Graham Harrell ended spring on a high note with a very impressive day. Harrell was precise with his passes and showed good poise throughout practice. Harrell did throw an interception during the pass skeleton to safety Darcel McBath while trying to float the ball over McBath to an open receiver. Other than this one mistake, Harrell looked polished and accurate throughout practice and seemed to do everything just about perfectly.
Taylor Potts had a decent day of practice but his time of out performing Graham Harrell seems to have come to an end. Potts is going to be an outstanding quarterback but he lacks the needed experience to be a truly great quarterback. His reads are just about half a second to slow and sometimes he rifles the ball when he should loft it and lofts it when it should be rifled. Taylor was intercepted by safety Joe Garcia when he made one of these small errors in judgement but this should be corrected as he spends more time with Coach Leach learning the nuances of the quarterback position. Potts does have a tremendously strong arm and throws the ball very well on the run. Overall, this spring has shown the potential that Potts has but it has also shown the need for more experience before he is ready to be a Division 1 starting quarterback.
Steven Sheffield and some of the younger players scrimmaged in full pads at the end of practice and Sheffield looked about as inconsistent or consistent as he has for all of spring. Sheffield would make one throw that looked terrific and then would throw into double or triple coverage. Sheffield has to continue to develop and mature but he can become a very capable quarterback if he has the constitution and willpower.
Quarterback Depth Chart
Starter: Graham Harrell
Back-Up: Taylor Potts
3rd String: Steven Sheffield
Overall Grade - B+, an accurate day for the quarterbacks, they have shown great growth and intelligence during the 2007 Spring practices.
Running Backs :
The running back situation was very interesting today at practice. Starter Shannon Woods was working with the scout team offense today. There was no reason given for Woods demotion to scout team but it seems that Coach Leach was trying to get across to Shannon that everyone is replaceable, even the Red Raiders starting running back. Shannon did return to the first team during the later portion of practice and threw one of the most stifling blitz pick-up blocks seen during spring. Woods absolutely stonewalled a blitzing linebacker and made up for a horrendous mistake by back-up center Justin Keown. Woods seemed to have gotten the message from Coach Leach and played with great tenacity and focus when given the opportunity.
In Shannon's absence from the backfield, Kobey Lewis had a very good day of practice. Lewis played larger than his size today and is going to push for some playing time next season as a change of pace to Shannon Woods. Lewis continues to run through tackles and use his size as an advantage, making larger defenders look silly as they attempt to tackle the "show stopper".
Ryan Hayes, the usual scout team running back, saw time with the first team during Woods' time with the scouts. Hayes is similar in size to Kobey Lewis but does an outstanding job of maneuvering in and out of traffic, coupled with very fast feet. Hayes is also a capable pass blocker but needs to continue to learn the Air Raid offense before he can be expected to see the field during meaningful time.
Running Backs Depth Chart
Starter: Shannon Woods
Back Up: Kobey Lewis
Scout Team: Ryan hayes
Overall Grade - A-, a very productive and enlightening day for the running backs, even with Woods' absence from the first team for a portion of practice.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends :
Adrian Reese stole the show at the Y receiver position today with several tough catches and hands of glue. Reese is showing flashes of greatness more and more as he gains confidence in himself and his ability to control his body. If he continues to progress, he could have a shot to be the starting Y receiver before his career at Tech is over. Danny Amendola had a quiet day but was reliable as usual, with several tough catches and good moves after the catch. Grant Walker also had a very nice catch during the scrimmage portion of practice in double coverage. Walker seems to be about 85 or 90% recovered from his knee injury. Walker looks to have that Trey Haverty type of route running and could be a pleasant surprise during the 2007 season.
Michael Crabtree had another solid day of practice but the show at the Z position was stolen by Landon Hoefer. Hoefer caught every pass thrown his direction and plays very similar to former Red Raider receiver Cody Fuller. He has Fuller's quiet confidence and hands of glue coupled with serviceable speed and very good route runner. Hoefer may not contribute much next season but he could become a very important cog in the Air Raid offense before his time at Tech is done.
Eric Morris had a very good day and turned safety Jordy Rowland inside out several times during the one-on-one drills and also had a few nice catches during the scrimmage portion of practice. Morris looks to be one of the 4 best receivers on the team and is justifying Coach Leach's faith in him. Kelly Hildebrandt had a nice catch during the scrimmage portion of practice and continues to work as hard as he can to make plays, even though he isn't the most physically gifted player on the field. His work ethic and intelligence make him a player not only worthy of admiration but also a dangerous receiver on the field of play. Adam James seems to be spending more and more of his time at the H receiving position and looks to be getting more comfortable there every day. His size is something that has not been seen at the true H position and as his hands and route running become more capable, James could be a very dangerous addition to the Air Raid Offense.
LA Reed played well during today's practice and continues to show the potential to be a game breaking receiver. LA needs to work on his consistency but if he can become more consistent he is capable of being that big, physical presence opposite of Michael Crabtree. Eddie Britton had a strong day of practice and is going to be to good of an athlete to keep off of the field. Britton made an incredibly (although somewhat lucky) reception after having been knocked to the turf by cornerback Pete Richardson in the end zone during the one-on-one drills. Britton did have an ice pack applied to his right hamstring at the end of practice but it appears to be nothing more than a minor pull. Scout team receiver Brik Brinker also had a good day and is another one of those players that isn't a prototypical receiver but offsets the physical differences by playing with a lot of heart.
Receiver Depth Chart -
Z- Michael Crabtree, Lyle Leong, Landon Hoefer
Y- Danny Amendola, Grant Walker/Adrian Reese
H- Eric Morris, Kelly Hildebrant, Adam James, David Schaefer (Big H/fullback)
X- LA Reed, Eddie Britton, Brik Brinker (Todd Walker, injured)
Overall Grade -A, very productive day by the receivers both in terms of getting open and in regards to catching the football. The development of several of the younger plays has been something to behold and while they are untested, this is undoubtedly one of the most talented receiving corps that the Red Raiders have ever fielded.
Offensive Line :
The offensive line had a fairly good day. Marlon Winn and Louis Vasquez continue to split time at left tackle with the starters. Vasquez continues to impress at left tackle and shows none of the hesitancy of heavy footedness that plagued him when he played the position last year. Winn looks to be improving daily and could be a force at left tackle before he graduates.
Louis Vasquez is still looking to be a force at left guard and is definitely one of, if not the best offensive linemen on the Texas Tech roster. Chris Olson is also showing great versatility as he played left guard, right guard, left tackle, and right tackle today during practice. Olson appears to be the next EJ Whitley but stronger and taller.
Shawn Byrnes continued to play well after missing two practices last week and looks to be back to his normal self. Byrnes ensures that all of the linemen are correctly position and seems to be taking to his leadership role like a duck to water. Justin Keown looked good in practice but he did completely whiff on a block that forced Shannon Woods to make a terrific block.
Chris Olson and Landon Burge played at right guard with the absence of Stephen Hamby. Hamby is still on the team and it seems that he was in class during today's practice. Brandon Carter also seemed to still be feeling the effects from his back and did not practice during any of the contact drills today.
Rylan Reed and Chris Olson played right tackle today along with Andrew Johnson. Reed continues to look good during drills and during the spring game but must continue to raise his level of play to keep the right tackle position at the same high standard that was established by Gabe Hall.
Offensive Line Depth Chart -
Right Tackle: Rylan Reed, Andrew Johnson
Right Guard: Brandon Carter (Injured), Stephen Hamby
Center: Shawn Byrnes, Justin Keown
Left Guard: Louis Vasquez, Stephen Hamby
Left Tackle: Marlon Winn, Chris Olson
Overall Grade - A-, the line did a good job of opening up running lanes today and was fairly good in pass protection. They did give up a few sacks but this is mostly attributed to the fact that the defense knows all of the offenses signals by the end of spring practice.
Defensive Line :
The defensive line continues to impress even though it is an extremely untested and young group. RaJon Henley and Clint Stoffels are proving practice after practice that size isn't as important as it once was and that there are players on the Red Raiders roster willing to step up and make a play. Brian Jones continues to improve and looks to have the potential to be an extremely capable defensive tackle for the Red Raiders during the 2007 season. Britton Barbee is totally untested and still very raw but also has the potential to be the "diamond in the rough" type of player that Tech is so good at finding.
Jake Ratliff and Phillip Jones continue to be a dangerous combination from the strong side and the two have such similar playing style that there is almost no drop off when one or the other is in the game. Brandon Williams looks like he is blossoming into a very good pass rusher and is pushed every day in practice by Sandy Riley, perhaps the biggest surprise of the defensive ends during spring practice. Tyler Yenzer also looks like he is capable of contributing during the 2007 season and could be a vital part of the Red Raiders defensive end rotation. Fans have seemingly given up hope on Yenzer, but he isn't quite done with his attempt to play football at Tech.
Overall Grade - A, the line did a fantastic job of both pressuring the quarterback and stopping the run. This group doesn't have many great individual performances but instead plays together very well as a unit and works together to make the play.
The linebackers are going to be one of the biggest surprises for the casual fan next year. A group that flies to the ball, wraps up, and can cover the pass is going to make the Red Raiders defense that much more dangerous this coming season. Paul Williams finally had his huge day of practice, notching several pass break-ups in addition to a punishing stop on Grant Walker. Williams is the leader in the middle and definitely one of the better linebackers to play in the middle during the Mike Leach era. Kellen Tillman continues to play well on the strong side and looks ready to have another big season. Tillman seems to have improved his concentration and awareness over the off season and is a much more capable pass defender than he during the season. Marlon Williams continues to shine and it looks as if Chad Hill might have permanently lost his starting spot to the sophomore phenomenon. Williams combines a large frame, good speed, and great football instincts into a package that will be a headache for opposing offenses for years to come.
Blake Collier looks ready t contribute heavily during the 2007 season and showed today during practice why he was is a more natural linebacker. Collier is a punishing tackler and absolutely drilled a receiver today during the scrimmage portion of practice. Not only did Collier hit him extremely hard but he also wrapped him up as they went to the turf, preventing him from breaking out of the tackle and heading down the sideline. Victor Hunter made several athletic plays during the pass skeleton drills and nearly had an interception before it bounced off of his hands and hit the turf. Hunter is supposed to go on a diet to get his weight down to about 240 pounds which should make him that much more dangerous in the middle.
Linebackers Depth Chart
Weak Side Linebacker: Marlon Williams, Blake Collier, Julius Howard
Middle Linebacker: Paul Williams, Victor Hunter/Marlon Williams, Ryan Hale/Chris Wallace
Strong Side Linebacker: Kellen Tillman, Ty Linder, Brian Duncan
Overall Grade - A-, the linebackers are a physical group that has the athleticism and talent to be a great asset to the Red Raiders. They played that way today during practice, ending their spring on a very high note.
The secondary ended their spring on a high note with interceptions by Joe Garcia and Darcel McBath in the passing skeleton and an all around good day. Jamar Wall and Marcus Bunton acquitted themselves well during the one-on-one drills as did Nathan Stone and Pete Hunter. Brent Nickerson continues to impress with his growth from last season and looks like he could challenge for playing time during the 2007 season. De'Shon Sanders plays very well for a young junior college transfer and just needs to continue to learn the Red Raiders system to become a very good if not great corner.
Secondary Depth Chart -
Right Cornerback: Marcus Bunton, Brent Nickerson, De'Shon Sanders
Strong Safety: Joe Garcia, Anthony Hines, Daniel Charbonnet
Overall Grade - A, the secondary is undoubtedly going to be the strength of the Red Raiders 2007 defense. There is real depth at every position and the unit works together extremely well. They do a good job of covering Red Raider receivers and should be a terror to Big XII offensive coordinators next season.
Now it's time for some awards
Offensive MVP: Landon Hoefer
Defensive MVP: Paul Williams
Mr. Underrated: Julius Howard
New Comer of the Day: Adam James
Unit of the day: Defensive Line
Thanks for reading the RaiderPower practice reports and stick with us, there is much more exciting content coming between the end of spring and the beginning of the season!