April 2nd Practice Report

The rain has slowed down in Lubbock and the Red Raider football team was able to head back to the practice field for Monday's workout. Although there were many players who performed well, the highlight of the day had to be WR Lyle Leong making spectacular catches with one of his hands heavily taped. Come inside as RaiderPower.com brings you the inside scoop on spring practice.

Quarterbacks :

The quarterbacks had a good day today and looked very sharp. They were doing a very good job of throwing the ball in time and hitting the open receiver. There were many fantastic throws made today and in particular the fade route was the route of choice today.

Graham Harrell lead from the front again today with great poise and accuracy. He had several perfect throws and is not only an ambi-reader (that’s a reference to Zoolander for those that haven’t seen it) but he is becoming an ambi-thrower. Harrell is showing an almost scary ability to hit the open receiver, regardless of where the receiver lines up on the field. His accuracy and power have been terrific this spring and in particular his ability to hit the receiver in stride so that the receiver can gain the most yards after the catch.

Taylor Potts has a commanding lead for the number two spot and is improving day after day. His power and ability to throw the ball deep is quickly becoming one of his stronger assets and with continued development, Potts could easily stretch the field much like Sonny Cumbie did with his deep fade routes in 2004.

Steven Sheffield continues to prove that he is going to be a very valuable third string quarterback. His foot speed is deceptive and he has a cannon for an arm but he needs to learn how to use it on occasion. Today, head coach Mike Leach created a new Leachism when referring to “Sticks” (Sheffield) and a throw that he made. Leach was telling Sheffield how he wanted him to throw a pass and said “Don’t finesse it, throw it. You can’t hit the ball unless you swing the bat so swing the bat!”

Overall, it was a good day for the quarterbacks. They were poised with the football and did a fairly good job of avoiding throwing the ball to just about every defender except Victor Hunter, but more on that later. Jamar Wall recorded an interception during the 11-on-11 portion of practice when he jumped a route that Graham Harrell was trying to throw to.

Quarterback Depth Chart

Starter: Graham Harrell

Back-Up: Taylor Potts

3rd String: Steven Sheffield

Overall Grade - B, the quarterbacks had a good day but had difficulty avoiding the largest linebacker on the team, Victor Hunter. Overall, a good but not great day by the quarterbacks in which they did everything that they needed to do to be successful.

Running Backs :

The running backs had a fire today and it showed. Shannon Woods was finishing his runs and showed no problem putting his head down to gain an extra few yards and at one point turning what would have once been a 2 yard gain into a 5 yard gain by lowering his shoulders and continuing to run to “finish the run”. Kobey Lewis also showed once again incredibly moves, great acceleration, and bounced off of would be tacklers like a pinball. Lewis is really beginning to resemble Johnny Mack in his ability to set up his blockers and hide behind the Red Raiders massive offensive line. While not as fast in a straight line as Mack was, Lewis is certainly fast enough to be dangerous if he can get onto the field next season.

In injury news, Baron Batch is still on crutches but seemed to be moving around well and did not show any outward signs of pain when he did put pressure on his ankle. Baron has a very tightly wrapped Ace bandage on his left ankle to provide support for his injury. It appears that he will be back in time for the 2007 season but RaiderPower will continue to monitor his injury as it progresses through the spring and into the summer.

Running Backs Depth Chart

Starter: Shannon Woods

Back Up: Kobey Lewis

Overall Grade - A-, while the backs did a very good job of running the ball and catching the ball they need to continue to work on their pass blocking and recognizing cutback lanes when they appear.

Wide Receivers/Inside Receivers/Tight Ends :

The receivers had a very good day after a shaky start. Coach Leach got the group fired up early in practice and they stayed at a high level for the remainder of practice. Danny Amendola and Eric Morriss continue to make the hustle plays that need to be made and Morriss had several nice catches this afternoon. Amendola seems to be fitting in well at the Y receiving position and is looking more and more entrenched there. Grant Walker had a quiet day and had a few drops during practice, something that is uncharacteristic of him. Adrian Reese also had a case of the drops early in practice but rebounded extremely well and became a great safety net for the quarterbacks as practice progressed. While Reese’s hands are by no means perfect, if he continues to work on improving them as he already has he could become a very dangerous tight end.

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A heavily taped left hand wasn't enough to slow down WR Lyle Leong

Michael Crabtree and Lyle Leong stole the show today. Crabtree had a few drops sprinkled in between some fantastic catches, including a one-hander as he was falling out of the endzone for a touchdown during the 1-on-1 portion of practice. Crabtree was also incredibly dangerous in the open field today and he just may become the first red shirt freshman to start at receiver in a long time for Mike Leach. Lyle Leong is playing with his pinky and ring finger on his left hand taped into a club because of a broken bone but the club is by no means slowing him down. Leong had an incredibly leaping catch this afternoon where he showed off some of that Texas 5A state championship track pedigree. What made that particular catch so impressive was the fact that it was a one-hander, caught with his injured left hand. Leong, while raw and skinny, could provide very good depth at the Z receiver position next year.

Adam James had another good day playing several different receiving positions but seems to be spending most of his time at the true H receiver position. He isn’t exactly fast but is quick and very strong and a capable downfield blocker. He needs to continue to polish his ability to run routes and needs to learn to play defensive back when it is called for but is having a very good spring so far. LA Reed is blossoming into a very physical presence on the outside and caught all but one of the fade passes that was thrown his way today. He is still a tremendous downfield blocker and has yet to be tackled by any single member of the defense. His measured speed isn’t that great but his agility and acceleration just might make Red Raiders wonder why he wasn’t making an impact last season.

This spring has been hard for the brothers Walker with Todd having an injured pelvis and Grant Walker suffered an injury to his left knee during practice today. While he did walk off of the field under his own power he did so with an ice bag on his knee and in obvious pain.

Receiver Depth Chart -

Z- Michael Crabtree, Eddie Britton, Landon Hoefer

Y- Danny Amendola, G. Walker

H- Eric Morris, Kelly Hildebrant

X- LA Reed, Eddie Britton Lyle Leong, Brik Brinker (Todd Walker, injured)

Overall Grade -B+, while the receivers had a good day they were shaky early in practice and several players didn’t seem to bring their A-game until Coach Leach called them out.

Offensive Line : The offensive line had another good day and is showing off some of its versatility as players take snaps at multiple positions to ensure that there is adequate depth across the line if needed. The line gave up two sacks during the 11-on-11 portion of practice but each time the defense blitzed the house and the line just didn’t have the bodies to stop the blitz. As practiced progressed in the 11-on-11 scrimmage, the quarterbacks did show a better ability to read the blitz and get rid of the ball, helping the line tremendously.

Chris Olson continues to show off his versatility as he lined up at right guard with the starters and then at left guard and left tackle with the backups. When Olson was at left guard, Louis Vasquez slid outside to left tackle and looked much better at the position during practice than he did last season against Missouri.

Shawn Byrnes continues to lead the line very well and is going to be a terrific center, especially with his ability to get the correct calls made and anticipate what they defense may attempt. Byrnes had an outstanding stonewall effort of linebacker Victor Hunter and stopped Hunter mid way through a spin move with what seemed to be little effort. Rylan Reed continues to play very consistent at right tackle and while he isn’t doing anything to show that he is great, he isn’t doing anything to show that he is a weakness to the line either. Stephen “Hambone” Hamby continues to be a terrific surprise and his play is one of the very encouraging signs from the spring. Louis Vasquez and Marlon Winn are both absolutely massive and both play like men half their size with great speed and agility. Vasquez and Winn are getting to the point where they can anticipate the others actions and this will allow them to provide very good protection from the quarterbacks blindside.

Offensive Line Depth Chart -

Right Tackle: Rylan Reed, Andrew Johnson

Right Guard: Brandon Carter (Injured), Stephen Hamby/Chris Olson

Center: Shawn Byrnes, Justin Keown

Left Guard: Louis Vasquez, Stephen Hamby/Chris Olson

Left Tackle: Marlon Winn, Chris Olson/Louis Vasquez

Overall Grade - B+, while the line was good today there were a few running plays where they allowed defensive linemen to hit the hole much to easily. They also allowed a fair amount more pressure on the quarterbacks but the line is doing a very good job with everything that is being thrown at it by the defense.

Defensive Line :

Jake Ratliff showed up to practice late but certainly made his presence felt today as did the other defensive linemen. Brandon Williams continues to be the hidden gem from last years recruiting class and showed some serious speed rushing from an upright stance along with teammate Sandy Riley. Tyler Yenzer looks better after every practice but has yet to really distinguish himself from the pack and show that he is ready to compete at the Big XII level on a consistent basis. Phillip Jones is continuing his strong spring and while not the most gifted pass-rusher move wise, he has the strength and tenacity to take on anyone at the point of attack and has the makings of a very good strong side defensive end.

Brian Jones made his first big impact of practice today by absolutely destroying what looked like a running lane and tackling Shannon Woods along with about half of the offensive line. Clint Stoffels was quite today but it appears that the offensive line was making a point to not be embarrassed by “Turbo” any longer. Britton Barbee seems to have become Coach Ruffin McNeil’s new favorite pupil as McNeil is constantly on Barbee’s back. While Barbee is raw he has the potential to be a very good, if slightly undersized, defensive tackle. RaJon Henley is going to be a star and while he is a little undersized, his physicality at the point of attack and relentless motor will force opposing offenses to account for him on every play. Henley has also shown the ability to play outside at end in the Red Raiders 3-4 package and is a force to be reckoned with as he twists and stunts from either tackle or end.

Richard Jones was at practice today wearing his right arm brace after successful shoulder surgery to repair an injured right shoulder. Sean Estelle was at practice in a jersey but was held out of contact drills again. He did spend the majority of the day working with the strength and conditioning staff in the sand pit as he continues to rehab an injured right knee.

Overall Grade - A, while the line didn’t get as much pressure as they had in previous practices, they were doing an outstanding job of filling running lanes and allowing linebackers to make the play at the point of attack.

Linebackers :

The linebackers had a good day today even with Kellen Tillman arriving late at practice and with Blake Collier being injured. Victor Hunter was the un-questioned star of the linebackers and of the entire defense today with 3 pass break-ups, two of which could have been interceptions. Hunter is locking his claws onto the backup middle linebacker spot and seems very unwilling to relinquish his hold on it. Hunter also showed off some nice pass rush moves today and looks like he will be a force in the middle for years to come. Paul Williams and Kellen Tillman had good days today and Tillman is playing very well sideline to sideline and acting as a sort of mentor to some of the younger linebackers, Marlon Williams in particular. Williams is growing at an exponential rate and has several very good teachers on the field to help him as he grows to his potential. Marlon has shown a knack to hit anything and everything that moves on the field and his physicality at the linebacker position is something that has been missing since Lawrence Flugence graduated after the 2002 season.

Julius Howard and Brian Duncan continue to grow but both will certainly benefit from having players like Tillman, Williams, and others to watch. While both have the potential to be extremely good linebackers, they are still very raw and need to continue to work on mastering the defensive scheme that the Red Raiders employ and mate that with the fundamentals that are such an important part of being a linebacker and defensive player in general.

Linebackers Depth Chart

Weak Side Linebacker: Marlon Williams, Blake Collier, Julius Howard

Middle Linebacker: Paul Williams, Victor Hunter/Marlon Williams, Ryan Hale

Strong Side Linebacker: Kellen Tillman, Ty Linder, Brian Duncan

Overall Grade - A, while the unit was good it seemed that if there was a big play being made it was Victor Hunter making it. If Hunter can learn to catch the passes that he bats, he just might become a dangerous pass defender before his time at Tech is said and done.

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DB LaRon Moore continues to work his way up the depth chart

Secondary : The secondary had an off day and Coaches Mitchell and Mainord worked very hard to correct it. Jamar Wall had a good day playing corner even though he was burned early in practice for a touchdown by Eric Morriss. Pete Richardson had a tough start to practice but persevered and turned in a solid days work. Marcus Bunton had the unenviable tackle of covering LA Reed on fade routes and was beaten just about every time that he went up for a ball, although he did show up during the 11-on-11 scrimmage in a big way with several good plays. Brent Nickerson is going to be a fairly good cornerback once he gets some more experience.

While the corners struggled in practice, the safeties had a good day lead by Joey Garcia and his huge hit on running back Kobey Lewis. Darcel McBath was quiet but good and Daniel Charbonnet also had a huge hit in the 11-on-11 scrimmage portion of practice.

Secondary Depth Chart -

Right Cornerback: Marcus Bunton, Brent Nickerson, De’Shon Sanders

Free Safety: Darcel McBath, Daniel Charbonnet/Lance Fuller, Jordy Rowland

Strong Safety: Joe Garcia, Anthony Hines, Daniel Charbonnet

Left Cornerback: Jamar Wall, Pete Richardson/LaRon Moore

Overall Grade - C+, while the secondary has been almost perfect for most of the spring they were simply outdone today by the receives and their work ethic was lacking during portions of practice. They seemed to just be a half of a step slow from making a huge play and need to continue to work well as a group to be the great secondary that they have the potential to be.

Now it’s time for some awards

Offensive MVP: Michael Crabtree/Lyle Leong

Defensive MVP: Victor Hunter

Mr. Underrated: Rylan Reed

New Comer of the Day: Britton Barbee

Unit of the day: Linebackers

Come back Wednesday for the next RaiderPower Practice report!


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