Before you read any further, I’ll save some of you a little time. If you don’t believe Tech has a legitimate shot at beating UT in Lubbock next season, then don’t read on because this thing ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated. I’m cursed with an English teacher as a mother, so I can’t seem to quit writing once I get started. This is more than you probably ever want to know about the Texas Tech football team, but I’ve included somewhat of a scouting report for defending us to make it more enjoyable for all you defensive gurus. At a minimum, maybe you can review this prior to the Tech game and look for a few individual matchups during the game. I’ll do the defense some other time unless requested not to by the general consensus.
This will again be one of the top ranking statistical units in the country returning 10 starters from a salty unit. Whether that translates into one of the most dangerous offensive juggernauts in the country is a matter of opinion. Personally, I’m a fan of a little more balanced attack such as Missouri or Oklahoma State. I think they’re tougher to defend and allow you to attack a defense’s weakest point. That being said, I wouldn’t trade this unit for any in the Big 12…this season, anyway. From all reports, Leach emphasized the running game more than ever this spring, but in the heat of battle, his instinct will still call a pass on 3rd and 1 facing a 6 man front. Harrell will also audible into a pass against a 6 man front faster than Courtney Simpson puts out new, independent art films. After watching this offense operate for 9 years now, I’ve noticed that’s the golden rule. Cody Hodges or Sonny Cumbie might bend the rule every once in a while, but not much.
The most successful way to stop this offense is in the 4-2-5 alignment. This will cause Harrell to abandon the run game, and even though you may have the appearance of defending the run, you’re playing pass all the way. Good defensive coordinators have picked up on this trend. Gary Darnell is still tweaking the 1-0-10. No shit, he ran that for a series during one of the 50 to teen spankings. You then play inside press coverage underneath and mix up zone blitzes from Harrell’s backside. He’ll get rid of the ball quick making sacks tough to come by, so it’s imperative that the d-line gets their hands up in the passing lanes. Batted balls and turnover opportunities will come. Matt Eberflus at Missouri has mastered it over the last 2 seasons and yet nobody knows who he is.
Harrell is an exceptional QB, but he has his weaknesses. In blitz situations, he’ll have a tendency to throw to his right side 70% of the time, whether that’s the read or not. You have to be all over these guys (Amendola and Crabtree last year) and hope you win the turnover battle. Move your best DB around effectively to match up with Crabtree like Mizzou did with Pig Brown and Colorado with Terrance Wheatley. Allow him to take some gambles and make some plays on the ball. Wheatley (who I feel was the best CB in the country last year) ended up with 3 picks in our game last year and covered Crabtree as effectively as anyone did all season. You also need one of those hybrid LB/SS to play one of your LB spots. A guy who runs well in space, is good in coverage, and lights someone up when he gets there. He doesn’t really have to be worth a shit at plugging holes between the guards, he won’t be doing much of that. He does need to be able to catch the ball when the opportunity presents itself, though. Anyway, that’s how you stop us and now we’ll move on to the position breakdowns.
I won’t spend much time on Harrell since everyone is pretty familiar with him now, and I’ve detailed his weakness above. Given ample time, his accuracy will feel like surgery with a shovel if you’re an opposing fan. If he goes down, Taylor Potts will step in. Potts probably has more physical ability as any QB Leach has signed. He’s 6’5", 220 lbs and has a howitzer mounted on his shoulder. The sound of this will make most Raider fans salivate, but, probably not his receiving corps, if they’re within 10 yards of him because howitzer is the only velocity he comes with. Reports on his accuracy and touch in the spring would indicate another 4 loss season with Potts running the show. He’s young and he’ll get better, but it sounds like we’ll be fucked like a tied goat, if Harrell goes down.
What’s the old adage about if you have 2 QBs then you don’t have any? Well, Tech comes out of the spring with 4 guys listed atop the depth chart, one of those "or" listings. I’m not sure what to make of this and I think there truly is some talent here. Two years ago Shannon Woods led the Big 12 in tandem yards (rushing & receiving) and earned all conference honors. Quite a fall from grace as attitude and effort issues found him on the bench by the end of the season. He’s now listed as 3rd string at Tech.
Aaron Crawford held onto his 1st string status throughout the spring, but he’ll have to be more productive than his 4.0 yards per carry average from last season to maintain this position. Consistency seems to be his issue as sometimes the guy looks like the power runner to perfectly complement Leach’s finesse offense well and others he looks like just a dude carrying a leather object of some sort. He was just a true freshman last year so we’ll see, but RB has always seemed to me one of those positions where you either have it or you don’t.
Baron Batch is listed as 2nd string and has loads of physical talent that doesn’t necessarily translate into bad motherfucker on the field. You know the guy. We all had one on our high school team. He ran a 10.6 in the 100 during his high school days, so you know he’s got some speed. Also, the 100 meters is the only timed event I really value, and if a guy can’t break 11.0 in the 100, then he can’t run a 4.5 forty. Anyone this fast will be running track for his high school. I’m always skeptical of these kids who run an alleged 4.3, but don’t even run track for their high school. Sorry about that, back on topic. Batch has been plagued by injuries during his time at Tech, but is finally healthy and will get his much anticipated shot. However, he didn’t separate himself from the pack in spring, so I’m assuming Seth Littrell will platoon these guys as starters with a splash of the diminutive Kobey Lewis on shuttle passes and screens. By conference play, look for one of the first three guys to start receiving the majority of carries and I can’t begin to guess which one it will be.
The X-factor here is 4 star (per Rivals) incoming freshman Harrison Jeffers out of Lawton, OK. That’s right, you heard me there Texas fans, Tech signed a 4 STAR recruit. Watch out, we’re getting some true talent on our roster. Anyway, according to Tech fans, he’s some kind of hybrid genetic freak crossed between the parents of Byron Hanspard and Dominic Rhodes. He’s got Hanspard’s speed (10.52 in the 100 this spring) and Rhodes shake and deceptive power. Unfortunately for Tech fans, he also inherited Rhodes report card. He hasn’t qualified academically yet, but odds are he’ll make it in. Not to sound all Aggie or anything, but this guy is a 4 STAR recruit. He might change the depth chart look a little, if he makes an impact in two-a-days.
By this time, Michael Crabtree is a household name to most of the true followers of college football. Crabtree is one those "special" players that only suits up in a Red Raider jersey about every 10 years. Crabtree is slicker than cum on a gold tooth when running in the open field. It was reported a couple of weeks ago by the DMN that he was working out under Deion Sanders with T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Devin Hester, and Pacman Jones. Here’s to hoping Jerry Jones had a hand in this. I’m also hoping he learned something besides how to gleek on a ho. Alright, now you know how I feel about the guy, so let’s move on. I’m sorry, we don’t get one of these types of guys in our program very often, so fuck you, and I’m going to enjoy it.
I’ll contend that Eric Morris is an undervalued player here, who provides a tough matchup from his slot position due to his quickness. Not a burner, but a guy who runs good routes, gets in and out of his cuts quickly, and just seems to get lost in a secondary. Plus, he’s from Shallowater making him tougher than rabid chupacabra.
To be sophomore Detron Lewis looked like a future star during the spring in replacing Amendola at inside receiver. He was the only freshman WR not to redshirt last year, and big things are expected of him. Lewis is much faster (10.6 in the 100 in high school) than Amendola, but we’ll see if it translates into consistency on the field, and I think the word is "clutchiness" that Amendola provided throughout his career.
The fourth spot at outside receiver opposite Crabtree is still somewhat open. Edward Britton, a converted RB is the incumbent, and although has proved to be a serviceable deep threat and open field runner, sometimes his hands are bad enough he couldn’t catch AIDS and he tends to disappear in long stretches. Todd Walker made a push in the spring after returning from a redshirt year, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lyle Leong and Tramain Swindall get some snaps here as well. In other words, there will be 100 catches split up between 4 guys at this position. I still think Britton is the most talented and dangerous in the open field, so maybe he’ll learn how to catch.
Overall, this unit has arguably the most talent of any WR squad fielded during the Leach era. Whether that translates into the discipline and production of the Welker/Peters/Francis/Glover unit is tough to say at this point.
The OL is the strength of this unit and all 5 starters return and one of the better units in the country. They were really playing well towards the end of the season when they stonewalled UT and OU personnel and somewhat neutralized what I felt was one of the better d-lines in the country in Virginia. This is one position where I will argue all day long that during his tenure, Leach has recruited comparable talent to the top programs in the conference, especially over the last 5 years. It’s the toughest position to evaluate at the high school level, and Blackbeard of the Staked Plains has figured out the formula on how to get the guys he needs to run his offense. As long as Leach continues this trend, there will always be a level of consistency in the win column. This is the most important position to run this system effectively. A weak link here and the whole machine crashes.
Left Tackle Rylan Reed is still recovering from a devastating ankle break in the Gator Bowl and the guy is a rock despite being 34 years of age. He’s expected to be ready by the fall, but his effectiveness will be critical to the success of this unit. Talented freshman Mickey Okafor did a serviceable job filling in during the spring, but needs experience and more strength. All reports indicate he will be a future star, though.
Left Guard as always is reserved for the biggest Mexican on team and Senior Louis Vasquez has filled the spot since the departure of Manny Ramirez. Vasquez will get drafted next spring and didn’t allow a sack last year. He’s true talent and equally adept at pass and run blocking. On goal line and short yardage situations, this is where the ball is going. Tech fans will sorely miss this guy next year.
Former walk-on Stephen Hamby supplanted incumbent Shawn Byrnes at center during the spring. However, a pending assault charge has left Hamby’s status with the team in jeopardy going into the fall. While undersized, Hamby has the best feet and punch technique, which as a former offensive lineman, I tend to value. He’s a legitimate Big 12 capable player. His flexibility to play any position on the line will provide crucial depth were injuries to hit this unit, and Hamby’s absence would hurt Tech more than our fans realize at this point.
Brandon Carter and Marlon Winn return on the right side at guard and tackle, respectively. The right side is not near as stable as the left, as Carter, while the size of Cape Buffalo, tends to struggle with smaller, quicker DTs in pass protection due to his lack of quick footwork. Longhorn fans should take note of this, and if Muschamp doesn’t line Lamar Houston over Carter next fall, then I’m telling you he needs to be fired. I’ve seen Hamby come in and neutralize some of these matchups, which is a nice luxury to have. Winn at tackle has more physical talent than Carter, but is prone to stretches of bad technique. When he gets his shit together and settles down about mid-way through the 2nd quarter, he’s a pretty decent player. Concentration appears to be the issue with this side of the line and they can be susceptible to stunts as well.