The offseason is filled with questions, especially this year. Rather than ask those questions and not offer any solutions, I thought it would be interesting to offer theorems, i.e. all right angles are congruent, and you tell me if you think they're true or not. Here are your previous Texas Tech Football Offseason Theorems:
Returning Bright Spots
I do want to make it clear that I'm not absolutely certain that WR Darrin Moore, WR Alex Torres, WR Marcus Kennard, IR Austin Zouzalik or anyone else that's returning isn't going to make a significant leap. I tend to lean on the idea those players may just be incredibly solid role players and not much else and there's nothing wrong with that. And I don't mean to say that Torres and his 51 catches or Moore and his 49 catches are just role players, that's significant production, but not elite. For the purpose of this exercise, I wanted to focus on players that would have at least two years to make a significant impact, so my list of returning receivers consists of Eric Ward, Bradley Marquez, Aaron Fisher and Jace Amaro.
I do want to add a couple of things about Moore and Kennard. Moore was terrific in the non-conference part of the year, but caught his legs up in a reception in the Nevada game and we never really saw that type of production for the rest of the season. I think Moore is good, but for me, I don't think he has enough speed to really be playing the outside spot. I don't know where you put him, but Moore doesn't stretch the field with his speed, but he will stretch the field with his strength. As to Kennard, the staff wanted to redshirt him this year and the reason why is that he might be the most one-dimensional player on the team and most inconsistent. I'm going to do a full write-up on the catch rate, but Kennard caught only 57% of his passes last year, and although he averaged 15 yards per catch, that's not good enough. I'm guessing that Kennard told the staff that he didn't need to be redshirted and the staff relented, but against their better judgment. Kennard has tools that not many on this team have, but he could use a year of refinement. I doubt he does that, but it would make him a better player. Now, back to the other players.
There is a reason why you should hold out hope for players to improve significantly.
Eric Ward went from 6 catches as a redshirt freshman to 84 his sophomore year and to think that he started the year against Texas St. with just 2 catches for 6 yards. Ward was, by far, this team's most consistent receiver, despite the slow start, and he also proved to be the most dynamic. For the year, he finished with 84 catches, 800 yards and 10 touchdowns. I think that the best option to be an elite receiver for this team is Ward. He knows what it is like to compete in the Big 12 and he knows what it takes to be productive in this conference. That's an advantage that really no other player has. And it should also point to the idea that despite a player not making hardly any contributions, remember, just 6 catches, he absolutely exploded. That playing time as little as it was in 2010, perhaps, meant the difference between him knowing what he needed to do to be a better player and being just average in 2011.
More after the jump.
So if you hold out hope as to the success of either Jace Amaro or Bradley Marquez and having significant leaps in their improvement, then their mentor should be Ward. I think the prevailing thought was that Marquez and Amaro essentially wasted their freshman year. Marquez was actually decent, grabbing 25 passes for 240 yards and 1 touchdown while Amaro had just 7 catches for 57 yards and 2 touchdowns. That's not bad for true freshmen that didn't start at their respective positions. And despite what most of you think about the former tight end, as good as Amaro will be, I don't think he was ready to start last year. I'm not saying the former tight end should have started, but that's water under the bridge at this point. Again, look to Ward who was a blip on the radar as a redshirt freshman and just exploded onto the scene. You may not believe this, but I do believe that the time that Amaro and Marquez spent on the field was beneficial. The first time that they both got hit in the mouth, pushed around, and easily defended, I think a light goes off for every player and they realize, very quickly, that this isn't high school anymore. As good and as talented as they were, they both had to know that they needed to be better and I also believe that both Amaro and Marquez are hard-workers and what 2010 meant to them was that they needed to be significantly better. I think they will be.
Aaron Fisher is someone that I've really liked, but just hasn't made it on the field, and when he did get an opportunity last year, I thought he made some nice plays before, you guessed it, getting injured, late in the year. Fisher was originally slated to be an outside receiver (my opinion), then I think was moved inside by the prior staff and then made the transition back to the outside, which is where I think he belongs. Fisher's best game was this program's best game, Oklahoma, where he caught 3 passes for 43 yards, but was then virtually silent for the next 3 games. I don't recall seeing him in those games and I'm not sold that he's going to get a big opportunity considering the players that may be in front of Fisher on the outside. I don't know that he's deserving, but I go again to the idea that sometimes, the light clicks on and then receivers play at a different speed. Fisher will be a junior, and he was a big part of the kickoff coverage teams if I remember correctly and I remember him making a handful of plays in that regard. So even though he's not playing, he's contributing and I appreciate players that are willing to do that.
Maybe Some Redshirts
I think this is a bit far-fetched, but there is a possibility that the two freshmen receivers could make an impact: Jakeem Grant (5-6/151) and Derek Edwards (6-1/171). I really don't know any more about either of these players other than what we knew about them coming into last year, which is that they were both pretty spectacular in high school. I suspected that they would both need a year to redshirt and I'm also hopping that they gained some insight into the technical aspects of playing receiver as there is a reason why receiver is one of the toughest spots to immediately make an impact, whether that be college or the NFL.
Still, both Grant and Edwards can look to what Crabtree did and also hopefully burst on the scene, but don't hold your breath, in expecting an immediate impact. They could both look to Eric Ward, who was redshirted and then didn't contribute hardly at all as a redshirt feshman and finally came into his own last year as a sophomore. It would have been easy to give up on him, but playing receiver isn't easy and sometimes it takes time for that gift to work itself out. Grant is similar in size to the McRoy brothers, 5-6/151, so he's small, but he and the McRoy's are the fastest players on the team. Again, it's about getting them into space.
Edwards was the other receiver from last year's class and since Cornelius Douglas and Shawn Corker have moved to the defensive side of the ball, I think this opens up a window for Edwards to be ready to make an impact, maybe not this year, but next year, when Alex Torres, Tyson Williams, Marcus Kennard and Darrin Moore will all be graduating. The next year, 2013, will be Edwards and Grant's biggest opportunity.