Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Notes from a visit to Texas Tech
By David Ubben
LUBBOCK, Texas -- Not having an indoor facility is a lot like having a leaky roof. Most of the time, it's not a problem. But when it rains, it's an annoyance that's too late to fix to do any good.
Tuesday, of course, it was the wind that postponed Texas Tech's practice until today. As a result, I didn't get to see Texas Tech practice, but I spent a long while with coach Tommy Tuberville and a few players during my time in Lubbock.
Tuberville is mildly irritated with the lack of an indoor practice facility, and sometimes the Red Raiders are able to practice at Frenship High School, but that poses a whole new set of problems. In fact, when I sat down in Tuberville's office, he had a mock-up of an indoor facility on his desk, a rough draft of something he had drawn up to gauge the possibility of building an indoor facility in the future.
Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville is mildly irritated with the school's lack of an indoor practice facility.
"It's not a necessity, but it's something that would really help," he said. "I just had somebody draw that up just to get the feasibility of whether it would fit here and how big it needs to be, height, and a lot of them use it for different things."
Tuberville cited his nickname of the Riverboat Gambler, which apparently transcends the field and carries over to spring practice as well. Last year, Tuberville began spring practice in mid-March, partially because he needed time to get his feet on the ground after being hired in January. This year, Tech's spring game is set for Saturday, the first in the Big 12.
"I started spring practice about three weeks before anybody even thought about spring practice," he said. "I did it for the simple fact that we've got to have more offseason. If we go 4 to 5 weeks of offseason and then have spring practice and then 2 to 3 weeks of offseason, it breaks it up too much. We've got to get stronger and quicker."
Last year, the late spring practice meant players like LaRon Moore couldn't make it back for the fall because of injuries suffered in the spring. So the gamble, of course, was that the weather in West Texas would cooperate.
"The weather was rough last year. I said, 'We can't have two years bad weather like that back-to-back, and we haven't. We've had great weather," he said. "Until today. We've got a mini-hurricane out there."
Winds were up to 50 miles per hour throughout Tuesday.
"No sense in going out there if you can't get anything done," he said.
Regardless, we touched on a wide variety of topics, and we'll have more on the Red Raiders later this week, but here's some of what Tuberville had to say.
Offense playing catchup
Tuberville readily admitted that the offense is behind where it was a year ago at this point, but what would you expect? Last year's team had two senior quarterbacks, a senior running back and two senior receivers. Even though this is spring No. 2 for Tuberville, he's working with a much younger offense as a whole this time around.
He feels like he's starting back at ground zero a bit, but the eventual upside with this group is obviously higher since they won't be here one year and gone the next like most of last year's offense.
This year will come with a few changes, but Tuberville has a good idea of what he wants. He didn't have to worry about having two quarterbacks that were ready last year, Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield came with the job. This time around, Tuberville wants to make sure he has two quarterbacks, and it may be a bit more difficult, but Jacob Karam and Seth Doege have separated themselves. It's not over yet, but Doege taken the early lead with his consistency and is getting the vast majority of reps in practice with the first team. Tuberville said, barring injury, Michael Brewer will redshirt. Like last year, Tuberville plans to officially name a starter during the second week of fall two-a-days. More on the quarterbacks is coming later.
Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege has been getting most of the reps with the first team.
He also wants his tight ends to get involved more as blockers to help establish a running game he believes the Red Raiders need. That's good news for touted recruit Jace Amaro's future, but for now, the duties have gone to Adam James, who has put on a bit of weight to fill the need.
Freshmen LB, RB impress early
Two early-enrolling freshmen have stolen the show in spring scrimmages, and Tuberville provided a bit of insight on both.
Linebacker Blake Dees has racked up tackles in both scrimmages and should be a part of the rotation at middle linebacker along with Sam Fehoko. For Dees, who Tuberville admitted has surprised him with his early impact, the coaches simplified his responsibilities, allowing his natural linebacker instincts to take over.
"He's really catching on well. He might not be a starter, but he'll play," Tuberville said. "We put him at linebacker and he plays run first. It's cut his responsibilities down and really helped him."
Another quick note: Tuberville sees safety as the strength of the defense, thanks to new nickel back Terrance Bullitt and Cody Davis. D.J. Johnson has also moved to safety from cornerback.
Running back Ronnie Daniels led the team in rushing with 80 yards on 13 carries in the second scrimmage, and the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder has made it obvious he'll play as a freshman along with Eric Stephens and Aaron Crawford. Tuberville has expressed his desire to run more two-back formations with one as a runner and the other as a blocker, and the Red Raiders have developed solid depth at the position.
Daniels had 3,000 yards as a senior in high school.
"He's just been so raw at running back, sometimes that's the best kind to have. You don't tie them down with reads and things he has to do," Tuberville said. "He just came in and just turned it loose. He's got a good frame, he's tall and physical and he's got good hands. He can play in this offense and he's been a breath of fresh air."
No Championship Weekend for Tech-Baylor, other schedule notes
Texas Tech and Baylor are set to finish the season against each other in Cowboys Stadium, and since the Big 12 Championship game no longer exists, Tech was open to the idea of moving their game to that weekend. Other games like the Lone Star Showdown and Bedlam may end up on that weekend, but the Bears and Red Raiders won't. After the championship was kaput, Jerry Jones filled the stadium with another event.
The Big 12 schedule is still in flux, but Texas Tech knows it will open its season with Texas State, have an off week and then play 11 consecutive games.