April 17, 2014

Texas Tour: Texas Tech

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

OFFENSE

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.

DEFENSE

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.

SPECIAL TEAMS

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!

Top Ten Heisman Trophy Contenders

Here is my Top Ten Heisman Trophy Contenders.  Most of these guys are already on the radar.  This list is in no particular order.

  1. Tim Tebow, Florida–He’s the defending Heisman Trophy winner, and the fist Heisman Trophy winner as a Sophomore.  And, he may have more websites dedicated to him than any other college football player.
  2. Chase Daniel, Missouri–He is important to the Missouri offense, so if he stays healthy, he is a part of the, um, chase.
  3. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech–The Air Raid offense at Texas Tech has never had this much talent.  He is big, strong, and fast.
  4. Pat White, West Virginia–WVU will depend even more on White to lead its offense with the departure of Steve Slaton.  The Mountaineers already have a website for White.
  5. James Laurinaitis, Ohio State–There is always one defensive player everyone wants in the conversation, well this him.  Destined for stardom in the NFL, not the WWE.
  6. Chris Wells, Ohio StateWells opened the BCS National Title Game against LSU with a 65 yard TD run ending the game with 146 yards rushing.
  7. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia–Moreno had a stellar Freshman season, and he only started half the games.  He really is a superstar.
  8. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech–Last year’s CFTT Offensive Player of the year.  His stats were astounding, but his efficiency may be even more so.
  9. Percy Harvin, Florida–Electrifying.  Fast.  If Harvin can stay healthy, his stats will be big.
  10. James Davis, Clemson–O.K.  I am listening to everybody else here.  I don’t know much about Clemson, but everyone seems to think that Davis will have a big year.

Possible Surprises

Mike Goodson, Texas A & M
Todd Boeckman, Ohio State
Joe McKnight, USC
LeSean McCoy, Pitt
Ian Johnson, Boise State
C. J. Spiller, Clemson

Running the Spread: SMU’s Schedule

According to Phil Steele, SMU’s schedule ranks #82, ahead of neighbors UNT (#92) and TCU (#84).  If you consider their opponents’ winning percentage, then SMU is ranked #53.  SMU plays 8 teams in 2008 who went to a bowl game in 2007.  That’s not an easy start for the June Jones era in Dallas.  Also on tap for SMU is a trip to Lubbock to face a team some are giving preseason buzz to for a run at the Big Twelve Title and maybe greater.  Without further ado, here is SMU’s schedule.

@ Rice, August 29, 2008, 7 PM
Only once did Rice hold a team to less than 29 points, and that was FCS Nicholls State.  Rice will be looking to get better on defense, but the offense returns 9 starters.

Texas State, September 6, 2008, 7 PM
The Bobcats are a member of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (you know, IAA), and this should be a good game for the Mustangs to work out some kinks before they go to Lubbock.

@ Texas Tech, September 13, 2008 6 PM
Texas Tech returns their top offensive play-makers, QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree who is from Dallas.  Crabtree and Harrell both should be on most people’s Heisman list.  Most people refer to Coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense as a spread, but it contains elements of the Run and Shoot.  In the Air Raid, one can see where the Spread meets the Run and Shoot.

TCU, September 20, 2008, 7 PM
With 14 starters back, the Frogs appear headed for another bowl game.  The offense should be much better as it improved under the guidance of Andy Dalton.  Dalton became TCU’s primary weapon at times last year with the injuries to RB’s Joseph Turner and Aaron Brown.  Both backs seem to be back and ready to go.  Defense is led by Jason Phillips and Stephen Hodge and should be another stellar TCU defense.

@ Tulane, September 25, 2008, 7 PM
The Green Wave return 15 starters from a team that was 4-8.  Gone is Tulane’s number two Career Rushing Leader, Matt Forte, who ran for 2127 yards and 23 TD’s in 2008 including 342 against SMU.  The Green Wave return 4 of their 5 top tacklers from a year ago.

@ UCF, October 4, 2008, 2:30 PM
After rushing for 2567 yards and 29 TD’s, UCF’s Kevin Smith entered the draft, and the feature back duties will be in someone else’s hands.  The Knights won last year’s C-USA title beating Tulsa in the Championship Game 44-25.  UCF returns their top 7 tacklers from 2007 and a total of 9 starters on defense.  The offense will spend its time trying to find an identity with the departure of Smith and QB Kyle Israel.

Tulsa, October 11, 2008, 7 PM
Tulsa had basically the best offense in the country last year with about 543 yards of total offense per game. It should be a battle against one of the best hurry up, no huddle, Spread Offense gurus, Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn at Tulsa, versus the premier Run and Shoot Offense guru, June Jones from SMU.  First team 60 wins.

Houston, October 18, 2008, 7 PM
The Cougars had another good year in 2007 going 8-5 earning Coach Art Briles a shot at being the head coach at a BCS program, Baylor.  Replacing him is Kevin Sumlin who was Co Offensive Coordinator at Oklahoma.  Summlin brought with him Dana Holgorsen from Texas Tech to create a high octane attack of his own.  Holgorsen and Sumlin inherit QB Case Keenum who is a natural play-maker for the Cougars.  Houston returns 7 on a defense that gave up just 366 total yards per game.

@ Navy, October 25, 2008, 2:30 PM
In Paul Johnson’s final year as head coach, Navy was the best among the service academies (5 straight) defeating Air Force (31-20) and Army (38-3) along with the long awaited victory over Notre Dame (46-44, 3 OT).  Johnson moved on to Georgia Tech, and now Navy will turn to Ken Niumatalolo.  His defense should be solid returning 8 starters, but they need to improve after giving up 36.4 points per game and 439 total yards per game.  Niumatalolo doesn’t have to replace QB Kaipo-Noa Naheaku-Enhada who accounted for 1786 total yards and 20 TD’s.

Memphis, November 8, 2008, 2 PM
The Tigers have big holes to fill at QB and RB.  If they can find someone to get the ball to their WR’s, Memphis could be a surprise contender.  The WR’s are deep and talented, but the Tigers have to find a help as they lose Martin Hankins (3220 yards, 25 TD’s) and RB Joseph Doss (806 yards, 5 TD’s).  On defense, Memphis returns 8 starters including 4 of their top 6 tacklers from a year ago.

@ UTEP, November 15, 2008, 8:05 PM
Last year the Miners were 4-8, and in 2008 they return 5 starters on offense and 7 starters on defense.  Returning QB Trevor Vittatoe passed for 3101 yards with 25 TD’s and only 7 INT’s.  Vittatoe will need all the help he can get as the top two RB’s from last year are gone leaving UTEP with with a battle between Sr. Terrell Jackson and So. Donald Buckram.  While the defense returns 7 starters, the Miners hope to leave the numbers behind.  UTEP gave up 302 yards passing per game along with 203 yards rushing per game.

Southern Miss, November 29, 2008, 2 PM
The Golden Eagles just return 10 starters for new head coach Larry Fedora but one of them is RB Damion Fletcher (1586 yards, 15 TD’s).  Southern Miss will have to replace its QB and 8 starters on defense and should consider this a rebuilding year using a lot of young, inexperienced players.

Conference USA Championship Game, December 6, 2008

Running the Spread: Video Game Arrives in Dallas

Go ahead, admit it.  When you play a game on EA Sport’s NCAA Football, you run a high octane, pass happy kind of offense.  You employ a four, five receiver shot gun formation and sling the ball around a like aSMU Helmet laser.  You probably don’t use a huddle.  You pretend your the “Mad Scientist” playing mind games with the opposing team’s coach.  And your final scores are 82-35.  It’s a rush.  Your QB probably passed for 650 yards, and you had two receivers with over 150 yards receiving.  Don’t you just love video games?

Well, the original “Mad Scientist” has arrived in Dallas, and he didn’t just bring his A-Game.  June Jones, the mastermind behind the University of Hawaii’s advance to the BCS Sugar Bowl was hired in January by SMU.  The Mustang alumni Ponied up the cash to hire Jones away from the Warriors.  And, Jones’ system is similar to playing a video game.  At least, that is what Mustang receiver Emmanuel Sanders thought.

June Jones played for “Mouse” Davis in the early 70′s, the coach who took the Run and Shoot offense and turned it into a offensive phenomenon.  Then Jones took the offense with him when he began coaching.  The Run and Shoot, which employs a spread the field type of formation, is an offense which uses a series of reads and “hot reads” to exploit the defenses weakness or tendencies.  The offense was used at the University of Houston in the 80′s where Andre Ware became a Heisman Trophy winner.  In short, the Run and Shoot is the type of offense we use when we play EA Sports’ NCAA Football.

In Dallas, Jones should have the ability to recruit better talent to play in his system, which is scary.  Jones doesn’t have to convince a young man, and even more, his mom, to come across the ocean to play football.  While in Hawaii, players only played on the mainland a few times a year.  In Dallas, players will be playing close to home almost every game.  And, Southwest Airlines, based in Dallas, has some good fares as Coach Mangino reminded us.

Furthermore,  Texas is a gold mine for college football talent.  Other teams already come to North Texas to recruit top notch talent.  With Jones in Dallas, players like Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree might not leave to play football.  Crabtree was a stand out player for Dallas’ Carter High School.  Add to the mix that Jones has a BCS Bowl on his resume, and he should see his share of big time recruit signings.  Mike Leach, the coach of Texas’ only other Run and Shoot type of offense (Air Raid), does not have that BCS Bowl on his resume.  All of these variables, I think, should make for a success at SMU with Jones as the head Pony for the fist time since returning from the “death penalty.”