- David Ubben, College Football
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Believe it or not, spring practice has arrived. Texas Tech will kick off spring practice Thursday.
We'll preview the league in full next week, but here's a look at the Red Raiders as they kick it off later today, the first team in the Big 12 to do so.
Schedule: Practice begins later today, and will conclude with the annual spring game on March 24.
What’s new: It's becoming a bit of a broken record, but the Red Raiders will try and adjust to a new defensive scheme. Art Kaufman comes to Texas Tech from North Carolina and brings a 4-3 scheme with him, a shift from Chad Glasgow's 4-2-5 last season. The Red Raiders dealt with lots of injuries and finished 114th nationally in total defense.
On the mend: Texas Tech will be missing 15 players this spring, including running backs Eric Stephens (dislocated knee) and DeAndre Washington (torn ACL). Receiver Alex Torres will also miss the spring with a torn ACL. Stephens' status for 2012 is still in flux, but Tech hopes to have him on the field by the season opener.
New faces: Kaufman isn't the only new face, especially on defense. Four new defensive coaches join the staff, though defensive line coach Terry Price came and went before spring even began. He took a new job at his alma mater, Texas A&M. Jim Turner did the same, but left for the Miami Dolphins. It's a bit confusing in Lubbock these days.
Additionally, the Red Raiders are looking for some immediate impact on the field. Nine of the 26 signees in 2012 were junior college transfers.
On the move: Cornerback (yes, cornerback) Cornelius Douglas is staying there. The former receiver was forced to move to defense because of injuries last year, but coach Tommy Tuberville loves Douglas' potential at his new spot, and is keeping him there. The Red Raiders are bringing on a few new receivers, too.
Question marks: The Red Raiders couldn't stop much of anything last year, but the center of the defense was a huge issue. A weak group of linebackers in 2011 didn't help, but we'll see if Kaufman can shore up the front seven this spring. Tech -- in the pass-heavy Big 12 -- gave up over 258 yards a game on the ground, the worst in college football by 12 yards per game. That can't continue if Tech wants to get back to its winning ways.
Breaking out: Receiver Darrin Moore has all the potential in the world -- like, Biletnikoff Award contender potential. Last year, he was slowed by injuries and the coaching staff wasn't happy with how he rehabbed those injuries. He was a non-factor until nearing top form late in the season, but this could be a big spring for the 6-foot-4, 215-pound target.
All eyes on: The defense. Seth Doege's pretty solid. The offense will be above average at worst. But the defense gave the Red Raiders no chance last year. Losing Stephens hurt, but Tech was still productive pretty often. The defense let the Red Raiders down, though. Tech gave up just under 40 points a game, 117th nationally. Kaufman's got his work cut out for him.