Red Raider Gridiron | Douglas and Smith Make Impact and Stephens Ranked Too Low

LUBBOCK TX - SEPTEMBER 18: Running back Eric Stephens #24 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders is tackled by Jackson Jeffcoat #44 of the Texas Longhorns at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 18 2010 in Lubbock Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

THINGS LEARNED THIS SPRING |'s Joe Yeager writes about three things we learned this spring, including the idea that the defense was better and that having Cornelius Douglas and Will Smith will help significantly:

As great a job as Kaufman and company appear to be doing, not all credit should go to the coaches. The defensive players have also had a little something to do with the defense’s success. Specifically, cornerback Cornelius Douglas and middle linebacker Will Smith are making a world of difference.

After transferring from receiver, Douglas has adapted so naturally to the cornerback position one wonders where he’d be right now if he’d been recruited as a cornerback. Probably the NFL.

And Smith is Kaufman’s coach on the field. He’s a football sponge who has immediately made the defense much better because of his knowledge of the game and his confidence.

I'm still having a tough time wrapping my head around how big of an impact Smith will make and I'm very hesitant to think that Douglas can step into a #1 cornerback spot with a couple of games last year and a spring to make the transition from receiver to cornerback. But Yeager was at a lot of practices and has a lot of faith in Douglas. At the spring game, Douglas was pretty darned good and was running with receivers step-for-step. Smith was the star of the defense during the spring game and I'm guessing that may go for the entire spring. Hope springs eternal.

ATHLON RANKS BIG 12 RUNNING BACKS | Athlon ranks the Big 12 running backs and I don't think that RB Eric Stephens should be 6th on the list. It's just a list and it is intended to create discussion, but Stephens was leading the Big 12 in rushing prior to his injury. Athlon mentions his injury and if they are discounting Stephens because of the injury, then fine, but I think he deserves a higher ranking that's fine, but Athlon is also giving credit to players that haven't proven their ranking on the field either (OU's Trey Millard is one that probably has a ton of potential, but also just rushed for 169 yards last year . . . for the season).

INSTANT IMPACT | Dave Campbell's Greg Tepper has been running through the freshmen in the state of Texas that he thinks will make an immediate impact at their respective colleges. Tepper didn't give the nod to the top four freshmen, but did think that CB Theirry Nguema and CB LaDarius Newbold would make an immediate impact in the eight through five rankings:

The CB position was a problematic area for Texas Tech last year, so the Red Raiders will need to do anything within their power to fix it. That may result in a chance to see the field for Nguema, who wasn't highly recruited out of Corona (Calif.) Santiago High, but his early enrollment gives him a jumpstart on the five other DBs Tech signed. One of those five, LaDarius Newbold, is the exact opposite: heavily-recruited but not arriving until the summer. I expect one of these players to skip the redshirt season and play this fall.

I think that DT's Michael Starts, Anthony Smith and J.J. Loller have a better chance of making an impact, but it's a good debate and Newbold was probably one of the more highly rated players in the class, especially defensively, just behind Michael Starts.

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