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Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Spring superlatives: Texas Tech

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Wednesday, we wrap up our series looking at the strongest and weakest position for each team in the Big 12 with the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Strongest position: Running back

Key returnees: Eric Stephens, Aaron Crawford, Ben McRoy, Harrison Jeffers

Key losses: Baron Batch

Analysis: The Red Raiders may not have any big-time gamebreakers at the position, but they are deep, deep, deep. And hey, maybe Stephens' 86-yard touchdown run in the TicketCity Bowl was a sign of things to come, despite having just one run longer than 30 yards the rest of the season.

Texas Tech has a good mix of size and speed with the platoon, and Crawford should get a good share of carries along with Stephens. The offense also added Ronnie Daniels this spring, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound true freshman who became a starter at fullback by the end of the spring. McRoy is a Floridian, 5-foot-9, 160-pound scatback whose elusiveness could earn him a few touches. Jeffers' bowling-ball tendencies at 5-foot-7, 200 pounds could do the same.

Coach Tommy Tuberville plans to use a few more two-back sets, and it's clear that doing so is a good use of the talent he has on the team. Texas Tech should be solid at quarterback, running back and the offensive line, but running back is the team's deepest position heading into 2011.

Weakest position: Secondary

Key returnees: Safeties Cody Davis, D.J. Johnson and Terrance Bullitt, cornerbacks Tre Porter, Jarvis Phillips, Derrick Mays

Key losses: CB LaRon Moore, S Franklin Mitchem

Analysis: Texas Tech has plenty of potential at the position heading into 2011, but there's no doubt it was the biggest weakness for the Red Raiders in 2010. Under the direction of a new defensive coordinator specializing in stingy secondaries, can that change right away? Chad Glasgow brought his 4-2-5 from TCU, and Texas Tech hopes success will follow after ranking last in the Big 12 in pass defense by 18 yards a game. Those 293 yards per game ranked 118th nationally, better than just Rice and Tulsa.

Injuries forced Texas Tech to play young players that weren't quite ready, but that rushed experienced could pay off soon. Porter and Mays started as freshmen last season, and should begin their sophomore years at the top of the depth chart. The Red Raiders trio of safeties need to prove they're fast enough to slow Big 12 offenses. Davis and converted corner Johnson will handle the traditional safety spots, while Bullitt will play more of a nickel back role close to the line of scrimmage to help the pass rush or stop the run. Texas Tech's offense might not be as potent as it was in 2010, but the defense has to be way, way better, or the Red Raiders won't do much better than this past season's eight wins.

More spring superlatives: