We start our Texas Tour this weekend with a visit to Texas Tech. Joining us as guest blogger is Seth who is the brains behind Double T Nation. If you want to know more about the Texas Tech Red Raiders, I highly recommend visiting Double T Nation for your Red Raider fix.
By Seth of Double T Nation
This may be the most explosive offense in Texas Tech history and much of the reason for that is the return of Graham Harrell at quarterback and Michael Crabtree at receiver. For the first time in the Mike Leach era he returns a quarterback for the third year, making Graham Harrell’s tenure with the Texas Tech offense unprecedented. Harrell (512 completions; 713 attempts; 5,705 yards; 48 touchdowns) returns as the NCAA leader in total offense and is primed to have another outstanding year at Texas Tech.
Harrell’s options at receiver begin with Michael Crabtree, who led the world in recieving (134 receptions; 1,962 yards; 22 touchdowns). Crabtree is a true difference maker, who is incredibly gifted in the open field, probably because his background is a quarterback in high school. In addition to returning Crabtree, the Red Raiders also return Eric Morris (75 receptions; 767 yards; 9 touchdowns) and Edward Britton (48 receptions; 631 yards; 4 touchdowns). The lone starter that Texas Tech has to replace on offense is Danny Amendola and many are expecting Detron Lewis (10 receptions; 120 yards; 3 touchdowns) to be an upgrade over Amendola as he may be a more athletically gifted receiver.
Running back is still a three horse race, and possibly a 4 horse race depending on how things shake out during fall practices. The Texas Tech running game last year was poor, even for Texas Tech standards, only 59 yards per game, however, this year the Red Raiders hope than Shannon Woods, Aaron Crawford, or Baron Batch will all be able to carry the load and increase the rushing production. Woods is perhaps the most talented of the three runners but has had off-field issues. Crawford has the size that most Texas Tech running backs haven’t had but lacks the speed of Woods. While Batch is an attractive combination of both Crawford’s size and Woods’ speed.
The entire offensive line returns for Texas Tech, led by all-conference Louis Vasquez (6-6/335) at left guard. Rylan Reed (6-7/305), who is a cancer survivor, played minor league baseball, shattered his ankle against Virginia in the Gator Bowl and recently broke Texas Tech’s bench press record at 625 pounds returns at left tackle. Rounding out the massive Texas Tech offensive line is Brandon Carter (6-7/354) at right guard and Marlon Wynn (6-6/325) at right tackle and the lone position battle along the line is at center where Stephen Hamby (6-3/292) and Shawn Byrnes (6-4/295) are battling it out this fall to determine the starter, although both expect to play quite a bit this fall.
Much like the Texas Tech offense, the Texas Tech defense is returning almost everyone. Gone is Joe Garcia at safety, Paul Williams at linebacker, and Chris Parker at cornerback.
Starting up front, Colby Whitlock (47 tackles; 8.5 tackles for loss; 2 sacks), a freshman All-American, returns for his sophomore season at nose tackle while junior Rajon Henley returns at defensive tackle (45 tackles; 7.5 tackles for loss; 4.5 sacks). At the defensive end position, incumbent starter Jake Ratliff (26 tackles; 3 tackles for loss; 1 sack) could be replaced by Brandon Sesay, a highly recruited junior college end. Also at the left end position is Brandon Sharpe, another JUCO recruit who redshirted last year due to injury. Brandon Williams (44 tackles; 12 tackles for loss; 5.5 sacks) hopes to build on a strong sophomore season and returns at the other defensive end position, while Daniel Howard (23 tackles; 6 tackles for loss; 3 sacks), a guy who’s motor continually runs and never stops, is Williams’ top backup. Currently, McKinner Dixon is a question mark at defensive end due to eligibility issues.
The linebacker position returns quite a bit of experience and youth all at the same time. At the strong side, true sophomore Bront Bird (16 tackles; 1 tackles for loss) is your starter, while redshirt freshman Tyrone Sonier backs him up. Brian Duncan (69 tackles; 4 tackles for loss) is your starter in the middle, while bowling ball Victor Hunter, at 5-11/265 (28 tackles; 4.5 tackles for loss) backs up Duncan and Sam Fehoko, another redshirt freshman, and former Hawaii defensive player of the year expects to see some action. Marlon Williams (81 tackles; 1 tackles for loss) is your weakside while uber-fast Blake Collier (11 tackles; 2 tackles for loss) backs up Williams.
In the secondary, another All-Big 12 player, junior cornerback Jamar Wall (54 tackles; 5 interceptions) returns on one side. Wall is tremendously gifted and the Red Raiders are set at this left corner spot. As fall practices started, the coaches determined that former receiver turned safety, now turned cornerback senior L.A. Reed was running with the first team. Reed adds quite a bit of size to the right corner spot, 6-2/212. Despite Reed’s emergence, expect LaRon Moore (8 tackles), Brent Nickerson and Pete Richardson (4 tackles) to all see quite a bit of action at cornerback, irrespective if Reed struggles or not. Darcel McBath (73 tackles; 2 interceptions), perhaps one of the more underrated players in the Big 12 returns for his senior season at free safety. The current depth chart has Daniel Charbonnet (34 tackles; 1 interceptions) backing up McBath, but could see quite a bit of time considering the number of teams running spread offenses in the Big 12. At strong safety, there are still a number of candidates vying for the job, with senior Anthony Hines (24 tackles; 1 interceptions) hopefully recovered from an injury suffered against Oklahoma and senior Lance Fuller (9 tackles) also expected to see quite a bit of time.
Sophomore Johathan LaCour is your punter and finished 3rd in the Big 12 in average (42.6) and should be even better in his second full year. Kicker is still yet to be determined as freshman Donnie Caronoa is competing with senior Cory Fowler to replace the departed Alex Trlica. Carona has the stronger leg and should assume kickoff responsibilities, however, Fowler may be a little more steady.
For more of Seth’s posts, visit Double T Nation, an Unofficial Texas Tech Red Raiders blog.
Thanks for the tour Seth!