Texas Tech Preview

The more things change, the more they stay the same. All offseason, people were left to wonder how Texas Tech would change under new coach Tommy Tuberville. Would the Tech squad, built for a short-passing spread, become like Tuberville's three yards and a cloud of dust teams? Or would Tuberville embrace something a little bit more balanced than former coach Mike Leach's offenses?

The general thought line was that, even if the Red Raiders continued to throw the ball, it wouldn't be to the same extent that Leach's teams aired it out.

But at least through two games, that's exactly what Tech has done offensively. Sure, they've run the ball maybe a little bit more, and they should have, with a trio of talented backs. But the end result has been an up-tempo, high-octane passing attack much like Air Raid squads that Leach presided over, averaging 43.5 points per game and leading the league in passing attempts.

At the helm is senior Taylor Potts, a prototypical pocket passer who beat out Steven "Sticks" Sheffield for the starting gig in the offseason. Potts has responded well, connecting on 64 percent of his passes and throwing seven touchdowns to no interceptions. He is averaging 326 yards per game through the air, though he isn't much of a runner.

He doesn't need to be, thanks to three good backs, all of whom can catch the ball out of the backfield. Senior Baron Batch has been an underrated runner for much of his career. His talent and versatility have kept teams from dropping eight into coverage over the past few years, while his surprising nose for the goal line (14 touchdowns a year ago) has helped Tech once the passing yards get tougher to come by on short fields. He shares starting duties with sophomore dynamo Eric Stephens, while the emergence of junior Aaron Crawford has given Tech three great options to run the ball with.

Tech's group of receivers is probably among the best in the country. Lyle Leong is third in the Big 12 in receiving yards, while his five receiving touchdowns are tied for first. Jacoby Franks is a talented up-and-comer with 11 catches, while Detron Lewis, Tramain Swindall and Alex Torres combined to catch 187 passes for 2,344 yards and 17 touchdowns a year ago.

The offensive line is quite a bit lighter than it used to be. Favoring athleticism and the ability to keep a quick tempo, Tech linemen Terry McDaniel, Deveric Gallington, Mickey Okafor and LaAdrian Waddle lost a combined 98 pounds from the end of last season to the start of training camp. It's still a big group, averaging almost 312 pounds per man. But it's also a group better equipped to deal with the "NASCAR" pace set by new offensive coordinator Neal Brown.

Defensively, the Red Raiders are entirely different than they were a year ago. Typically known for playing base schemes and a bend-but-don't break approach, this year's Red Raider defense, coached by James Willis, has a lot in common with the Alabama scheme the Longhorns faced in last year's BCS Championship Game.

One of the biggest switches has been the move of Brian Duncan from middle linebacker, where he was one of the Big 12's most productive players, to a hybrid outside linebacker/rush end. While Texas A&M's Von Miller has earned a high amount of fame for that position heading into this season, Duncan actually leads the Big 12 in sacks with four. Overall, the Red Raiders have accounted for nine quarterback sacks, tops in the league. Simply put, Colby Whitlock has been a Longhorn killer. In three career games against Texas, the nose tackle has 20 stops, including seven in the backfield and a safety. Defensive end Scott Smith leads the Big 12 with two fumbles recovered.

With Duncan's absence, Bront Bird has stepped up to man the middle, and he looks like he could contend for all-conference honors. Bird has 14 tackles so far on the season, and has helped to clog up the middle against opposing rushers, who have averaged 3.8 yards per carry against the Red Raiders.

The defensive backfield has struggled, and currently ranks among the worst in the conference against the pass. The best player there is probably safety Cody Davis.

On special teams, the Red Raiders appear to have a huge advantage in the punting game, where they're averaging 46 yards net per punt, and are strong in the kick return game, where Stephens is among the league's best.


QB: 12 Taylor Potts (6-5 222, Sr., Abilene, Texas)

F-back: 25 Baron Batch (5-10 210, Sr., Midland, Texas), OR 24 Eric Stephens (5-8 192, So., Mansfield, Texas)

X-receiver: 19 Lyle Leong (6-1 175, Sr., Abilene, Texas)

H-receiver: 11 Tramain Swindall (6-3 184, Jr., Oklahoma City, Okla.)

Y-receiver: 17 Detron Lewis (6-0 208, Sr., College Station, Texas)

Z-receiver: 8 Jacoby Franks (6-0 185, Jr., Orange, Texas), OR 86 Alex Torres (6-1 186, So., El Paso, Texas)

LT: 65 LaAdrian Waddle (6-6 322, So., Columbus, Texas)

LG: 78 Lonnie Edwards (6-4 322, Jr., Brownsboro, Texas)

C: 73 Justin Keown (6-4 300, Jr., Anderson, S.C.)

RG: 66 Deveric Gallington (6-3 314, So., North Richland Hills, Texas)

RT: 70 Chris Olson (6-5 300, Sr., Dallas, Texas)


LE: 94 Scott Smith (6-6 266, Jr., Kailua, Hawai'i)

DT: 98 Donald Langley (6-2 274, Jr., Germantown, Md.)

NT: 93 Colby Whitlock (6-3 294, Sr., Noble, Okla.)

RE: 57 Brian Duncan (6-1 248, Sr., Baton Rouge, La.)

SAM: 41 Sam Fehoko (6-0 233, Jr., Honolulu, Hawai'i)

MIKE: 20 Bront Bird (6-4 248, Sr., Odessa, Texas)

WILL: 13 Julius Howard (5-11 220, Sr., Irving, Texas)

LC: 7 Will Ford (6-0 195, So., Abilene, Texas)

LS: 16 Cody Davis (6-2 194, So., Stephenville, Texas)

RS: 26 Franklin Mitchem (6-2 200, Sr., Klein, Texas)

RC: 12 D.J. Johnson (6-0 190, So., Austin, Texas)

Special Teams:

K: 85 Matt  Williams (5-10 170, Sr., Weatherford, Texas)

P: 9 Jonathan LaCour (6-1 216, Sr., Kingwood, Texas)

KO: 49 Donnie Carona (6-0 217, Jr., Beaumont, Texas)

KR: 24 Eric Stephens (5-8 192, So., Mansfield, Texas), AND 2 Cornelius Douglas (5-10 200, So., Lawton, Okla.)

PR: 6 Austin Zouzalik (5-11 191, So., Lubbock, Texas)

DS: 60 Jesse Smitherman (6-3 235, Jr., Burleson, Texas)

H: 9 Jonathan LaCour (6-1 216, Sr., Kingwood, Texas)

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