Senior quarterback Graham Harrell started the day hot and ended that way as well. Harrell looks like the seasoned pro that he is and even scored a rushing touchdown today, though it was against the scout team defense without pads on. Harrell's release looks as strong as ever and he continues to know just how much zip to put onto a pass to make certain it arrives at the correct point without making it difficult to catch.
Perhaps the most startling improvement was that of Taylor Potts, whose release appears much quicker and it seems as if the playbook is beginning to open up and develop faster for the former Abilene Eagle. Potts has by far the strongest arm on the team, though there was very little distance throwing during practice today.
Steven Sheffield just won't go away, and there is not reason that he should. Sheffield continues to excel as the third quarterback and still has one of the fastest releases on the team. "Stick" seems to be here to stay and while he is only a sophomore, it wouldn't be surprising to see him become a member of the Texas Tech staff at the conclusion of his eligibility.
Very little could be seen of the two younger quarterbacks, Loucks and Doege. Both spent the majority of the day with the scout team and it seems that it will stay that way for some time. Doege was wearing braces on both knees but seemed to be moving around well and appeared to have been released by the medical staff to practice.
Quarterback Depth Chart
Starter: Graham Harrell
Back-Up: Taylor Potts
3rd String: Steven Sheffield
Overall Grade - A
Texas Tech has more starting running backs than any other team in Division 1 (FBS) football, with the possible exception of Georgia Tech and their triple option. Aaron Crawford, Baron Batch, and Kobey Lewis are all listed as possible starters on the depth charts provided by the Red Raiders, though Crawford was the most impressive of the day. Crawford appears to have lost a little weight but he has also reshaped his body and looks to be in much better shape with an explosion the likes of which hadn't been seen to this date.
Baron Batch was healthy but still took things easy, though it appears that the coaching staff is going to give each proposed starter a different load during each practice. Batch did throw a Marion Barber III-esque stiff arm during one portion of practice which drew cheers or boos, depending on whether one was listening to the offense or the defense.
Kobey Lewis shook scout team cornerback Chris Scott so badly that Scott actually fell down. Lewis continues to play extremely well in practice and even he seems to have added a little bit of weight during the off-season. Lewis would be an unlikely candidate for full time starting responsibilities but continues to be the most elusive player on the roster, behind Michael Crabtree.
Shannon Woods spent the day with the scout team, though he did take a snap or two with the starting offense and ran like a man possessed. It appears that he will have the chance to work his was back into the mix at running back, though it is certainly a long road he will have to travel.
Running Backs Depth Chart
Starter: Kobey Lewis, Aaron Crawford, Baron Batch
Scout Team: Shannon Woods /
Overall Grade - A-
Wide Receivers/Big H&Y:
Michael Crabtree, Todd Walker, and Rashad Hawk dominated practice today. Crabtree was, well, Crabtree, making several spectacular catches in the end zone but Hawk stole the show during the one-on-one drills with the defensive backs. Todd Walker was able to run and participate in practice for the first time since before the Insight Bowl in 2006. He appears to still have his blazing speed, though the did drop a few passes early in practice.
There may be a small contest between Edward Britton and Lyle Leong at the X receiving position, even though Britton is the current starter. Leong continues to be able to jump a mile high and his hands are improving, while Britton's catching ability is still inconsistent at times. Britton did make a tremendous catch with a defender draped on his back during the one-on-one drills, drawing a round of applause from the coaches and other players.
Eric Morris had a quiet day but was vocal in teaching some of the younger receivers and had several nice catches while his back-up also made a splash. Adam James, sporting number 82, is going to provide a nice change of pace at the H inside-receiver position, standing at 6'3" and 222 pounds. James ran great routes and also played as a hand down tight-end for a small portion of practice.
Detron Lewis and Tramain Swindall are going to give opposing defenses fits as they battle for the starting Y position. Lewis looked slightly better today but he also has the edge in real game experience over Swindall. Lewis looked extremely fluid during practice and made a jaw-dropping catch during a drill early in practice when he seemed to explode off the line and leave his defender in the dust.
Receiver Depth Chart -
Z- Michael Crabtree, Todd Walker, Landon Hoeffer, Jacoby Franks
Y- Detron Lewis, Tramain Swindall
H- Eric Morris, Adam James
X- Eddie Britton, Lyle Leong, Rashad Hawk, Brik Brinker
Big Y- Adrian Reese (Injured)
Big H- Ryan Hale
Overall Grade - A
With Jake Johnson, Rylan Reed, and Lonnie Edwards out of practice for medical reasons, it allowed offensive line coach Matt Moore the opportunity to shuffle the deck slightly and allow young Mickey Okafor the opportunity to work with the first unit at left tackle. Okafor looked a little slow early but he was able to catch on easily and looked like a seasoned veteran by the end of practice. He was able to easily hold off the scout team pass-rush, though he seems to struggle slightly against players that are fast enough to run around him. Louis Vasquez was his typical quiet, dominating self at left-guard, teaching Okafor when there were breaks in practice.
Shawn Byrnes continues to play well at center while Brandon Carter is an absolute beast, playing at either right-guard or right tackle. Stephen Hamby continues to provide great depth inside and could see some playing time at right guard if Carter stays outside at tackle. Marlon Winn played well, though it is difficult to judge his play, or that of anyone on the line, without pads on.
The younger linemen continue to move around with Justin Keown seeing time at both guard and center with the second team while it appears that Chris Olson's move to guard may be a permanent position change.
Offensive Line Depth Chart -
Right Tackle: Marlon Winn, Jake Johnson (Injured),
Right Guard: Brandon Carter , Stephen Hamby, Dominique Delpeche
Center: Shawn Byrnes, Justin Keown, Blake Emert
Left Guard: Louis Vasquez, Chris Olson, Adrian Archie/Lonnie Edwards (Injured), Landon Burge
Left Tackle:, Mickey Okafor, Rylan Reed (Injured), , Jerrod Gooch
Overall Grade - B+
Defensive Line :
The defensive line is another unit that is difficult to gauge without pads, though they did look good in limited action. McKinner Dixon is practicing with the team, mostly on the weak-side and working behind Brandon Williams on that side. Jake Ratliff continues to hold onto the starting spot at left defensive end, though that could be short lived as Daniel Howard continues to improve.
Rajon Henley and Colby Whitlock continue to play inside at defensive tackle with Richard Jones and Clint Stoffels playing second team. Stoffels continues to play with a high motor while Bobby Agoucha looked fresh and healthy with the massive brace off of his arm that was seen during Fall Practice in 2007. David Neill has been promoted off of the scout team and was working with the defensive unit, though Britton Barbee is still working with the scout team defense. Neill is listed at 270 pounds but appears heavier than that and could, potentially, crack the two deep during the spring.
Ryan Haliburton and Joey Fowler were both at practice and saw limited time at defensive end. Haliburton could end up at linebacker before all is said and done while Fowler might bulk-up and move inside to defensive tackle. Adrian Hamilton is working with the scout team at defensive end but he could be moved over to work with the defensive unit if he continues his high motor play like he did during practice today.
Strong Side (left) end: Jake Ratliff, Daniel Howard, Joey Fowler
Defensive Tackle (left): Rajon Henley, Richard Jones, Bobby Agoucha,
Nose Guard (right): Colby Whitlock, Clint Stoffels, Joey Fowler, David Neill
Overall Grade - B+
Defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeil has put his stamp on the linebackers as he shuffled Brian Duncan into the middle and made Bront Bird the starting left-outside-linebacker. Bird and Duncan both seemed to be adjusting well to their move while Marlon Williams holds down the weak-side. Bird would have destroyed a scout team offensive player had there been hitting in practice today as he shot up after reading a draw. In very exciting news, the linebackers were also working on blitz technique and determining how to cover for a blitzer during practice, possibly indicating a greater number of blitzes this next season.
Blake Collier seems to have been the biggest beneficiary of McNeil's promotion, as he looked calm and relaxed during practice today. Collier had an interception returned for a touchdown during the pass-skeleton drill and seems much more at-ease and is no longer afraid to commit and attempt to make a play. Julius Howard and Victor Hunter filled out the second string linebacking unit and both showed flashes, though Hunter still looks like he could take on a Mack truck one-on-one.
Tyrone Sonier looked promising on the strong-side while Sam Fehoko struggled against the starting offense and received a personal lesson from Coach McNeil after allowing a reception in his zone.
Linebackers Depth Chart
Weak Side Linebacker: Marlon Williams, Blake Collier, Julius Howard
Middle Linebacker: Brian Duncan, Victor Hunter, Sam Fehoko
Strong Side Linebacker: Bront Bird, Tyrone Sonier
Overall Grade - B+
Jamar Wall is very good and could end up being great. He had a terrific pass deflection and prevented All-American Michael Crabtree from getting to the ball. Wall is leaps and bound ahead of where he was at this point last year and should become a true shut-down corner.
Marcus Bunton and Pete Richardson will battle it out for the starting nod at right corner but Richardson had the better day by far with an interception and two great pass break-ups along with a punishing tackle, even without pads. Bunton appears almost stocky in his movements and seems slow coming out of his breaks during practice.
Jarrell Routt looks to be as fast as advertised and appears to be in Big XII shape, though he doesn't quite have the mental grasp of the game yet. De'Shon Sanders looks lost for the most part and has serious issues staying on his feet and shadowing the receivers without being shaken.
Neither Darcel McBath nor Anthony Hines was at practice today, though both are expected to start. In their stead Daniel Charbonnet and Jordy Rowland were the respective starters while LA Reed and Lance Fuller were the back-ups. Reed looks surprisingly good playing at safety and could make a serious push for playing time at strong safety if he can quickly grasp the scheme. Steven Harris continues to make plays and had an interception that would have been easily returned for a touchdown.
Secondary Depth Chart -
Right Cornerback: Marcus Bunton/Pete Richardson, Brent Nickerson, De'Shon Sanders
Free Safety: Darcel McBath, Daniel Charbonnet, Steven Harris
Strong Safety: Anthony Hines, Jordy Rowland, LA Reed/Lance Fuller
Left Cornerback: Jamar Wall, LaRon Moore, Jarrell Routt
Overall Grade - A-
Now it's time for some awards
Offensive MVP: Michael Crabtree
Defensive MVP: Jamar Wall
Mr. Underrated: Pete Richardson
Freshman of the Day: Adam James
Come back Friday for the next RaiderPower Practice report!