Perhaps head coach Mike Leach's statements about opening up the quarterback race weren't just his usual smoke and mirror tactics. Graham Harrell had his first truly "off" day of the spring and was completely out performed by Taylor Potts. Harrell threw an interception right to Anthony Hines and also overthrew several wide open receivers. He called the wrong play at one point and seemed flustered during the pass skeleton drills. Instead of trying to stretch the field, Harrell repeatedly dumped the ball off to Shannon Woods or Kobey Lewis. Harrell also dropped a snap during the 11-on-11 portion of practice. Harrell seemed distracted and not all there today during practice.
Taylor Potts looked like the red-shirt junior with 12 starts under his belt today. He was precise with the football and did an excellent job of hitting receivers in stride. Potts also seems to realize much faster now than at the beginning of practice when he needs to get rid of the ball or when it is ok to throw the ball down the field. Potts has great arm strength and showed it today. While rolling to his right, Potts threw without setting his feet nearly 30 yards on a rope.
Steven Sheffield is quickly fading into obscurity at practice, not taking any snaps with the starting unit today. Sheffield seems to have lost some of the confidence that it is so important that a quarterback has.
Quarterback Depth Chart
Starter: Graham Harrell/ Taylor Potts
3rd String: Steven Sheffield
Overall Grade - B, Potts himself would probably have rated a B+ or A- but Harrell averaged out the score. This spring just became much more interesting.
Running Backs :
The running backs played well today and had much better blocking than they had to work with during the scrimmage on Saturday. Shannon Woods continues to lower his shoulder to gain every available yard and still hits the hole going full speed.
Kobey Lewis is progressing as well and has shown an annoying trait of not going down on first contact. Lewis also seems to read his blocks better than Woods does at times, making him the more dangerous back on screens and draws.
Running Backs Depth Chart
Starter: Shannon Woods
Back Up: Kobey Lewis
Overall Grade - B+, an overall good day for the backs. They ran hard and finished their runs well.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends :
The wide receivers had a fairly good day today, although there were some costly drops. Michael Crabtree had a good day although his left wrist had a brace on it and seemed a little tender. Crabtree continues to be explosive and ran the slip screen about as close to perfect as is possible in practice. He looked almost like a taller Nehemiah Glover with his acceleration and shifty feet. Crabtree also has the quarterback's mind and is able to find the open spaces easily in opposing defensive fronts.
Eddie Britton stole the show today at X while LA Reed had a very off day, catching only a few passes for minimal gain during practice today. Britton continues to impress with great athleticism and surprisingly good foot speed. Britton continues to work on his route running but his natural talent for running with the ball after the catch is what could make him such a vital cog to the Air Raid in 2007.
Danny Amendola and Adrian Reese played as the top two Y receivers today as RaiderPower learned that Grant Walker has an injury to his PCL in his left knee. Walker was out walking around in only a sleeve and did some light running during one portion of practice. Amendola had several good catches today but also seems to try and one-hand balls sometimes that could be caught with two hands. Adrian Reese continues to show that mind numbing ability to make the tough catch but when it comes time to make the easy catch he resembles a "baby moose", much like former Red Raider receiver Joel Filani. Adrian is still a very physical run blocker and has the speed that he could be an every down Y receiver if he is able to get his hands to the point where they need to be.
Eric Morris and Adam James took the majority of the reps at the H position today. Kelly Hildebrant did not appear injured but was kept out of the majority of practice. Morris had several tough catches and showed off good moves after the catch, particularly after a screen pass. Adam James brings a new presence to the H back position in his 6 foot 2 inch tall 222 pound self. He has soft hands but needs to continue to work with the tennis ball machine to become a good enough receiver to be able to contribute heavily come next season. His route running is improving as well but he doesn't quite grasp the nuances of being a true receiver in a precision offense.
Receiver Depth Chart -
Z- Michael Crabtree, Lyle Leong/ Eddie Britton, Landon Hoefer
Y- Danny Amendola, G. Walker
H- Eric Morris, Adam James/Kelly Hildebrant
X- LA Reed/Eddie Britton, Brik Brinker (Todd Walker, injured)
Overall Grade - B, while the receivers had a fairly good day they did drop some balls that could have been caught and weren't running great routes early in practice.
Offensive Line :
The offensive line rebounded well from its run blocking struggles during the scrimmage on Saturday and showed again the versatility of the offensive linemen. Brandon Carter was in pads for an early part of the practice but was taken back out as a precaution to ensure that he did not further injury his already strained back. Shawn Byrnes also left practice early and returned in civilian clothes after the trainers learned that he had a headache. As RaiderPower reported on Saturday, Byrnes suffered a blow to the head without his helmet on while blocking downfield on a screen and while he did return to the scrimmage, he was noticeably out of it when he was interviewed after practice. Byrnes was moving around well and it is believed that this move was also just a precaution.
Stephen Hamby continues to prove that he is the iron man on the offensive line, playing right guard with the starters, left guard and center with the back-ups. Hamby or "Hambone" as offensive line coach Jack Bicknell calls him, is improving day by day and could be a huge asset during the 2007 season.
Chris Olson continues to move around the offensive line and played both left guard and left tackle today and acquitted himself well at both. Louis Vasquez played well today both at tackle and at guard, again showing off some of the versatility that the 2007 line will be able to use.
Justin Keown played extremely well during today's practice and looked like a polished veteran as opposed to a player that has only been on the Texas Tech campus for 3 months. Keown's snaps were much faster and crisper today than they were during the scrimmage on Saturday. Keown is much like a sponge and is learning very quickly from the more experienced linemen on campus.
Offensive Line Depth Chart -
Right Tackle: Rylan Reed, Andrew Johnson
Right Guard: Brandon Carter (Injured), Stephen Hamby
Center: Shawn Byrnes, Justin Keown/Stephen Hamby
Left Guard: Louis Vasquez, Stephen Hamby
Left Tackle: Marlon Winn, Chris Olson
Overall Grade - A-, the line was very good today and while they did give up a few sacks during the 11-on-11 portion of practice, most of them were due to the quarterbacks holding onto the ball to long.
Defensive Line :
The defensive line did a very good job of getting after the quarterback today and continues to show surprising speed and athleticism. Clint Stoffels and RaJon Henley seem to be taking the majority of the reps inside at defensive tackle and while one would imagine that Stoffels is getting blown out of the water on every play he does a very capable job of keeping himself on the line and preventing offensive linemen from getting to the next level. Brian Jones played well and recorded a tackle for loss against Kobey Lewis along with the entire linebacking unit.
Sandy Riley and Brandon Williams are going to be quite the pair of pass rushers when they are on the field together and could be the best tandem since Adell Duckett and Aaron Hunt. Jake Ratliff and Tyler Yenzer seem to be the current starters at strong and weak side respectively but Yenzer will have to work hard to hold off the feisty Riley and Williams. Phillip Jones continues to improve day after day and his brute strength, when coupled with some of the pass rushing moves that he is in the process of learning could make him an extremely dangerous strong side end before him time at Tech is done.
Overall Grade - A-, the line did a very good job today and is continuing to be one of the bright spots of the spring.
The linebackers had a good day, even with the absence of Kellen Tillman during practice. Ty Linder moved into the starting strong side position with Paul Williams in the middle and Marlon Williams on the weak side. Marlon continues to play well and if Chad Hill is not 100% ready to go by the start of the season, he may lose his starting spot to Marlon.
Blake Collier is proving to be one of the best tacklers on the team and grows day after day into a terrific linebacker. Collier is going to force the coaches to get him onto the field next year and he could turn out to be the best linebacker at defending the pass in recent Texas Tech University history. The only thing that is keeping Collier from challenging Marlon Williams for his starting linebacker spot at the weak side is his lack of bulk but Collier could conceivably add the needed weight between the end of spring ball and the start of fall camp.
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 - B, the linebackers were very salty against the run but did give up some passing completions today and need to continue to work together to be the best unit that they can be.
The secondary had a good day and Marcus Bunton seemed to finally put it all together. LaRon Moore was not in pads but this allowed Brent Nickerson to get onto the field more and Nickerson did a terrific job with a leaping interception of Taylor Potts. De'Shon Sanders continues to learn and plays much like former Red Raider defensive back Antonio Huffman, only with a faster foot speed. Jamar Wall had a near interception today but was unable to bring the ball in one handed. Pete Richardson had several very good pass breakups today during practice, including one where he decked Eddie Britton and knocked the ball loose.
Anthony Hines had another one of the secondary's interceptions and actually tipped the ball to himself before catching it and running the other way with it. Hines is seeing the field more and could be seen on the field during passing situations a lot this season. It seems that the coaches like his combination of speed, size, and strength when the opposing offense is going to try and throw the ball. Darcel McBath continues to make plays and his coverage skills are improving practice after practice.
Secondary Depth Chart -
Right Cornerback: Marcus Bunton, Brent Nickerson, De'Shon Sanders
Strong Safety: Joe Garcia, Anthony Hines, Daniel Charbonnet
Left Cornerback: Jamar Wall, Pete Richardson/LaRon Moore
Overall Grade - B+, while the defensive backs had a shaky start during the one-on-one portion of practice, they improved well over the course and forced the quarterbacks into many difficult situations as practice ended.
Now it's time for some awards
Offensive MVP: Michael Crabtree
Defensive MVP: Marlon Williams
Mr. Underrated: Chris Olson
New Comer of the Day: Stephen Hamby
Unit of the day: Offensive line
Come back Wednesday for the next RaiderPower Practice report!