I Can Feel It Coming In The Air Tonight

Head Coach Mike Leach and the Texas Tech Red Raiders had their second scrimmage of the spring practice session at Jones AT&T Stadium. RaiderPower caught up with two defensive players, one a projected starter and the other a much improved linebacker, so come inside for the April 12th scrimmage report.

Linebacker Blake Collier is one of the most athletic players, and by far the fastest linebacker, on the Texas Tech roster for the coming season.

Collier, who spent his first season with the Red Raiders working as a safety, has shown great improvement this Spring, and it seems this improvement is not out of left field.

"It's my third year; I'm really starting to get down the defense. Coach Ruff kind of simplifies everything, and I like that. Whenever you know [the defense] you can play a lot faster without hesitation."

Coach Ruffin McNeil has had his praise sung by numerous defensive players, and Collier was no exception.

"He's just taught me not to hesitate and go full-speed every play, no matter if I'm doing it right or wrong. Go full speed and hit somebody every play. He stresses run fast, do your job, and hit somebody."

Collier was a terror today during practice, coming off of the edge on blitzes. He felt that the defense could now throw new looks at opposing offenses.

"We're really starting to mix it up. I really like some of these new packages we're putting in and I'm excited about using them."

Marcus Bunton has been the one of the first cornerbacks off of the bench since his red-shirt freshman season, where he saw action against Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. Since then, Bunton has proven to be a very reliable back-up but now has the opportunity, and inside shot, at winning the starting right cornerback position.

"It feels good man, getting to come out and compete every year," said Bunton. "Over the last couple of years I've been competing for the starting job; it hasn't worked out but I still got a lot of playing time. This year my goal is to prepare everyday like I am the starter."

Bunton has appeared in almost every game since his sophomore season (2006) and has a wealth of knowledge and game action to draw on that some of his younger competition doesn't have.

"That experience, it definitely helps you. When you get in certain situations, I've played in those situations before it'll help me out a lot."

While Bunton is not the largest or fastest of the cornerbacks on the depth-chart, he does have some other strengths that make him a valuable asset.

"As a corner, I just like to be physical most of the time with the receivers. Throw them off their routes, stuff like that."

Notable Notes :

- L.A. Reed had his first truly monster stop during today's scrimmage with a blistering hit on Edward Britton, who was running an end-around sweep at the time. Reed continues to improve everyday and worked with the starting defense at several points during today's practice.

Marlon Williams and Daniel Howard both recorded interceptions during today's practice with Williams snagging a pair and Howard deflecting a pass to the air and snatching it out, ignoring several punishing shots from offensive linemen attempting to prevent the catch.

Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was his incredible self today during practice, at one point looking to be wrapped-up by Taylor Charbonnet and then breaking free for an addition 10 yards. Crabtree also ran over Brent Nickerson to gain an addition two or three yards at one point in practice, even though he could have gone down without exerting the extra effort.

Crabtree also showed that he still cares deeply about his performance in practice when he dropped what would have been a difficult catch in the end-zone and beat himself up for it as he walked back to the huddle.

- *Warning, biased opinion of writer to follow*

- It is very rare that I have the opportunity to write in the first person with my responsibilities and job here at RaiderPower, but on this occasion I feel that I can best convey something that I observed at practice in this manner.

During practice, there was an actual excitement, an exuberance to be on the field. And this feeling, this emotion, was generated mostly by the defensive.

Marlon Williams making two interceptions during the day, one which would have resulted in a touchdown, Daniel Charbonnet with a fumble recovery that would have led to a touchdown, and Coach McNeil leading the charge.

This is a spirit and passion that I did not see during Spring or Fall practice in 2007. Coach McNeill had his troops fired up to play, they were encouraging each other, standing up for each other, and playing some of the best defense that I've ever seen during a practice, whether it was in my tenure with RaiderPower or as a sheer spectator.

This defense improves on a daily basis, and not because they are screamed at for making a mistake, and not because they are afraid, but because the defensive coaching staff has made a genuine connection with their players and those players want to do the best they can for their coaches.

You are going to be in for a treat come September when the very new, and vastly improved, Red Raider defense takes the field for the first time. It will be something to see, let me assure you….

Week-long Evaluation :

Offense: B+

The Air Raid offense did not have it's best week of practice and at times struggled with consistency. Graham Harrell continues to perform as well as one would expect a 5th year senior with 26 starts under his belt while back-up Taylor Potts has had an off week and can't seem to quite escape his rut.

The skill position players struggled Friday but rebounded well during today's practice, excluding two early drops by Tramain Swindall and a pass that was dropped by Blake Kelly to avoid a hit from LA Reed.

The starting offensive line had a strong week overall, though their back-ups earned the ire of Coach Leach during today's scrimmage and were made to run and do up-downs to ensure that their mind was focused completely on the task at hand.

Defense: A Defensive Coordinator Ruffin McNeil has transformed his defense in a little over two weeks of practice. A unit that was once considered an after-thought has become a serious force to contend with that has depth and talent at every position.

While defensive tackle Chris Perry's eligibility was a surprise that greatly increased the defenses depth, so has the emergence of Brandon Sharpe and continued development of Brandon Williams and Daniel Howard.

Brian Duncan and Marlon Williams continue to lead the defense, both from the action making-a-play standpoint and emotionally while safety LA Reed seems to be the player that everyone on the team, whether offense or defense, wants to see turn into a tremendous safety.

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