Defense Stands Out in Spring Game

The fourteenth Spring Practice was the Red-Black Scrimmage, which is always an entertaining chance to see the units practice against each other in a lengthy full scrimmage. It was a windy day, and even the sunken stadium at Lowery Field couldn't keep the field from being just as windy, if not more so, than it was outside of the stadium. The RaiderPower Staff can attest to this, as we were on the sidelines for a closer look at the action.

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Graham Harrell had a relatively off day by his standards, failing to throw a touchdown in the entire scrimmage.  Those who have seen only this practice did not get a good representation of how talented Graham really is.  The offense under Harrell usually moves the ball with more fluidity, but the defense just stepped up to the plate and shut them down this afternoon.

Chris Todd started out the scrimmage on fire, outshining Graham in the early drives.  However, it appeared that his inexperience caught up with him towards the end of the practice, as the defense arguably got the better of him then.  Much like Harrell, Todd was not quite on the top of his game today.

Ryan Rowland had another solid Spring game as he did last year.  He threw the day's only passing touchdown, and looked accurate and consistent once again.  He wore #15 today, so perhaps that is his new lucky number.  Rowland has proven to be a capable quarterback if he is needed, and adds to the fact that depth is not much of a concern here.

Cumulative Practice Statistics:
Harrell 24-33, 179 yards
Todd 17-26, 108 yards
Rowland 9-14, 87 yards, TD

Running Backs
Shannon Woods struggled today, but Kobey Lewis was a different story.  Lewis is the reincarnation of Johnnie Mack, and has earned playing time next year in my eyes.  He is incredibly elusive, has great hands, and is tough to bring down due to his low center of gravity.  I'd be extremely surprised if he didn't play next year.  Pete Richardson had a solid day, but did not get enough reps to make a significant impression.

Full Scrimmage Statistics:
Shannon Woods: 3 rushing attempts for 4 yards; 5 catches for 12 yards
Kobey Lewis: 3 rushing attempts for 15 yards, TD; 5 catches for 50 yards
Pete Richardson: 3 rushing attempts for 15 yards, 1 catch for 3 yards

Wide Receivers
Sadly, Jarrett Hicks did not practice, but was in attendance.  His absence appeared to be sorely missed, as the receivers were not up to their usual excellence today.  Grant Walker is always one of the receiving leaders because he works back to the ball better than anyone else on the receiving corps.  Joel Filani was once again the best deep threat, but dropped a sure touchdown pass from Graham Harrell.  Robert Johnson has the gamebreaking potential that makes him a great player.  RoJo had another great juke today, and made an amazing catch as well.  Edward Britton has proven to be a capable receiver throughout the Spring, and would taken a reverse for a big gain had it not been for an excellent tackle by Joe Garcia.  Danny Amendola might have the best hands on the team, and proved it by making an incredible catch in traffic.  Eric Morris did well today as he usually does, but he did not get many catches.  The same goes for Todd Walker, who has develop well under the guidance of Hicks.  Kelly Hildebrandt deserves to be worked in the rotation somewhere purely because of the effort he puts out.  Catron Houston is the one of the most nimble receivers, but he showed us all a little something today with an impressive stiff-arm that earned him an extra ten yards.  Grant Walker is also excellent at this, but is not quite as comfortable with the offense as Morris.  Even though the quarterbacks did not have a great afternoon, the receivers still managed to have a productive day.  Then again, that's what a collection of great players does.

Cumulative Practice Statistics:
Grant Walker: 7 catches for 72 yards
Joel Filani: 8 catches for 69 yards
Robert Johnson: 7 catches for 65 yards
Edward Britton: 5 catches for 48 yards; 1 rush for -2 yards
Danny Amendola: 6 catches for 42 yards
Eric Morris: 2 catches for 19 yards
Todd Walker: 3 catches for 17 yards
Kelly Hildebrandt: 2 catches for 15 yards, TD
Thomas Bachman: 1 catch for 14 yards
Catron Houston: 3 catches for 10 yards
L.A. Reed: 1 catch for 2 yards

Offensive Line
The offensive line played very well, yet continues to be underappreciated by many.  People don't tend to notice when they do well, but remember every single sack allowed.  Gabe Hall summed up their plight well at the post-game tailgate as he discussed the "sacks" today.  There was a play where Hall threw one of the defensive lineman to the ground, but the player was fairly close to the QB, so they got credit for the sack.  After watching the offensive line this Spring, it has been remarkable to see their progression into a unit that will in all likelihood be a great asset and win us some games next season.

Defensive Line
Dek Bake was arguably the star of the day here, making plenty of tackles and shutting down the middle.  Jared Williams was impressive, and forced significant pressure all afternoon.  It will be interesting to see how the defensive end position shapes up with all of the talent.  Chris Hudler continues to play well, and looks poised to have another excellent season.  Also, the unit works very well with the linebackers in blitzing, as this has been a largely successful effort throughout the Spring. 

The linebackers played well this afternoon, especially Paul Williams.  Williams was incredibly disruptive today, and seemed to be in on nearly every play.  Ryan Hale is going to be a great player, as he had yet another impressive effort.  He is a hard hitter as well, absolutely clobbering Catron Houston today on one play.  Calen Shearer has tremendous potential as well.  Keyunta Dawson still looks like the best of the group, and has a real chance of being an All-Big 12 player next year.  The unit should be the best of the Mike Leach era, and that's no exaggeration

Defensive Backs
Joe Garcia was the performer of the day, making all kinds of tackles and flying to the ball.  I have watched him and Hines battle it out all Spring, and I'm not sure who I prefer.  I will say that either one of them could be a very solid player for the Red Raiders next year.  As for the free safety position, I think McBath solidified his chances of starting with his effort today.  He was extremely aware of where the passes were headed today, as he had an opportunity to grab two interceptions.  He may need to work on his hands a bit, however, as he dropped them both.  LaShawn Vation continues to be a welcome surprise, as does Nathan Stone.  Their combined effort shut down the receiving corps today, which is an accomplishment by itself.

Now lets hand out some awards:

Best Overall Unit:
Defensive Backs

Best Individual Performance: (tie)
Joe Garcia
Kobey Lewis

Mr. Underrated:
Offensive Line

Best Newcomer: (tie)
LaShawn Vation
Ryan Hale


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