Five Things is a handful (i.e., five) of thoughts about a single topic. Hopefully, discussion ensues.
Offensive Players Who Must Improve in 2009
There are a ton of factors that go into a team improving, but I thought that it might be good to take a look at both offensive and defensive players (later this week) who need to improve their game for Texas Tech to have a successful 2009.
Join me after the jump for a look at who I think are the offensive players who must improve in 2009.
1: WR, Edward Britton
I don't know if there's an offensive player that is more frustrating that Easy Ed. Britton has legitimate 4.4 speed and can pull away from almost any cornerback in the conference. Britton's issues, both on the field and off, started in 2006 and 2007 where he had the reputation, and in my opinion rightfully so, as a guy that dropped too many passes. I've also been somewhat frustrated with Britton's lack of consistency in each game. Granted, part of this is that Britton's first true starting year was 2008, which was the same year that Michael Crabtree burst on the scene and 2009, again, Mr. Crabtree. But I would have thought that with so much attention being given to Crabtree, that Britton would have stepped up his game in 2008 and that just didn't happen. In fact, Britton caught 48 passes for 631 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2007, but in 2008 he only caught 35 passes for 577 yards and 6 touchdowns. I know that other players like Detron Lewis came onto the scene, but I think I'd like to have a Britton that doesn't accept being out-played by someone younger, especially when Britton is gifted enough to be a lead receiver. And this spring, Britton decided that academics wasn't very impotant, leading to the Captain Mike Leach to say this:
"Ed didn’t like showing up and studying at places I felt like he needed to and like the academic people asked him to, so he can go study out there on the 50-yard line," Leach said. "We’ll take baby steps, and if he does good studying out there, we’ll decide if we’re going to actually let him practice."
Asked if Britton was on thin ice, Leach said, "I’d say that’s accurate. All guys that don’t study are on thin ice, as far as I’m concerned."
Leach said Britton was to remain out in the cold, studying for at least an hour and a half after his teammates had gone in for the day.
"If somehow he fails to do that, then that’ll be the last we ever hear of Easy Ed," Leach said.
You could probably say this about every player on this, list, but it's more true with Britton than any other player, this is all about what he wants to do to be the absolute best he can be. The ball is in his court.
2: C, Shawn Byrnes
Shawn Byrnes' story is somewhat well known. Byrnes started his sophomore season, logging 10 starts and playing in 11 games in 2007, which was the first year of offensive line coach Matt Moore. I can't necessarily be privy to all of Moore's offensive line philosphies, but what I can say is that he will play the best guy, almost regardless of position. In the fall of 2008, Stephen Hamby won the center position battle and there was no question in Byrnes' mind who won that job:
"It really hurt,'' Byrnes said. "But Hamby won it outright, and I think I could have handled it better, competed more to maybe play more and get better.''
Quite a bit has been made in that Texas Tech is replacing three starters and in reality, should Byrnes return to his 2007 form, and it sounds as if he is, then the Red Raider offensive line will be better than anticipated:
"Mainly, get my mean streak back,'' he said. "When I was a sophomore, I was a mean player. I was real dominant. Then after I got hurt, I think I lost it. I got scared. I was playing timid. That's the main thing (Moore) told me he noticed, so I want to get my mean streak back and play real physical and use my strength on the field like I used to.''
We need more of this.
3: WR, Adam James
Adam James was an integral part of the offense in 2008. He was a versitle player and he seemed to be involved in almost all of the two tight-end sets that Mike Leach ran. But this spring, things have changed and there hasn't been a peep (at least publicly) as to the cause. In fact, there was this bit about a scrimmage where Adam James, Rashad Hawk and Eric Ward received one rep (James' rep) combined in a 50 play scrimmage. That's unacceptable and for the life of me, I can't figure out why. If there's a player that needs to make improvement, both on and off the field it's James. James weighed in at 217 last spring, but he seems like the sort of player that could add an additional 20 pounds and still be incredibly effective. This is somewhat of a 180 from where James was in the spring of 2008 where he was coming off of a grayshirt year:
"It was hard last year, sitting up in the stands, watching your teammates playing,'' James said. "You want to be out there bad, but you know it's not your turn yet. And now that it's finally my turn, I'm going to do everything I can to help this team be the best it can be.''
I want that guy back.
4: RB, Aaron Crawford
It's strange to include Crawford on this list, especially as he was such an integral part of the 2007 season. Aaron Crawford, a true freshman from Tennessee, should have been redshirted his entire freshman year, but Shannon Woods dalliance with things other than football essentially left Mike Leach without any options. In fact, Crawford started the last four games of that 2007 season and played well, including an incredibly gutty performance against the Oklahoma Sooners where he carried the ball 12 times for 47 yards (some of those very late in the game). Crawford was injured in 2008, which opened the door for a Woods who found his way out of Leach's doghouse and a fully healthy Baron Batch. Now, Crawford faces competition from redshirt freshman Harrison Jeffers, who has been touted by Ruffin McNeill as the offensive player to watch in 2009 in addition to sitting out the second half of the spring with an injury. I still think Crawford has plenty left in the tank to help this team, in a number of different ways. I also hope he hasn't conceded the running back job to Jeffers.
5: WR, Lyle Leong
Am I the only one that had somewhat higher expectations for Leong last year. I know, he was playing behind Mr. Crabtree, but I still thought he could have done a little more. Leong showed promise his grayshirt freshman season as he showed that he's the type of player that can catch anything thrown his way and his statistics in 2008 were better, but his season high of catches, three, he did in three different games. And after the Kansas State game, where Leong caught 3 passes for 23 yards and 3 touchdowns, we learned that Leong had been in Leach's doghouse for much of the season:
"What he did to get in (the doghouse) is highly classified. It's deeply guarded in the bowels of Texas Tech, and it's guarded by the dogs that you saw on Harry Potter. OK?" Leach said after Texas Tech beat Kansas State 58-28 Saturday at Snyder Family Stadium. "As far as what he did to get out, just made plays. He just focused on being a great team guy and made plays."
With Crabtree gone, Leong was entering into the 2009 season as the guy at the X receiver position. But Leong was injured the entire spring. With the X receiver position still up in the air, this is Leong's time to shine, and if Leong shows up to be a different player, then Texas Tech could be a different team.