Non-Conference Grades

The Texas Tech Red Raiders have, for the second consecutive season and third time in four years, made it through non-conference play unscathed. That isn't to say there weren't a few times when Tech fans held their breath, though. RaiderPower football analyst Mitchell Fish grades the Raiders efforts position by position for the first four games, starting with the running-backs.

Running Backs

Who would have thought that during Texas Tech's first four games of 2008, they would have rushed for more than half of the total yardage through 13 games in 2007? To say that it has been a surprising turn-around would be an understatement of cosmic proportions.

Shannon Woods, the Big XII's leader in all-purpose yards as a sophomore, wasn't himself during the '07 season but has returned to 2006 form through the first four games. Tough running, strong running after the catch, and the always over-looked pass-protection for quarterback Graham Harrell. Woods has 43 carries for 276 yards, his and Tech's first 100-yard rushing performance since the Insight Bowl, and an astounding 7 touchdowns. In fact, those 7 touchdowns place Woods 5th in the Nation as far as rushing touchdowns scored is concerned.

Yet, it hasn't been the Shannon Woods show, in-fact it has been Shannon Woods and Baron Batch both playing terrific football and complimenting each-other extremely well.

Batch, the red-shirt sophomore coming back after sitting out the entire 2007 season with an injury, has been as explosive as a stick of dynamite and shows why he was so highly touted when he graduated from high school.

Batch's 43-yard touchdown run against SMU was longer than any touchdown run in 2007. And this wasn't a run where Batch ran over 10 guys or got a lane to the outside. This was sheer, pure, un-inhibited speed. The kind of speed you see when a 16 year-old kid gets a new sports car or when a dog is chasing a tennis ball.

Batch has also improved tremendously in his blocking abilities, something that Woods has always been good at, while Woods is hitting the hole harder and faster, something that Batch has always been good at.

While it's probably unrealistic to say that Shannon Woods and Baron Batch are the best running-back tandem in the Big XII, they have provided a missing dimension to Head Coach Mike Leach's Air Raid offense and helped to take some of the pressure off of quarterback Graham Harrell.

Grade : A+

Everything that the running-backs have been asked to do, they've done. While Aaron Crawford has been sidelined with an injury, Batch and Woods continue to make great strides in improving with every snap.

While the Air Raid has, at times, sputtered, it hasn't been because of a lack of production from the tailbacks. You could almost say that Woods and Batch go together like peanut-butter and jelly. Apart, they're pretty good and can even get the job done sometimes. But when you put them together, you can't help but smile at the results.

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