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Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Texas Tech spring wrap

By David Ubben

2011 overall record: 5-7
2011 conference record: 2-7
Returning starters: Offense (9), Defense (10), P/K (1)

Top returners: QB Seth Doege, S Cody Davis, WR Alex Torres, S D.J. Johnson, S Terrance Bullitt, RB Eric Stephens, WR Eric Ward, WR Darrin Moore

Key losses: DE Scott Smith, TE Adam James, DB Brett Dewhurst

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Eric Stephens* (565 yards)
Passing: Seth Doege* (4,004 yards)
Receiving: Eric Ward* (800 yards)
Tackles: Cody Davis* (93)
Sacks: Scott Smith (5.5)
Interceptions: D.J. Johnson* (2)

Three spring answers

1. An answer in the middle: When you recruit junior college talent, you never quite know what you're going to get. That was a good thing for Texas Tech this spring, which found a starting middle linebacker in Will Smith. He's already the team's best at the position, according to coach Tommy Tuberville. They found him while recruiting running back SaDale Foster in California, but Tech found a hidden gem that made a huge impact.

2. Depth developing at running back: Texas Tech was thin at running back during the spring with DeAndre Washington and Eric Stephens sidelined by knee injuries. Stephens' return in 2012 isn't guaranteed, but the spring gave Tech a nice chance to see what it had at running back. Newcomer SaDale Foster played well, as did Kenny Williams. The position's in good shape, even though Ronnie Daniels transferred.

3. Familiar unfamiliarity on defense: Art Kaufman arrived in Lubbock this spring to install his 4-3 defense, which on its own wouldn't be all that notable. What makes it notable? He's the fourth defensive coordinator in four years at Texas Tech. The biggest task in front of him is building depth and developing his linebackers, who were among the Big 12's worst in 2011, ranking dead last nationally in rush defense.

Three fall questions

1. Will Eric Stephens be back in time? Stephens' dislocated knee against Texas A&M looked ugly, but the impact was even bigger than anyone could have imagined. Stephens had tons of experience, and was not only the team's best runner, but was the best pass-blocking back (a huge deal in Tech's offense) and pass-catching back. Tech is hopeful he'll be back by the beginning of the season, but he'll be limited in fall camp.

2. Who's the top receiver? Is Eric Ward the most talented receiver on the team? I'd vote more for Alex Torres and Darrin Moore. Still, you can't deny Ward's production in Torres' and Moore's absence with injuries in 2011. They'll be in a derby this fall to catch passes from Doege, and look out for guys like Tyson Williams and Marcus Kennard, too. Hyped freshmen Dominique Wheeler and Reginald Davis are on the way, too.

3. Can Texas Tech stay healthy? Nothing's hurt Tech more the past two seasons than injury. They've been everywhere on defense, and last year, the team's top two receivers and running backs both suffered big injuries. There hasn't been a clear reason Tech seems to have been snake bitten so badly, but the injuries exposed the lack of depth in 2011. Reasons aside, Tech has to stay healthy to get back into a bowl after ending a nearly two-decade streak of winning seasons with the 5-7 campaign in 2011.