Spring Practice Offensive Overview

The Red Raiders entered the Spring with a few question marks, and some of them were answered while others still remain to be seen. There were many surprises as well as a few disappointments, and the progression of the players was great to watch. Read on, as the RaiderPower Staff highlights the overall events of Spring Practice.

Quarterbacks

Graham Harrell was the projected starter at the beginning of the Spring, and all that we saw indicates that this continues to be the case.  Graham has put on significant size and arm strength, and truly looks ready for Big 12 football.  Harrell was consistently the most poised and accurate of the quarterbacks, and looks fully prepared to lead Texas Tech to greatness in 2006.

Chris Todd was particularly impressive for a true freshman, but his lack of experience was apparent when compared with Graham.  His reads were not nearly as quick as Harrell’s, nor did he see the field as well.  However, these are things that come with time and experience, and with his excellent fundamentals, Todd has the talent be a great player for the Red Raiders in the future.

Ryan Rowland and Ryan Krone will in all likelihood be the backups, and they have both shown flashes of talent.  Rowland had another excellent Red-Black game, and is underrated by many with his arm strength and awareness.  Krone is unproven, but has provided the practice squads with another viable option.

The unit is very solid overall.  The questions here were who will be the starter, and if that player is ready to become another member of the great line of Leach’s quarterbacks.  Graham Harrell has earned the starting nod, and he is very ready.   Harrell has been nothing short of spectacular, and Todd is extremely talented.  Rowland and Krone appear to be capable of stepping up if needed, but hopefully the season will remain injury-free so this is not the case.


Wide Receivers


I doubt that anyone who knows football questions the talent of our starting four receivers, but I’ll review their Spring performance nonetheless.  The depth chart did not appear to see many changes, but the lineup by position is still worth noting.

X:

Jarrett Hicks:  Jarrett saw the least Spring playing time of all the starters by a wide margin, but worked wonders teaching some of the younger players, namely Todd Walker and Chris Cunigan.   Hicks is about as good as collegiate receivers come, and it will be a crime if he isn’t a first-round NFL draft pick following next season.

Todd Walker:  Walker has arguably improved his hands the most of anyone in the offseason.  I was simply in awe of how he went from having questionable hands to some of the best on the team in half a year’s time. Todd has also put on the size he needed, yet still has impressive speed.

Chris Cunigan:  Cunigan has tremendous potential for the future, but his hands remind me of Filani’s when he first arrived in that he is capable of making great catches but occasionally drops some that he shouldn’t.  Chris carries good size, and with a little time with the tennis balls and the weight room, can easily develop into a great receiver.

Y:

Robert Johnson:  It is extremely rare that you find a player with RoJo’s combination of agility and body size.  Johnson is fantastic at juking players 1-on-1, and thus is one of the best receivers at getting YAC.  Robert was simply fun to watch, and proved that he can still throw the football as well.  RoJo is one of those players that has the “it” factor that makes him great.

L.A. Reed:  Reed is simply huge, in more ways than one.  L.A. was bowling over players in the secondary all Spring, and still carries the speed to outrun people if necessary.  Reed has seriously bulked up, and it looks like it’s all muscle.  He will be worked in next season when a big body is needed.

Catron Houston:  Houston is indeed the second coming of Nehemiah Glover, and should be an excellent role player.  Catron is excellent on slip-screens, arguably the best on the team.  I fully expect him to be worked into the rotation as well when elusiveness is needed.

H:

Danny Amendola:  Danny has proven to best possession receiver in the lineup, as I truly cannot remember the last time that I saw him drop a pass.  Amendola is quickly developing into a third and fourth down guy, when the team simply cannot afford a dropped pass.

Eric Morris:  Morris is almost exactly the same type of player as Amendola, and he is capable of filling in for Danny if need be with little to no dropoff in play.  He might be a bit more elusive than Amendola, but perhaps does not have as good hands.

Grant Walker:  Grant has been nothing short of impressive, and leaves me wondering if there are any more Walker brothers to add to the receiving corps.  Hopefully Grant will be worked in the rotation somewhere considering his ability to find the open spaces and give the QBs an out when they get into trouble.

Z:

Joel Filani:  I’m not sure that there is a DB in the country that can stay with Filani on a deep post route.  Joel is a seriously dangerous deep threat, perhaps as good as you’ll find in the NCAA.  He is the definition of a big-play receiver, and looks poised for a great Senior year.

Edward Britton:  Britton has proven to be a capable receiver, and with his running back speed, Edward can be a great fit for the position.  He has done well on reverses as well as in getting free in deep routes.  He carries the talent necessary to become a starter in the future.

The question here was whether the backups to the starting four could step up if need be, and it was answered with an emphatic yes.  This year, AFROS is far more than a novelty label.  It may very well be the truth, as there debatably isn’t a better starting four or deeper unit anywhere in the nation.  The unit is filled with players who are excellent at playing specific roles in the offense.  Expect to see them lead the Big 12 in receiving once again and be the difference makers in several games.


Running Backs


Shannon Woods:  Woods is an excellent runner, but has shown inconsistency with his catching.  Those who have only watched him in the Red-Black game did not get a true representation of his abilities.  His cuts are the best of the running backs, and he is extremely quick in the open field.

Kobey Lewis:  Lewis is really tough to bring down with his low center of gravity and elusiveness.  Kobey is one of the best backs that I have ever seen at slipping through the holes and getting more yards than you expect him to.  He will likely see the field if he continues this type of play.

Pete Richardson:  Richardson’s hands are his hindrance, as he fumbled many times throughout the Spring.  However, if he can address this issue, he will become a solid player.  He is very good overall, and might be the best blocker of the group.

Taurance Rawls:  Unfortunately, Rawls missed the entire Spring due to injury.  However, he appears to be the strongest of the backs, and if he can rebound in the Fall practices, he could work into the depth chart somewhere.

The big question here was whether Texas Tech could find another Taurean Henderson, and the answer regrettably is not yet.  I believe that a 2-back combination of Woods and Lewis could be very effective as complements to one another, but neither player is ready yet to individually contribute the way that Taurean did.  However, this does not indicate much, as Henderson leaves some very big shoes to fill.  There are a precious few running backs that have the versatility and intangibles that Taurean did.  Woods and Lewis are still very early in their careers, and either of them is capable of becoming a great back.  Also, there is still plenty of time for further improvement before the Fall, and Baron Batch is still yet to come.


Offensive Line


LT: Glenn January:  Glenn has had a great Spring, and is fiercely protecting his starting spot.  He finally showed the intensity that has been holding him back, and will be awfully hard to supplant from LT.  Glenn is also an important member of the O-Line, as he seems to one of the most well-liked players on the team. This truly does matter when it comes to cohesiveness.

LG: Louis Vasquez:  Vasquez might have been the most consistently solid contributor of the offensive line, and was perhaps the most versatile as well.  He played multiple positions, and did it with effectiveness.  Louis will be a contributor next season; count on it.

C: Josh Aleman:  Aleman surprised many with his performance at center. His snaps were usually right on the money, and his blocking was good throughout the Spring.  The Red Raiders appear to have found a good center for next year.

RG: Manny Ramirez:  I can’t say enough about what his leadership has meant to the progression of the unit.  Manny is always the one keeping the unit motivated, and is a huge part of their success.  Ramirez is the unit’s X-factor for next year.

RT: Gabe Hall:  Why does it seem like no sacks ever come from his side?  The answer is a combination of talent, strength, and technique.   Hall is undoubtedly the fastest offensive lineman, and also might have the most intensity of the group.

The question for next season was whether or not the line could provide next year’s less mobile QB with pass protection, as their run blocking has always been very good.  Thankfully, the answer appears to be yes.  At the beginning of the Spring, I must admit that I was worried about the unit, but this is no longer the case.   The line has made remarkable progression and turned into a great collection of talent that works well with each other.  Also, backups like Rylan Reed, Marlon Winn, and Shawn Byrnes have done well, and provide the unit with considerable depth.  Add Ofa Mohetau to the mix and there’s no telling how good the offensive line can be next year.


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