"I think they're looking pretty good right now. Obviously we've got to get a lot better, but thank goodness we've got time," Texas Tech offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said Wednesday. The Red Raiders' spring workouts continue through April 18. "We've got a few more practices here, we've got the whole off-season this summer, then a bunch of practices during two-a-days.
"But the thing I'm proud of about these guys," Bedenbaugh said, "they're working hard, they're giving a good effort. We're going to have to have a few more guys step up for us and be ready to start for us next year at some point in time. We're a little bit too inconsistent right now but I think they're getting better."
Bedenbaugh has taken over offensive line duties, expanding his responsibilities with the Red Raiders since March when Robert Anae left to take a job as offensive coordinator for BYU. The specialist for the running backs will be Seth Littrell. Bedenbaugh can count on a couple of returning players as probable starters – guard Manny Ramirez and tackle EJ Whitley.
His squad's work this spring has drawn praise Red Raiders head coach Mike Leach, who has said he is happy with the O-line at both the first and second levels.
Bedenbaugh said, "Some of the guys from last year are doing pretty good. You know, E.J. (Whitley), Manny (Ramirez), Gabe Hall's really stepped up right now – Glenn January, (Bryan) Kegans is playing pretty consistently right now. (Brandon) Jones, you know he had that knee injury and he's kind of fighting some of that right now, but he's been playing pretty good."
Hall's 6-4, 287-pound presence will be welcome; the junior, a Lubbock Coronado product whose performance in Saturday's scrimmage earned him a mention from Coach Leach, continues to play well in spring practices. So does classmate January, a 6-7, 296-pound Houston Second Baptist product who's also been favorably mentioned by Leach.
Kegans, a senior from Stephenville, is shown at 6-5, 290 on the Tech roster while Jones, a junior from Keizer, Oregon, shows up at 6-4, 290 pounds to give the line remarkable solidity. Whitley, a Texas City graduate whose measurements are given as 6-6, 293, returns for his senior season while junior Ramirez brings a Houston Willowridge background and a 6-4,333-pound presence to Tech's offensive line.
"Some of those young guys are just young," Bedenbaugh continued. "They're inexperienced. But they're getting better. They just need more reps, and the more reps they get, the better they're going to get."
He's not looking for tremendous help from the incoming recruits. "That's pretty hard to say. O-Line's probably the hardest position to do that at, you know? We've got some guys, physically, coming in that I think are physically ready to do it. It's mentally, being able to pick things up and learn the schemes, and all the blitzes and protections, things like that. But yeah – you never want a freshman O-lineman come in and have to play, just because they're not used to the speed of the game and all the things you have to learn.
"But," he said, "if they come in here and they're going to get a chance, if they're ready to do it, then we're going to throw them out there."
The offensive line won't change in ways the average fan should be able to notice under Bedenbaugh's tutelage, he said. "Robert and I are pretty similar in what we're doing, and the schemes are going to be the same.
"The schemes are the same ones I played, ten years ago or however long that was," he said. "Everybody has their own philosophy of coaching. There's a few things, but not anything the average fan is going to notice."
Bedenbaugh's first full-time year with the Red Raiders' coaching staff had some good things going for it; he'd stepped into some big shoes when Tech's running backs coach, Art Briles, took over the Houston Cougars program, but Bedenbaugh had had three seasons as a graduate assistant to study Briles' techniques. He also had Taurean Henderson returning, and the Tech star fulfilled his promise by leading the Big 12 in receptions among running backs with an average of 5.9 yards per carry.
Bedenbaugh's expertise with offensive line coaching dates back to his graduate assistant days: he held the assistant O-Line coaching post for three years with Tech and had a year under his belt as offensive line coach for Ferris State in 1999. He also coordinated the running game for Ferris State, which the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Title and Bedenbaugh earned NCAA Division II Coordinator of the Year honors; under his guidance two of the Bulldogs' offensive linemen were named first-team all conference.
Earlier, Bedenbaugh served Central Michigan as graduate assistant offensive line coach, 1997-98; before that he worked as Mike Leach's assistant offensive line coach at Valdosta State in Georgia. In 1995 he served as the offensive line coach for Oklahoma Panhandle State; a St. Charles, Illinois native, he was a four-year starter for Iowa Wesleyan College, where he played for Leach. A 1995 Iowa Wesleyan business graduate, he completed a master's in sport management at Texas Tech in December 2001.