Texas Tech's Graham Harrell continues to exude confidence during spring practice as the un-questioned leader on offense and teacher of younger players in the Air Raid. Harrell continues to show great touch on the ball but also let loose with a blazingly-fast pass to Detron Lewis for a touchdown during the scrimmage portion of practice.
Taylor Potts had another strong day of practice, though he was off on several occasions and nearly beaned a member of the athletic training staff with an errant fast-ball pass. Potts still has a tendency to check down and seems to get rattled if his first read is covered.
Steven Sheffield had another strong day, showing off his lightning quick release. "Sticks" continues to help lead the scout team offense and runs it extremely well, having a strong grasp of both the Tech offense and how to give the defense the looks they need to prepare for the 2008 season.
Stefan Loucks and Seth Doege continue to spend their time with the scout team. Loucks did not take any reps with the starting or back-up offense and still seemed a little out of sorts after his difficulties yesterday. Doege has yet to spend any serious time with the starting offense but his touch on deep passes is a thing of absolute beauty when throwing during warm-ups.
Quarterback Depth Chart
Starter: Graham Harrell
Back-Up: Taylor Potts
3rd String: Steven Sheffield
Scout Team: Seth Doege /Stefan Loucks
Overall Grade - A-
Aaron Crawford continues to impress and looks to be the best back on the roster as of late. The time spent during the off-season has greatly benefited the to be sophomore running back and his running is by far the most determined on the team. Crawford even absorbed a huge tackle by middle-linebacker Brian Duncan but jumped right back to his feet and hustled to the huddle to prepare for the next play.
Baron Batch, Kobey Lewis, and Shannon Woods all three had good days but were out-shone by Crawford's star. Batch looked good in limited duty while Woods ran hard near the end of practice and threw a great block to allow Baron Batch to shoot through the line of scrimmage. Lewis had a quiet day but was extremely elusive on screens and draw plays.
Running Backs Depth Chart
Starter: Kobey Lewis, Aaron Crawford, Baron Batch
Back-Up: Shannon Woods
Overall Grade - A-
Wide Receivers/Big H&Y:
Michael Crabtree had a quiet day, catching only a few passes during today's practice. He did have a tremendous catch on the East sideline of Jones stadium which drew a chorus of cheers but otherwise was less of a factor than normal.
If there is any question that Todd Walker wants to compete for playing time, it was answered today. Walker turned on the jets on an outside receiver screen and outran the entire defense into the end-zone, easily the biggest offensive play of the day. He then proceeded to punt the football into the stands and earned himself a punishing hit from Jordy Rowland and Taylor Charbonnet a few plays later, reminding Walker that the defense wasn't playing at 100% physicality during today's practice.
Redemption is sweet and Eddie Britton was drinking sugar-water today as he bounced back to have one of his best days in recent memory. Britton took several end around hand-offs that would have gone the distance and made an outstanding catch in traffic late in practice. His back-up Lyle Leong had a more quiet day with fewer passes thrown his way and took a vicious hit from Victor Hunter and Jordy Rowland during the pass-skeleton portion of practice.
Eric Morris and Adam James were both the safety valves for the quarterbacks today and both did a great job of running after the catch. James seems to be improving every day and even his father, Craig James of SMU and ESPN fame, said that his son seems to separate easier from defenders. Morris had a highlight play as he took a wide-receiver screen and was able to run almost 30 yards with it before being tracked down by the defense.
Detron Lewis continues to impress with his ability to make the tough catch and avoid defenders. At one point today he caught a pass right in the middle of the defense and managed to avoid being lit up for the effort. Lewis also had another tremendous catch on the goal-line and continues to improve on his blocking. However, the very serious concern is the nonchalant way in which he carries the football that could lead to fumbles next season. Tramain Swindall also had a big day and continues to keep things close at the competition for the Y inside receiver position.
Another name that the coaching staff has been raving about is junior transfer from Blinn Community College Blake Kelly. A small and shifty receiver, he had a somewhat off day with several dropped passes but his work-ethic is tremendous and he is willing to go across the middle to catch a pass. Look for Kelly to start rising up the depth-chart if any of the players ahead of him start to struggle.
Ryan Hale is attempting to become the next Oliver Hoyte, making the transition from linebacker to full-back. Hale's hands are surprisingly soft and he has a willingness to sacrifice his body, whether it be on a run-block or picking up a blitzing defender. Hale also has the speed to make plays if he is thrown the ball and could add another wrinkle to the Air Raid this coming season.
Receiver Depth Chart -
Z- Michael Crabtree, Todd Walker, Landon Hoeffer, Jacoby Franks
Y- Detron Lewis, Tramain Swindall, Blake Kelly
H- Eric Morris, Adam James, Jacoby Franks, Ryan Hale (Big H)
X- Eddie Britton, Lyle Leong, Rashad Hawk, Brik Brinker
Overall Grade - A
Mickey Okafor once again had the best day of practice for any of the offensive linemen and looks like a 5th year senior as opposed to a red-shirt freshman. The 6 foot 7 inch tall, 320 pound left tackle absolutely manhandled McKinner Dixon and Brandon Williams time and again, despite the best efforts of both defensive players. Okafor looks ready to play Big XII football right now and was even able to stop the forward momentum of Daniel Howard with little effort. Raider fans should be comforted to know that offensive line coach Matt Moore has found his next left tackle.
Shawn Byrnes, Brandon Carter, and Stephen Hamby are by far the best players on the team at getting downfield to block on screens. Carter and Hamby teamed up to absolutely destroy Daniel Howard on a screen play after Howard read the offensive play perfectly. Carter ended up on the ground with Howard while Hamby was able to continue downfield to escort the runner closer to the endzone.
Louis Vasquez took a few snaps at left tackle today and looked ok, though he is much more comfortable and dangerous as an interior player as opposed to an outside tackle.
Chris Olson also had a nice play on an end-around by Eddie Britton, getting in-front to help lead the junior receiver down the far sideline. Olson seems much more at home as a guard than as a tackle and should flourish with more reps at the interior positions. Justin Keown again looked good and his versatility make him an extremely valuable player, particularly because he can play all three interior line positions with no problem.
Offensive Line Depth Chart -
Right Guard: Brandon Carter , Stephen Hamby, Dominique Delpeche
Center: Shawn Byrnes, Stephen Hamby /Justin Keown, Blake Emert
Overall Grade - A+
Defensive Line :
Brandon Williams, McKinner Dixon, and Daniel Howard will be able to form a pass-rush this season with no problems. Dixon was a man possessed again the run and struggled only when going up against the surprisingly good freshman Mickey Okafor. Dixon also ran down (literally, chased him 70 yards back and forth across the field) Aaron Crawford and seems to have not lost a step since his freshman season. He also turned freshman and scout team offensive lineman Omar Castillo inside out and would have obliterated quarterback Graham Harrell were it not for a timely block by Aaron Crawford.
Howard played in an upright position somewhat today and was spying the younger and faster quarterbacks, almost as if he were playing linebacker and not weak-side defensive end. Howard, as previously mentioned, was mauled on a screen play but returned to practice later and looked good both in coverage and rushing the passer. The coaching staff seems to have found another player that can play across the field and might be able to help run a zone-blitz, much like Keyunta Dawson was able to do for the Raiders in 2006.
Rajon Henley was by far the best interior lineman while Colby Whitlock and Chris Perry were a close second. Henley recorded two would-be sacks (no-one is allowed to hit the quarterback) and also blew-up a running play in the backfield. Perry looked strong off of the ball and is a high-motor guy that doesn't appear fast but is instead very persistent at rushing the passer.
Ryan Haliburton spent time with the defensive ends on the strong side while it appears that Joey Fowler will remain insde working at defensive tackle. David Neill saw the field for an extended period of time today and looked sharp, particularly against the run. His unique build should make it interesting to see how the coaching staff will utilize his talents.
A note on the group, they struggled early stopping the run but improved as practice went on and particularly encouraging is the fact that six Henley, Whitlock, Perry, Jones, Neill, and Agoucha shuffled on and off of the field with no loss of effort or line integrity.
Strong Side (left) end: Jake Ratliff, Daniel Howard
Nose Guard (right): Colby Whitlock, Chris Perry,Clint Stoffels, Richard Jones,
Overall Grade - B
Brian Duncan, Marlon Williams, and especially Bront Bird were men possessed today. Bird ran step for step with Ed Britton on a crossing route and also went flying across the field with Adam James, making the tackle on both occasions by himself.
Collier had a quiet day while Julius Howard had several big plays and seems more at home on the strong-side than the weak-side. Victor Hunter also had a brilliant pass-deflection made more impressive by his somewhat tight hamstring.
Tyrone Sonier and Sam Fehoko had good days and Sonier seems to be one of the fastest linebackers on the team. Fehoko did a great job of tracking down receivers after they got outside and preventing them from getting further down-field. It is worth a chuckle to note that Fehoko looks like a man possessed with his long hair and mean-looking expression as he is running around the field.
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/ Julius Howard
Overall Grade - B+
Brent Nickerson, if the name isn't familiar it will be soon if he continues to play like he did today. Nickerson had three of the best pass-breakups in recent memory and almost had a diving interception. It almost seems as if a light has turned on in his head and that everything is starting to make sense. Nickerson spent most of the day with the starting defense and was tremendous in coverage as well as stopping the run. Nickerson is now the dark-horse candidate to win the starting right cornerback job.
Taylor Charbonnet is an athlete and looked more like his older brother than a red-shirt freshman today during practice. Charbonnet did an outstanding job of running with the blazing fast Todd Walker and helped deliver a little punishment for the Walker punt into the stands only a few plays before. Charbonnet also appears to be taller than he was in the fall.
De'Shon Sanders also showed signs of hope today with a near interception while Jarrell Routt sat out with a minor tweak to his hamstring.
Darcel McBath practice today, though he was ill and not quite his usual jovial self. Daviel Charbonnet worked as the starting free-safety while McBath was the strong-safety in a very intriguing paring. Both are great in coverage and Charbonnet is faster than he is given credit for being.
LA Reed would have absolutely destroyed Detron Lewis on a crossing route had the players been in full-contact drills and already looks better than he did on Wednesday. Lance fuller had a good day, though he tweaked an ankle when trying to get past a blocker on a screen.
Secondary Depth Chart -
Right Cornerback: Marcus Bunton/Pete Richardson/Brent Nickerson, De'Shon Sanders
Overall Grade - A-
Now it's time for some awards
Offensive MVP: Mickey Okafor
Defensive MVP: Brent Nickerson
Mr. Underrated: Julius Howard
Freshman of the Day: Taylor Charbonnet
Come back Monday for the next RaiderPower Practice report!