A position-by-position look at the Texas Tech Red Raiders heading into spring practice. "Classifications" are based on entering school next fall. "Probable Rolls" are merely guesses and welcome comments, thoughts and suggestions.
Probable Role: Starter
Nothing made me happier during the course of the year than to see Batch succeed. You're probably not going to believe me, but I thought that Batch had the ability to absolutely dominate this year.
It goes without saying that Baron Batch plays with purpose and there are few players that I've watched that I can that about. It is evident each and every play. Amazingly, Batch only finished with 759 yards for the year with 7 touchdowns and a little under 60 yards a game. The jaw-dropping statistic is that Batch averaged 6.78 yards a game on only 8.62 carries.
I'd look for Batch to get to close to 12 to 15 carries a game, especially since Leach will be breaking in a new quarterback and it might be advisable to lean on these talented running backs while Potts or whoever is under center.
Probable Role: Battling for Second String
This is where it gets interesting. Crawford had 8 carries for 2008, but was injured most of, if not all, of the season, I wonder if there's a possible redshirt available to Crawford. I like Crawford and I know that there's quite a bit of excitement about Jeffers, but to me, Crawford showed his mettle against OU in 2007. As a true freshman, Crawford carried the load when Shannon Woods was in the doghouse, and learned on the run. In 2007, Crawford averaged 3.96 yards per carry and obviously, that's not up to Batch's standards, but Crawford had a lot of things working against him in 2007, including being a first-year starter, learning to catch out of the backfield, picking up blitzing opponents and making sure not to fumble the ball. That's a lot to put on the plate of a true freshman.
Crawford's supposed biggest weakness is his breakaway speed, although if you watch Crawford's YouTubery from his high school career, he doesn't look like he lacks breakaway speed, but it appears that he probably lacks the initial burst that Batch has.
I'm not even close to being ready to write-off Crawford and I'm interested to see how Leach plays Batch, Crawford and Jeffers. I also wonder if Crawford has the mentality and ability to bulk up and play fullback, making this a position that could be a real asset.
Classification: RS Freshman
Probable Role: Battling for Second String
Much like Doege has some buzz, I think Jeffers has quite a bit of buzz from his Thursday night performances. Previous players who excelled on Thursday night were Baron Batch, see above, and someone named Michael Crabtree. So now we have hype and I'm expecting that Jeffers will make some sort of impact on the field, whether it be in the backfield or returning punts. In reviewing Jeffers' YouTubery it's apparent that Jeffers is well-accustomed to making people miss, you had better not try to leg-tackle him and he's not afraid of a little contact.
Jeffers biggest adjustment will be in the passing game and he'll have to pick up the finer points of picking up blitzing opponents, something that Woods did with incredible efficiency last year and despite Woods' faults, he was very effective at protecting his quarterback.
I'd also love to see Jeffers return kicks. I want to see this guy get as many touches during a game as possible.
Probable Role: Scout Team and Redshirt
Stephens is the smallest of the backs that Leach has recruited recently and he's more of a jitter-bug type of back rather than what we've seen from Batch this past year. Ranking wise, Stephens was the #6 all-purpose back in the 2009 recruiting class, so there's certainly a little bit of hype behind his 4-star rating. I've seen very little film on Stephens, but you can expect that he'll redshirt and spend some time playing on Thursday nights making a name for himself.
Much like quarterbacks, Leach has recruited one running back the past few seasons. Leach signed two backs in the 2007 season when he signed Crawford and Jared Flannel, but with Flannel moving to the defensive side of the ball last spring, I think Leach is committed to recruiting at least one running back for each class from this point forward. You never know about defections and injury, but with at least one running back each class you assure yourself some consistence, although there may be an occasional class where it's necessary to sign two backs.