Dallas Colleges: Rika Levi

Big 12 weekend takeaways

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
8:45
AM CT
Over the weekend, six of the Big 12 schools opened fall camps and opened up their coaches and players to the media.

Here are some of my takeaways from the weekend:

Texas Tech could have its run-stuffer

Due to injuries and a lack of depth, Texas Tech struggled to stop the run all last season and finished ninth in the league in run defense. With defensive interior linemen Dartwan Bush and Kerry Hyder gone from last year’s club, Texas Tech desperately needed to add an impact player up front during the offseason to stabilize its porous run defense.

The Red Raiders, however, might have found such a player in mammoth junior college noseguard Rika Levi, whose size and strength has been generating plenty of buzz in Lubbock this summer. Levi was also the talk of Tech’s media day on Sunday.

“He’s a guy that the strength staff really, really likes,” defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said. “He’s a voice in the weight room, he’s a voice in the locker room and he’s a voice on the field pushing guys.”

According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Levi arrived on campus weighing 362, but he has since slimmed down 14 pounds, which could be crucial to keeping him on the field.

“I think in his career, he’s been maybe as high as 390,” Wallerstedt told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “If we can get him into the low-340 range, you may have a guy that can play not just first and second down, but could help us all three downs.”

One of Tech’s biggest needs going into this season was a three-down run stuffer. The Red Raiders just might have found their man.

Boykin not giving up QB job without a fight

It remains unclear whether Trevone Boykin will be at quarterback or wide receiver this season. But Boykin, who is in the best shape of his life according to coach Gary Patterson, has done everything within his power to prove he should be TCU’s starting quarterback.

“From just working out, eating right, living right, watching film, staying out of trouble, leading guys on and off the field, being in front of the summer workouts -- stuff that quarterbacks are supposed to do, but that not necessarily all of them do,” he said during TCU’s media day on Sunday, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Some people lead by example, and some are more vocal. I’ve tried to become both.”

Co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie said the Horned Frogs would like to settle in on one quarterback. And Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel has more experience operating the offense Cumbie and co-coordinator Doug Meacham are installing.

Joeckel, however, has a fight on his hands.

West Virginia’s freshman trio impressing

While they’ve struggled on the field their first two years in the Big 12, the Mountaineers have been rolling on the recruiting trail. In its most recent signing class, West Virginia landed three elite prospects in defensive back Dravon Henry, quarterback William Crest and running back Donte Thomas-Williams who have all impressed since arriving in Morgantown.

Henry figures to push for a starting role at free safety, just like cornerback Daryl Worley did as a true freshman last year.

“He's ahead of the curve for a true freshman, that's for sure,” Dana Holgorsen said during West Virginia’s camp-opening news conference.

The backfield is crowded for Thomas-Williams, but the “sky is the limit” for him, position coach JaJuan Seider noted after getting a glimpse of him in practice.

Crest is still adjusting to the speed of the college game, but the talent is undeniable.

“He's big, he's fast, he's strong, and he's got a good arm,” Holgorsen said. “There's a reason we recruited him for three years.”

All three freshmen have the potential to emerge into cornerstone pieces for the Mountaineers in time.

Oklahoma embracing defensive status

With the return of tackle Jordan Phillips from injury and the addition of promising redshirt freshmen Matt Romar and Charles Walker to the rotation, the Sooners should be deep and athletic up front. The entire linebacking corps returns, headlined by pass-rushing menace Eric Striker. And while the secondary has questions, Zack Sanchez is one of the top returning corners in the league.

Coach Bob Stoops said the returning experience has made a huge difference in how the Sooners have approached this preseason defensively.

"There's no comparison. A year ago on these first three days we were just implementing a basic 3-4 defense,” he said. “Now our guys have had a whole year in it and they understand with each play how we want to play against that particular play. We have our different wrinkles to blitz one way or another to try and screw up blocking schemes. All that together is a big deal. A year ago you're just figuring out all that. We've had a long time to study and work it, and our players now are comfortable with it and we're comfortable with if somebody's doing a certain thing, here are our wrinkles to take care of it and all the kids know how we want to handle it as opposed to a year ago figuring all that out."

"We have a chance to be pretty good, yeah.”

Senior transfer could boost Cowboys

The Oklahoma State defense got a boost last year from senior transfer cornerback Tyler Patmon. The Cowboys are banking on getting another boost from another senior transfer in safety Josh Furman, who arrived in Stillwater by way of Michigan.

“He’s a bigger safety and we’ll play him at our star linebacker position,” defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said Saturday. “We brought him in, that was the goal, to get him ready to play that position.”

The “star” is essentially Oklahoma State’s nickelback spot, where the Cowboys have a giant void due to Shaun Lewis’ graduation.

"He's going to fit in perfectly,” safety Tre Flowers said. “He's going to keep working and he's going to help the team out."

Strong will be relying on freshmen

Texas coach Charlie Strong confirmed on Sunday the dismissal of five players and the suspension of three others. That will leave the Longhorns with 10 fewer scholarship players than the NCAA’s 85-man limit. And will leave Strong reliant on incoming freshmen to replenish some of the depth.

Two spots freshmen will have the opportunity to earn time will be at running back and receiver. Through the dismissals and suspensions, the Longhorns lost five players from those offensive skill spots.

“A freshman can handle the skill positions,” Strong countered. “It’s all about speed and athletic ability. You can get those guys out there and they can get up to speed.”

The Longhorns still have veteran cogs at the offensive skill positions in Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Jaxon Shipley. But it appears the depth at running back and receiver will be supplied by freshmen this season.
Since last week, we've been analyzing the depth charts of every Big 12 team coming out of the spring. Monday, we continue with the Texas Tech Red Raiders, who released an official two-deep after finishing up spring ball last month:

OFFENSE (starters in bold)

[+] EnlargeDavis Webb
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesDavis Webb had a great spring and returns to lead the offense.
QB: Davis Webb (So.)

This one is pretty simple. Webb, who broke out in the bowl game, is loaded with potential and had a fabulous spring with 13 touchdowns and no turnovers over three open scrimmages. With no other QB on the roster, incoming freshman Patrick Mahomes will assume the backup spot by default.

RB: DeAndre Washington (Jr.), Quinton White (So.)

With Kenny Williams taking over as the starting “Raider” linebacker, Washington takes over as the starting running back. Washington has two seasons of experience and was just as productive out of the backfield as Williams was in 2013. White will have to perform in a backup role to fend off incoming four-star freshman Justin Stockton.

WR: D.J. Polite-Bray (So.), Devin Lauderdale (So.)


IR: Jakeem Grant (Jr.), Brent Mitcham (Sr.)

IR: Bradley Marquez (Sr.), Jordan Davis (Sr.)

WR: Reginald Davis (So.), Derreck Edwards (Jr.)

The playmaking potential is boundless in the speedy trio of Grant, Marquez and Davis, who combined for four touchdowns in the National University Holiday Bowl. Polite-Bray can fly, too, and made a living hauling in bombs downfield during the spring to emerge as the fourth starting receiver. With bulky tight end Jace Amaro and Eric Ward (who ranked 29th in the Big 12 in yards per catch), the Red Raiders struggled at times last season to stretch the field. With a major upgrade in speed across the board at the position, that won’t be an issue in the fall. Jordan Davis gives Tech a reliable fifth option inside when Kliff Kingsbury goes to his five wide receiver sets.

LT: Le’Raven Clark (Jr.), Poet Thomas (RFr.)

LG: Alfredo Morales (Jr.), James Polk (Sr.)

C: Jared Kaster (Jr.), Tony Morales (Jr.)

RG: Trey Keenan (So.), Baylen Brown (So.)

RT: Rashad Fortenberry (Sr.), Josh Outlaw (RFr.)

The offensive line two-deep could undergo a transformation once junior-college transfer Dominique Robertson arrives in the summer. Offensive line coach Lee Hays has said that he would consider swinging Clark to guard to boost the run game, should Robertson show up ready to play. Hays was given this option after Fortenberry was awarded another year of eligibility in the spring. At the moment, right guard is the biggest question up front, but if Clark were to slide inside, he and Morales could team up to give the Red Raiders a powerful run-blocking duo at the guard spots.

DEFENSE

DE: Branden Jackson (Jr.), Zach Barnes (So.)

NG: Jackson Richards (Jr.), Donte Phillips (Jr.)

DT: Demetrius Alston (Jr.), Keland McElrath (Jr.)

This appears to be the biggest question on the entire team. Jackson is coming off a solid sophomore season, with nine tackles for loss and four sacks. But Tech, which finished next-to-last in run defense in 2013, got pushed around in Big 12 play with the unit its currently projecting to start. That’s why Tech signed four juco defensive linemen -- Brandon Thorpe, Marcus Smith, Rika Levi and McElrath – in its 2014 class. To toughen up their front, the Red Raiders will need at least a couple of those jucos to pan out.

BANDIT: Pete Robertson (Jr.), Kris Williams (So.)

WLB: V.J. Fehoko (Sr.), Malik Jenkins (So.)

MLB: Sam Eguavoen (Sr.), Micah Awe (Jr.)

RAIDER: Kenny Williams (Sr.), Austin Stewart (Sr.)

This is a unit that really came together over the spring. What started as an experiment could result in the Red Raiders uncovering their answer at the “Raider” linebacking spot vacated by Terrance Bullitt. Even though he sat out the spring game, Williams had a tremendous run of practices at the position and was rewarded with a spot atop the depth chart. Elsewhere, the Red Raiders are in good shape. Robertson was an honorable mention All-Big 12 performer last season, and Eguavoen and Awe were third and sixth on the team in tackles. Some big-time help could be on the way this summer, too. Former Ohio State linebacker Mike Mitchell, who was an ESPN 300 recruit last season, attended Texas Tech’s spring game and could be in line for a hardship waiver to play immediately at his next school.

BC: Justis Nelson (So.), Thierry Nguema (So.)

FS: J.J. Gaines (So.), Jalen Barnes (RFr.)

SS: Keenon Ward (So.), Dorian Crawford (Sr.)

FC: Dee Paul (So.)

The Red Raiders have reason to be cautiously optimistic about their young secondary. Gaines was performing at a high level last fall before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury five games into the year. He was a limited participant during spring ball and should be good-to-go again for the fall. Ward had an MVP spring, laying out several receivers with big hits to solidify the other safety job. Nelson returns after starting as a true freshman, essentially leaving the field cornerback spot as the only lingering competition. Nigel Bethel II, the four-star gem of the 2014 recruiting class, has the talent to vie for that job when he arrives on campus. Even though he didn't appear on the depth chart, safety transfer Josh Keys, who did enroll early, could add valuable depth once he settles into coordinator Matt Wallerstedt’s scheme.

Texas Tech spring game review

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
3:00
PM CT
LUBBOCK, Texas -- With a school-record crowd of 19,500 in attendance, Texas Tech finished its spring schedule with a two-hour spring game at Jones AT&T Stadium. Here’s what we learned from the game:

Best offensive performance: A bulked-up Davis Webb put on a show, completing 25 of 37 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns. Most of his reps came in the first half, and he showed off some impressive touch on his TD throws -- his 23-yard score to Bradley Marquez under pressure was a gem. The sophomore QB even added a long touchdown run that was called back. And for what it’s worth, Webb was even better in Tech’s previous open scrimmages this spring. He’s just no fun to defend, and his coaches will vouch for that. “He’s driving me to drink Pepto-Bismol,” defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt joked after the game.

[+] EnlargeKliff Kingsbury
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsKliff Kingsbury said his team will start the season with a lot more confidence than last year.
Best defensive performance: Got to give credit to Josh Keys for being opportunistic. The junior college transfer safety scooped up a fumble that rolled right to him at the end of the first quarter and scored from 22 yards out. That takeaway, a strip after a screen pass, had to be encouraging for a defense that ranked third-worst in FBS with a turnover margin of minus-14 last season. Redshirt freshman linebacker Collin Bowen also snagged an interception.

Best debut: This wasn’t a true debut, since he did play some special teams last season, but receiver Brent Mitcham made a nice impression. The senior spent three years on the scout team and had a minimal role in 2013 but stepped up on Saturday with a game-high six receptions for 80 yards. The best of the bunch was a catch over the middle that Mitcham turned and took down the sideline for a 41-yard gain.

Notable play: On a play-action pass in the first quarter, Webb rolled right, planted and fired a pass toward the opposite hash to a wide-open Jakeem Grant. The speedster made a defender miss along the sideline and cut across the field for a 75-yard touchdown. Grant finished with 105 yards on five receptions.

Developing storyline: Help is still on the way for this Texas Tech defense. Much will be expected of ESPN 300 cornerback signee Nigel Bethel II and junior college transfers Rika Levi, Brandon Thorpe and Marcus Smith when they arrive this summer. You should see a few more freshmen (maybe safety Payton Hendrix and linebacker Dakota Allen) fight their way into the two-deep. “As all of our guys get here in June and we have a monster summer, this thing will look a little different than even what it looked like today,” Wallerstedt said.

Biggest question answered: Can Texas Tech’s receivers make up for the loss of Eric Ward and Jace Amaro? From a statistical standpoint, they will go down as two of the all-time greats among Red Raider pass-catchers, but Webb is confident this group can be even better. In addition to Grant and Marquez, he singled out Reginald Davis, D.J. Polite-Bray, Devin Lauderdale and Derreck Edwards as playmakers he’s excited to utilize this fall. “This is the fastest receiving group I’ve known since I’ve ever watched Texas Tech football,” Webb said.

Quotable: "We have a lot more confidence than last year. Last year, we just tried to install and the guys are trying to figure us out and figure out our expectations. They know what they can be after that bowl game and carry that confidence over to being a top-15 team. They know what they can be if they put it all together, so that's exciting." -- Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury

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