Dek Bake Interview:
The second Spring Practice session took place this afternoon with wonderful 60-degree weather, which was a stark contrast from the frigid temperatures on Wednesday. This was the second no-pads practice, but the players seemed to forget that at times. The quarterbacks were throwing missiles, and the players' overall speed in the practice was much faster than it was during Wednesday's winter weather. The wide receivers were jumping up and laying out for catches, and the defensive backs upended them a few more times than Coach Leach liked to see.
In response, Leach decided to take a short hiatus and focused intently on the intricacies of tying a shoelace for the better part of three minutes. A menial task for most, but in true TSO fashion, Leach analyzed and then broke down the components of the task at hand until he found the best solution, which ended up being the re-lacing of about half of the shoe. You just have to love the guy. Also amusing is the complete lack of ambiguity in his offensive formations. For example, there is "Okie," which undoubtedly has influences from his time with the Oklahoma Sooners. There are also gems like "San Francisco," "Miami," and my personal favorite, "3rd and Short." Still, there is a brilliance in his paradoxical "complex simplicity," which is evidenced by the steady improvement of our football program year after year. Anyway, back to today's practice.
Graham Harrell was nearly flawless today, and continues to impress me with his natural abilities. The best way to describe it is that he simply looks like a quarterback should. Also, I am still in awe of the strength that Harrell has added since last year. Not only does he look stronger, it is also beginning to become apparent in the zip that he is putting on his throws. One throw in particular was a long bomb to Amendola that would have gone for six points against anyone. It was that well-thrown. He distanced himself a little more from Chris Todd with his performance today. Again, this doesn't mean that Todd had a poor afternoon; the bar just continues to be set very high. Chris Todd impressed me with his mobility today. He seems to be more willing than Graham to move around in the pocket and roll out when necessary. Todd just needs to work on getting quicker on his reads, as he has already proven to be a capable scrambler and accurate passer. To summarize this year's quarterback battle, it's like choosing between a Bentley and a Rolls-Royce. Either way, you'll feel awfully comfortable.
Of course, there aren't too many bumps in the road with the receivers that Texas Tech has this year. Hicks, Johnson, Filani, and Amendola are all extremely experienced, and are talented enough by themselves to give defensive coordinators nightmares. Then, great backups like Catron Houston, L.A. Reed, and Todd Walker further solidify the point. Houston reminds me of Nehemiah Glover with the way that he plays, and I would be pleased to see him get some playing time this year. Reed was the arguably the afternoon's best receiver, making several impressive catches. One in particular was a spectacular one-handed grab that electrified the crowd. Todd Walker's hands seem to have improved since last season, as he also made a very nice catch today. Also, Todd's brother, newcomer Grant Walker, looks to be a capable receiver as well. I will be sure to keep an eye on him to track his progression throughout the spring. Eric Morris had a noteworthy performance on the afternoon, playing much bigger than his 5'8" frame would suggest. Unfortunately, Chris Cunigan was a bit of a disappointment today. After doing so well yesterday, he dropped several passes this afternoon. That being said, the unit performed well overall and is as strong as any other team's in the nation.
Thankfully, the offensive line rebounded today in a big way. The unit protected the quarterbacks well in the scrimmage, which was a welcome change from Wednesday. Gabe Hall is weighing in at around 300 pounds, but is running like a 200-pounder. Manny Ramirez is still the anchor of the unit, and continues to work with all of the line in an effort to make the unit a tighter group. Additionally, the focus seems to be on the overall quickness of the unit. Rylan Reed also had a better day, and received commendation for it from the coaching staff. Hopefully this trend of improvement will continue and alleviate my trepidation towards the unit for next season.
The defensive line was not quite as dominant as they were on Wednesday, but I would attribute that more to the offensive line stepping it up than a lackluster performance by the defensive line. McKinner Dixon, Chris Hudler, Ken Scott, and Seth Nitschmann are the projected starters, but don't be surprised to see Dek Bake push for a starting gig for next season. Keep in mind that he might have made the first-team last season if he had not suffered an injury. What is most encouraging about the defensive line's performance is that they are doing it without their biggest star, Keyunta Dawson.
Keyunta is continuing to learn the linebacker position well above the pace that many expected. He can almost always be found discussing the minutiae of the linebacker position with players or coaches. Fletcher Session worked with him today in some of the down time of practice, and it just seems like everyone involved with the team wants his position change to succeed. Fortunately, this seems to be the case thus far, as Dawson already is seeing the field very well. Pass coverage appears to be very solid for the unit overall, especially Paul Williams. He had an excellent afternoon, and has the potential to push for a starting spot if he keeps it up. If the unit can gel enough to shut down the opponents' rushing attack, our defense might be in better shape than many expect for next season.
New defensive backs coach Brian Mitchell is working to assimilate some his personal philosophies into the unit. The star of the unit today was Antonio Huffman, who proved to have the best hands of all of the defensive backs. His vertical leap was also impressive, which could prove quite useful against the "Big" 12 receivers. (Apologies for the lame pun.) On a disheartening note, Marcus Bunton's injury from Wednesday prevented him from practicing this afternoon. We will try in the coming days to bring you the details of the injury, but the program tends to be tight-lipped about such things. A newcomer to watch for is Florida State transfer Clarence Ward. He will have to sit out next season as an eligibility requirement, but he will be worth watching in the Spring nonetheless. He had an interception on the day, as did Anthony Hines. Hines may be the most overlooked of the DBs, and could push for a starting spot. Projected starters Joe Garcia and Lance Fuller are looking quicker than expected, though, so that may be difficult to do.
The running backs had another solid day. Shannon Woods is a burner, hitting the holes hard and showing great agility. Woods made a great juke on one of the linebackers, which elicited a significant reaction from the players and fans. He was great on screen passes and draws today as well, looking awfully Taurean-esque. Kobey Lewis is doing an excellent job of hiding behind blockers and squeezing through holes that he probably shouldn't be able to. Again, the Johnnie Mack comparison appears to be valid. Taurance Rawls did not practice for the second straight time, and no one is quite sure why. We'll update as we know more about why this is the case.
Finally, it's time to highlight the special teams. The coaching staff employed the usage of a pitching machine to fire punts in the air to Amendola and Eric Morris. Maybe next time I'll tell them that I'll punt to them for fun. Anyway, the punt team consisted of mainly starters, and it looks like it might be difficult for anyone to take the starting PR job from Amendola. The RP staff has a theory that Catron Houston could be an excellent returner, so we'll see if that pans out. We will be tailgating before tomorrow's practice, so come say hi if you feel like making it out. We should all be out there starting around 10 am. It looks like it will be a wonderful Saturday for football practice.
Now let's hand out some awards:
Best Overall Unit:
Best Individual Performance:
Spring Practice #2 Report