Crimson and Cream Machine is getting together a Big 12 Roundtable. Feel free to answer these questions in the comments and we'll check in with the other Big 12 blogs that participate. Let's get to the questions.
Who are some of the new faces that emerged in the spring who could be serious playmakers for your team this fall?
There may be too many to count, especially on defense. But let's take this one unit at a time.
Offense: Every running back? I know it seems a little silly, but after struggling a bit last year, playing a true freshman in Crawford, the running backs appeared to have stepped up and incumbent Shannon Woods, sophomore Aaron Crawford, and sophomore Baron Batch all want the starting position. I don't think the Red Raiders are going to have another Michael Crabtree, however, I think the conference will be generally surprised by the depth at receiver position, including Todd Walker, who could have a tremendous year if Edward Britton falters, as well as Adam James. I should also mention Detron Lewis, who will be sliding into Danny Amendola's position, which means that you're going to hear his name quite a bit in the 2008 season. Lewis is more athletic than Amendola and if he can capitalize on that athleticism, he's going to be a name the entire Big 12 talks about.
Defense: As stated above, the defense was actually the story of the spring for Texas Tech. And it's really not just one guy, it was more about the overall depth of the defense rather than one singular player. It starts up front with Chris Perry who is a transfer from Miami, who looks to add some size and ability to the nose tackle position. Middle linebacker Sam Fehoko played well all spring and is one of those guys who is just around the ball. I also think that the coaching staff is going to have an incredibly hard time keeping weakside linebacker Julius Howard off of the field, who came on strong as the spring practices concluded. Red Raider fans haven't even had a chance to see JUCO defensive ends Brandon Sesay and Brockerick Marshall. Sesay is going to be a true difference maker. McKinner Dixon really impressed during the spring game, again, he is one of multiple guys who has the chance to be a difference maker at the defensive end position. In the secondary, it's much like the running back position. One side is set with Jamar Wall, but the other side has LaRon Moore, Brent Nickerson, and Marcus Bunton all fighting for the 2nd starting cornerback position. If I had to put money on it, give me Nickerson, who has the size and speed to cover some of the bigger Big 12 receivers.
What is your biggest concern following the spring?
Left tackle. Rylan Reed, the starting left tackle for all of last year was injured in Texas Tech's bowl game victory against Virginia. The line struggled in the spring and I think the biggest part is that Reed wasn't in his normal spot. If Reed isn't able to come back then offensive line coach Matt Moore will shuffle the offensive line (at the very least moving Luis Vasquez from left guard to left tackle) to make it work, but it would work so much better with Reed in place at left tackle.
I'm also still concerned about the linebacking corp. I have confidence in certain players, but I'm still not sure the group as a whole has the necessary team speed to compete in the wide-open Big 12. This year is going to be a very big year for this relatively young unit. There's lots of options and I believe there will be plenty of opportunity for guys to step up if anyone struggles.
Any major changes (philosophy, coaching or personnel) that you are concerned or worried about?
Quite the opposite, I'm excited to see what Ruffin McNeill can do for an entire season at defensive coordinator. He's simplified the defense and is letting these guys play. If anything, I'm a little concerned about the attrition at the offensive coordinator position. Last year the Red Raiders lost Spike Dykes to Arizona and this year Dana Holgorsen left to be the offensive coordinator at Houston. We all know that Mike Leach calls the plays so the consistency of the offense should stay the say, but Leach has lost some trusted coordinators and that has to be at the very least considered when going into the 2008 season.
Looking over the 2008 which home and away game will be the most difficult?
Home: If there was ever a year for Texas Tech to take Texas, this is it. Texas Tech is a surging program and this is a perfect opportunity to establish, at the very least, that the Longhorns can't come to Lubbock expecting a win any more. Of course, the Longhorns are still the Longhorns, so their talent is still worrisome, but this is the year that it can happen.
Away: You think OU is looking to exact a little revenge from the last two years in Lubbock? OU is always tough in Norman and this year will be no different. The Sooners will be stacked at almost every position and I'm not sure that the Red Raiders are capable of going into a hostile environment and stealing away a win. I'm not sure Texas Tech is there yet.
Time for your way too early predictions (Yes, you can change them in August). Rank how you see your division finishing up next season.
- Texas Tech
- Texas A&M
- Oklahoma State