couple of days in practice, and Fred's really coming on and getting more confident." Thrweatt, a 6-3 defensive lineman who came to Tech as a veteran of three state championship teams from Midland Lee High School, is listed at 330 pounds on the official roster as of April 4, 2005. His lift numbers are 330 in the bench and 600 pounds in the squat.

"We just have to keep dropping him down, a little bit, dropping his weight a little bit," McNeill said of the burly Thrweatt. "But he's doing a good job.

"Dek Bake is doing good," he said. "I feel good about the group. Outside, Coach Sadler has those ends and rushers improving. Keyunta Dawson's going to be a great one, and Seth Nitschmann. (Brett) Bischofberger did a good job today for us, and so did Tyler Yenzer."

Yenzer, a sophomore who had his redshirt season in 2003, last year earned third spot on the depth chart. He's a six-foot-four 237-pounder from Midland, where he was a member of the Associated Press Class 5A First Team All-State as a senior.

Keyunta Dawson, listed at six-two and 259, has two years' playing time under his belt as a defensive end with Tech. He's a graduate of Shreveport, La. Evangel Christian Academy; as a recruit, he earned honors from Max Emfinger's Blue Chip Recruiting and Rivals. com as, respectively, the List No. 55 and No. 57 prospective defensive end in the nation while helping the team go 14-1 his senior year en route to a second consecutive state championship.

Nitschmann stands six four and is listed at 257 pounds; he was a member of Corpus Christi Calallen's 1999-2001 district championship squads and the 13-2 state semifinalist team of 2001.

"I feel really good about ‘em," McNeill said.

Tech's defense is apt to star a pair of Californians this fall -- six-foot-six Bake, who tips the scales at 260, and six-foot-three 280-plus-pound Bischofberger are a pair of seniors who both receive their share of "oohs" and "aahs" from teammates and spectators during practice. Meanwhile Thrweatt is often greeted by, "Yeah, Big Fred!" at the end of a powerful play – and all three have given all the appearances of becoming a major force in spring workouts.

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