14 Points On Texas Tech Spring Football
The Texas Tech Red Raiders wrapped up their Spring slate of practices this weekend with the Red and Black Scrimmage at Jones Stadium. The third scrimmage of the Spring marked their 15th practice and capped off their Spring session.
You can't learn a ton from the Spring practices, but there are players who shined and some trouble areas that were noticeable. It's also tough to be negative about the actual play on the field because for every blown up play the offense has, it was the defense doing the blowing up.
So, with those qualifications in mind, here are the 14 observations I made during the Texas Tech Spring practice session:
Kliff Kingsbury has been sneaking in two back sets and even tight ends into his offense in the last two seasons but this Spring took the h-back into overdrive. I don't think it's even appropriate to call it an h-back. There was a legitimate fullback in the mix in some formations and there were legitimate iso plays being run that converted 3rd and shorts.
The running attack also incorporated a lot more zone style running where backs that thrive on the cutback, like Tre King and Da'Leon Ward, can take their time to find a whole before busting through the line of scrimmage.
The tandem of King and Ward will be the main contributors in 2018 and I think the Spring has provided a good look at what the Texas Tech running game will look like.
The pistol two-back read option style can look really good if run perfectly. It can also really help McLane Carter, if he's the starter, who thrives on the play action.
Going into the Spring it was a two man race for the starting QB role at Texas Tech. Coming out of the Spring it's arguably more confused and now a three man race.
Jett Duffey threw for 407 yards and completed 63% of his passes against the Texas Tech defense during the scrimmages. That's not stellar but Duffey failed to get into a rhythm because he wasn't allowed, or tried not to, use his legs. He didn't show the play making ability that was missing last year, but he wasn't given the opportunity several times because of quick whistles to protect the quarterbacks.
McLane Carter threw for 388 yards and completed 55% of his passes, but was the only quarterback to throw a touchdown in every game. It was a mixed bag for Carter who also failed to get in a rhythm and seemed to only feel comfortable on the quick reads.
Neither Carter or Duffey did enough to pass the other to be named the starter. They also didn't do enough to exclude true freshman Alan Bowman from the mix.
In limited action Bowman completed 52% of his passes for 249 yards including a long touchdown in Frisco, Texas. With just 15 practices in a Red Raider uniform Bowman already looks the part, so just imagine what he could look like after fall camp heading into week one against Ole Miss.
The offensive line ran out several different groups and configurations and that played a role in their unspectacular play on Saturday at the Jones. They allowed 3 sacks and had 5 false starts, one on the entire offensive line.
The line is probably dealing with the biggest change this off-season with the addition of new offensive coordinator Kevin Johns. It was noticeable this Spring that they have a lot of work to do working on this new zone style so that it becomes something that they can pound out next season.
The running game will be a huge part of 2018 for the evolving Red Raider offense and the burden rests heavily on the backs of the big boys up front.
At this point, after the dust is settled, I don't know that anyone has cemented their position along the line. Jack Anderson and Terrance Steele being the exceptions.
Expect intense position battles between Dawson Deaton, Giovanni Pancotti, Madison Akamnonu, Paul Stawarz and Travis Bruffey. You might even see someone from outside of this list among the starters next season.
De'Quan Bowman has been patiently waiting for his opportunity behind some impressive talent, Keke Coutee, ever since he transferred in from Hutchinson Community College. It's now his time.
Bowman has been returning kicks and punts this spring and caught two of Carter's touchdown passes. One of which was a tunnel screen he took 40 yards to the house.
Bowman will be another in a long line of inside receivers who will plug in and make an impact on the stat sheet.
While Bowman has made his mark on the inside, Myller Royals has staked his claim to at the very least a position battle heading into the fall. Royals has had a great spring as a true freshman turning heads in practice and making catches in the scrimmages.
Royals will push for the starting job and will be a a valuable piece immediately for the Red Raiders in his freshman season.
The guy he will be pushing has the potential to be the leading receiver for the Red Raiders T.J. Vasher, who had a bad showing this Saturday in Lubbock. He dropped a touchdown and several other passes and was the intended receiver on the lone interception of the night.
Vasher's inability to have consistent hands can pave the way for Myller Royals who has great ball skills.
Jace Amaro's name evokes big expectations, but I'm going to throw it down because I believe in this guy and the new offense of Kevin Johns.
Donta Thompson will impact the Red Raiders offense and has the opportunity to catch a ton of balls as a safety net next season.
The "tight end" which ends up being just a big inside receiver in most packages will be able to find holes in most defenses and will be able to pick apart zones in the play action RPO style of offense on deck for the Red Raiders in 2018.
I think Thompson will also be a valuable red zone target thanks to his 6'5" 225 pound frame.
There was speculation that Kevin Johns would come in and take over play calling duties from Kliff Kingsbury but that didn't seem to be the case this spring.
Now, the entire scrimmage was probably scripted so it's not finalized that Kevin Johns won't be calling the plays, or doing his part from the booth, but Kingsbury was doing the duties during the final Spring scrimmage in Lubbock.
The 806D forced fumbles and picked off passes in all three scrimmages this Spring. They also scored a touchdown on a pick-6 in Frisco courtesy of Justus Parker, who picked up where he left off last year.
This is the part of the article where it's hard to differentiate the positives and the negatives, because while it's awesome the defense went out and forced a bunch of turnovers, it's what their defensive philosophy is based on, it's hard to not peg the fault on the offense playing poorly.
I can tell you that most, not all, but most of the turnovers that were forced were legit turnovers made on great plays and big hits. That's a definite positive.
The rotation along the defensive line is going to feature a lot of guys. Broderick Washington and Joe Wallace are a dynamic 1-2 punch on the inside. Preston Gordon, a Rice grad transfer and Nick McCann will also play meaningful snaps.
Kolin Hill looks healthy and improved.
Tony Jones will be better in his second season at the top level in college football. Michael Mays, Nelson Mbanasor, Quentin Yontz and Houston Miller will all play meaningful snaps.
Eli Howard will be a force again after a spectacular Freshman season.
Look for the defensive line to take a big step forward this season after struggling with consistency last season.
The best, and most improved, position group on the Texas Tech defense last season was the linebacker unit. Dakota Allen was All-Big 12 caliber. Jordyn Brooks took a big step forward as a sophomore. Riko Jeffers was solid as a true freshman.
Those three provide a great base for the defense in 2018 but those won't be the only guys that see the field at linebacker, a group that will have a ton of depth.
Brayden Stringer, Kevin Moore and Christian Taylor have all had a solid Spring on the field. Don't be surprised to see another true Freshman make a difference this season again in Case Gatlin, a 6'4" 230 pound kid from IMG Academy.
I mentioned him in the defensive line segment but he's worth a second look. The 6'1" 315 pound Wallace has the potential to be a difference maker as the nose tackle in the 4 man front of the Red Raiders.
Wallace played as a Freshman in 2016 before red shirting in 2017. Now a sophomore Wallace is primed for a prominent role. He might not start, but look for big plays from number 97 this fall.
The 2017 Texas Tech defense didn't lose a single starter in the secondary to graduation. That doesn't mean the 2018 starting lineup will be the same.
There are 16 defensive backs listed on the Texas Tech roster and I honestly don't think anyone is being penciled in as a starter.
Jah'Shawn Johnson has been at Texas Tech for what seems like forever and has been a invaluable as a Red Raider as the rare bright spot on some awful defenses. That still doesn't lock his role in stone.
David Gibbs and his new secondary staff are trying to put their best players on the field, it's as simple as that.
Johnson is probably on the top of that list, but there are 15 other guys trying to get playing time. Thomas Leggett played well this spring. John Davis had a solid showing. Octavious Morgan got an interception. Justus Parker is a ball hawk.
Nobody is safe in this defense that David Gibbs is desperate to fix, and that's the way it ought to be.
On both the offense and defense the Red Raiders had costly penalties in the Red and Black game in Lubbock. The offensive line struggled with the basics getting 5 false starts. The defense had a costly pass interference that led to a touchdown.
The biggest problem of the 2017 season, on defense, was 3rd down penalties. That hasn't been corrected.
West Virginia is the only team bringing back a tried and true starting quarterback in the Big 12. Texas has a battle raging on. Oklahoma is trying to replace Baker Mayfield. Oklahoma State might start a true freshman.
Baylor arguably has a named starter in Charlie Brewer but he's got a bum shoulder this spring. Shawn Robinson is unproven at TCU.
My point is, the Big 12 race is wide open going into 2018 and that is a good thing for Texas Tech whose defense has had a stronger Spring than their offense.
In an off-season where it might be a struggle to find positives, just remember it's like that everywhere in the Big 12 right now, and that's a good thing for Texas Tech and Kliff Kingsbury.