Spring Practice Report #4
David Schaefer won the opening match handily, which was followed by a great battle between Jarrett Hicks and Darcel McBath. They were deadlocked for several seconds until Hicks finally got a bit of leverage and threw McBath to the ground, which elicited quite a response from the crowd of players and fans. Finally, Chris Hudler and Louis Vasquez had an extremely even shoving match that ended up in what could only be considered a tie. Still, the drill effectively motivated all of the players, as was evidenced by their effort throughout the day.
Graham Harrell continues to be the most consistently solid of the quarterbacks, and hardly ever throws an errant pass. However, Harrell did call the wrong play once today, and Leach promptly punished the offense by announcing to the defense exactly what play they were running. Harrell's highlight of the day came on a 20-yard out pattern to Filani that was so well-thrown that it enabled Filani to outrun the entire defense for a 90-yard touchdown. Graham did well overall today, but was not quite on the top of his game.
Chris Todd had another solid practice. It would have been a great day for him had it not been for one pass in particular. Catron Houston completely shook his man, and had no one between him and the end zone, but Todd underthrew him so badly that Houston had to fall down to catch it. This was really his only mistake on the afternoon, but it was such a blown opportunity that it left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.
Ryan Rowland saw limited action in the full scrimmage, but did well in the drills and the 7-on-7 scrimmage. He is a likely to be third on the depth chart, but at Texas Tech, that is something to be proud of. We also all remember how well he played in the Red-Black game last year.
Ryan Krone is the new face at QB, and he is a walk-on that seems to be well-liked by the team. His mechanics are solid, and his arm strength looks good. However, he is as yet unproven, but Leach appears to be trying to work with him, giving him quite a few reps this afternoon.
Graham Harrell: 4-5 passing for 120 yards
Chris Todd: 10-11 passing for 221 yards
Ryan Rowland: 1-1 passing for 25 yards
Shannon Woods and Pete Richardson were the only running backs who saw significant action today, and they did rather well. Taurance Rawls spent the day working on his upper body with a medicine ball, even though I'm not quite sure he needs more strength considering his muscular build. Pete Richardson is faster than he appears, and looks like he has good hands as well. Woods didn't drop much today, but he bobbled a few passes. Still, his elusiveness is a thing of beauty, as it seems no one ever gets both hands on him. Shannon appears to be a great pure running back, and if he can effectively grasp the subtleties of the game, he will be something special indeed.
Full Scrimmage Statistics:
Shannon Woods: 6 attempts for 52 yards
Pete Richardson: 5 attempts for 33 yards
The wide receivers had a rough start, receiving criticism from Coach Leach. Then, Bennie Wylie put on some punching gloves and started dealing blows to the receivers who were not explosive enough with their initial move to get out range of Wylie's insanely strong arms. From that point on, the receivers got fired up and really started giving the DB's a tough time. Joel Filani was the story of the day, scoring two touchdowns in the full scrimmage and giving Huffman a tough time in the 1-on-1 drill. His hands were excellent, and his breakaway speed has never been in question. Grant Walker also had a terrific afternoon, looking far better than many expected thus far. Robert Johnson seems to be the quarterbacks' favorite target, and so far has looked as good as ever. Todd Walker had a solid practice, but had a relatively quiet day. The same goes for Catron Houston, who appears to be fighting a slightly injured hand from Saturday's fight. However, Houston did display some leadership in offering advice to newcomer Edward Britton, who is playing well so far. Danny Amendola kept making great catches despite shadow coverage by Joe Garcia in the 1-on-1 drill. Chris Cunigan again battled Clarence Ward, with Cunigan getting the dominant edge in that battle. Eric Morris had another fantastic juke today, and it would be nice to see him get in on more rotations in the fall. This has to be the best group of receivers in the nation.
Full Scrimmage Statistics:
Joel Filani: 3 catches for 195 receiving yards, 1 rush for -5 yards
Robert Johnson: 5 catches for 79 yards
Jarrett Hicks: 3 catches for 30 yards
Danny Amendola: 2 catches for 20 yards
Grant Walker: 1 catch for 17 yards
It was a welcome surprise to see that the offensive line had a sensational day. One play in particular was quite impressive, and that was when nearly the entire defensive line ended up on the ground, enabling Chris Todd to scramble long enough to make a completion. Josh Aleman also had an incredible pancake block that freed up running beck Pete Richardson for a 21 yard gain. Rylan Reed needs to work only on his toughness if he wants to earn a starting spot. One person to watch for the future is Marlon Winn. It's doubtful that he pushes for a starting spot this year due to his inexperience, but the RP staff sees good things in his future. In an effort to find the best mix of offensive linemen, Louis Vasquez is moving around often, and today saw some time at LT. He had a good kick out block and an excellent switch with Glenn January, who also had a good outing. The offensive line as a whole allowed only one sack in the full scrimmage, and needless to say, it was very encouraging to see them step up their game today.
The defensive line also had a good day, despite McKinner Dixon continuing to not be in attendance. It isn't possible to say enough about what Jake Ratliff did today. The man was simply on a mission in nearly all of the drills and scrimmages, recording tackles and pressuring the quarterbacks throughout the day. If he continues this kind of play, they're going to have to get him into football games. Dek Bake was also dominant against most of his competition, and Tyler Yenzer had an excellent pass deflection today. Chris Hudler had a mostly utilitarian day, as did Ken Scott. Newcomer Rashad Hunt also shows promise for the future. Brian Jones had one of his best days in recent memory, which was evidenced by Ruffin's silence toward Jones, who is usually his favorite scapegoat. The offensive line may arguably have outplayed them today, but that was because of their superb effort, while the defensive line's was just good.
The potential starting lineup of Keyunta Dawson, Paul Williams, and Fletcher Session already looks like they are ready for Division 1 football. They work together very well, and look excellent in coverage. Their run defense looks like the area in which they need to improve, but there is enough talent to be rotated around if this becomes a problem. Perhaps the best example of this is Brent Slaughter, who had an INT today. Slaughter is quick, is a sure tackler, and is solid in pass coverage. He could easily be rotated in effectively next year. Stratton is still doing rehab through light jogging with Coach Wylie and work on the exercise bikes. He looks to be moving around relatively well, but it might be a different story if he had to make quick cuts. Every practice, he seems more capable of making a starting LB spot. Kellen Tillman completely upended Grant Walker, which shows how strong he is. Unfortunately, it was before the ball was thrown, so Tillman would have been flagged for it at any level of football. Still, this reflects their level of intensity, and the unit looks better than many will expect for next season.
The defensive backs played with impressive effort today, and had the wide receivers on their toes until after Coach Wylie got the receivers fired up for the 1-on-1 drill. Even then, the receivers only got the better of them by making some incredible catches in traffic. Joe Garcia and Amendola had some great battles in this drill, as did Antonio Huffman and Filani. Chris Cunigan was the only receiver who got the better of his man, Clarence Ward. Ward had an off day, but that might have just been accentuated by Cunigan's stellar effort. Coach Mitchell worked with him throughout the afternoon, and I would be surprised if Ward doesn't rebound on Wednesday. Anthony Hines had a spectacular day, deflecting several passes and simply disrupting the quarterback-receiver connection. He could easily push Garcia for the starting spot. Chris Parker and Marcus Bunton are getting to be close friends due to their injuries, but are still impacting practice through their leadership. They seem to have taken Brent Nickerson under their wing, offering him advice on the finer points of the game. McBath had another good effort, and continues to push Lance Fuller for the starting FS spot. Don't be discouraged when I say that the receivers got the better of them today, because you must keep in mind that our receivers get the better of defenses in nearly every game. The fact that the DBs played them so tough today indicates the strength of the unit.
The team ran kickoff practices today, so the starting lineups became clearer here. A surprise was Gabe Hall's addition to the kickoff coverage team, but it makes sense if you factor in his combination of size, speed, and strength. The starting kick returners appear at this point to be Shannon Woods and Todd Walker, with Catron Houston and Edward Britton on second-string. With all of the talent listed there, we should be in good shape. Thankfully, this appears to be a common theme for next season. We'll be back to watch the team progress further on Wednesday.
Best Overall Unit:
Best Individual Performance: (tie)
Mr. Underrated: (tie)