LUBBOCK, Texas — When Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville took over in January, there was one word he constantly used to define how he wants this team to look when that first kickoff comes in September.
But Tuberville wasn't just talking about Tech's slew of running backs, defensive backs, receivers and linebackers.
He also meant the big men up front, often describing the Red Raider linemen as overweight — especially on the offensive side.
Now, the transformation is taking place after two months of conditioning and spring practices.
"We responded pretty well," Tech offensive line coach Matt Moore said. "So far they've been learning well. That's the hardest thing is the tempo and how to move fast, get lined up fast — how to think fast. That seems to be one of the hardest things is getting their minds moving the same speed as their feet.
"But I've had several guys that have lost 30 pounds and 25 pounds and are getting themselves into shape, being able to run up and down the field and doing the right things. So we're on the right track. You have your good days and bad ones and the heat bug just kind of caught up with us today. Overall, we're really starting to adjust and really starting to learn the offense."
Two other things are helping make the spring session even more important for the offensive linemen. Not only are the big men trying to shed pounds and adjust to a new offensive scheme — they also don't know where or how much they might be playing.
"Nobody has a starting job," senior center Justin Keown said. "I've been at center and right guard some so everyone is kind of playing everywhere across the board. No one has a set position."
Much of that has to do with the departures from last year's squad — including All-American offensive guard Brandon Carter. But one of the biggest battles for a starting position appears to be at the spot where an incumbent remains.
Last year's starting center Chris Olson and Keown have an ongoing battle for the center position and like anything else, it helps fuel the effort to get in better shape and learn the system and plays faster.
It's almost a necessity for these linemen — who were easily above 300 pounds last season at some spots — to get leaner and quicker. Tech's offense works at an extremely fast pace and the practices do not slow down one bit to allow too much down time.
Moore said there are a number of players that have impressed him as he goes down the line of positions. Starting on the left, tackles Terry McDaniel and Mickey Okafor are going for the same spot with McDaniel getting the early edge. Returning starter Lonnie Edwards looks to be favorite at left guard but Moore said junior Blake Emert has "had a really good spring so far, practicing better in past couple of workouts."
On the right side, sophomores Deveric Gallington and LaAdrian Waddle continue to battle along with early enrollee and freshman Beau Carpenter, a player Moore said has surprised him this spring, but would like to redshirt next year.
"I'd like to," he said. "But he's making awfully hard."
Keown and McDaniel both said it meant a lot to all the linemen to keep Moore at Tech after everything the group had gone through the past two seasons. Moore was one of the only holdovers that stayed intact from Mike Leach's staff and the O-Line coach didn't mind getting to stay, as well.
"I'd like to think it paid off," Moore said with a slight grin. "I like to think that I was the guy that was kind of the common ground for all of them. Everybody knew how I was going to do things and how I was going to coach. I think that was a big deal for everyone. We all have similar coaching styles and have meshed well so I feel like from a family concept, the O-Line has really stuck together and we just have to continue to improve."