Under Construction: When writing about the spring game, one previous review (from another site) had the offensive line as woeful. I don't think the play of the offensive line was dire, but there's obviously room for improvement. The one thing that I took away from most of the scrimmage was that the line was respectable and more times than not, the line kept their man in front of them. I actually came away thinking that the line is going to be better than most people expect, something I was concerned about last year and although there's not a ton of depth, the depth that is there is actually pretty good.
The starters are as solid as you'll find. LT Terry McDaniel looks to be back for the most part after tearing up his knee last year. LG Lonnie Edwards will be an all-conference player this year. The center position will be handled nicely, whether it be Chris Olson or Justin Keown. I think I prefer Keown as I'd rather have Olson ready and available to play a handful of positions along the line. That may still happen and Olson and Keown may rotate for the next season. RG Deveric Gallington won't be perfect, but I think he can still get the job done. It's all about consistency and if Gallington falters, Olson can step in relatively easily here. With Okafor's move to a tackle position, he could probably play either tackle spot, but for now he's battling LaAdrian Waddle for the right tackle spot. OL coach has been right more times than he's been wrong and although it was probably a mistake to remove Waddle's redshirt last year, he has the ability to play. All things considered, that's not a bad line and I could see the left side being a dominant set of players.
The one thing that I dislike about how Tuberville ran the scrimmage is that it was really difficult to keep track of who was playing along the offensive line. Last year, with the team being split up fairly evenly, it was relatively easy to see who was playing and who wasn't for extended series. I lost track of who played this year and I wish that I had done a better job of watching players like Kyle Clark and Joel Gray. One of the coaches had made the comment earlier in the spring that some of the younger players needed to step up their play and although both Clark and Gray were two of the higher rated prospects coming out of their class, I get the feeling that these are the two players that need to make an impact. And this isn't an indictment on either one of these players as I still think that they have the talent to grow into fine offensive linemen. To me, the concerns regarding the depth chart can be quickly dismissed if either Clark or Gray can step up their play. Keep in mind that Gray was moved to center prior to the spring by the former staff, but I don't think he stays there. This may have been out of necessity more than anything else. Both Keown and Olson are seniors and although 2011 commit Tony Morales is supposed to fill that center position, he won't be ready to play as a true freshman. Moving past 2010, the center position is the position that concerns me the most.
Making Improvements: I'm not supposed to be impressed by the receivers numbers, but for the most part, I thought this group was pretty good during the scrimmage. I don't recall that many (maybe just a handful of dropped passes out of 102 attempts) dropped passes. The one thing that seems to be discussed more than anything else on DTN is whether or not this group of receivers is merely average or whether or not this group is near the top of the class in regards to the Big 12. There's so much that factors into how good or bad a receiving group actually is, whether it be the play of the quarterback, whether the offensive line gives the quarterback more or less time, is there an elite receiver amongst the group that elevates the play of the others, etc. Of course, it's incredibly difficult to make those types of judgment calls with this unit especially considering the turnover within the coaching staff. In any event, it was difficult to find actual receiving numbers, but did find these:
Alexander Torres : 10 receptions : 115 yards : 1 TD
Cornelius Douglas : 5 receptions : 106 yards : 1 TD
Tramain Swindall : 5 receptions : 54 yards
Detron Lewis : 5 receptions : 18 yards : 1 TD
Eric Ward : 4 receptions 51 yards : 1 TD
Harrison Jeffers : 4 receptions : 14 yards
Lyle Leong : 3 receptions : 51 yards
Jacoby Franks : 3 receptions : 41 yards
Aaron Crawford 3 receptions : 31 yards
So much more good-strong receiver talk after the jump.
It's truly difficult to find any meaning in receiving yards in a game, but I did have a couple of observations about some of the receivers. First and foremost, Tuberville has said often this spring that he wants to have essentially a 2-deep at all four receiver positions and all eight of these players see significant time. If that's the case, then I think there's a pretty good chance that you won't see a fairly dominant top four receivers. Before the 2009 season, I took a look at what it would take to replace Michael Crabtree (I fully admit that some of my predictions were wrong and I'm okay with that) and one of the things that I noted was that in 2008 the top 4 receivers accounted for 63.77% of the yards and 78.70% of the receiving touchdowns. In 2009, the top 4 receivers accounted for 57.97% of the yards and 68.42% of the touchdowns. In comparison to previous years (back to 2004) the percentage of receiving yards was the lowest of the years I compared (2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004). The touchdown percentage was pretty close to average, which was about 72%, although the 2004 team which had a ton of production from Jarrett Hicks, but little from anyone else, really drug down the average. The point with most of this is that despite my initial thought, that the touchdowns were down in terms of production, was really incorrect, it was the yards that was significantly down.
This leads me to my second thought, which was that it's the game-breaking type of receivers that will help that overall yardage. I thought going into the spring that the best play-makers on this team were playing running back, and although I still think that the running backs still have the best play-makers, consider me officially on the Eric Ward and Cornelius Douglas bandwagon. Ward looks light-years ahead of where he was last year (he played in the spring game last year, but did very little). He is so much more mature and understands the game so much more, its ridiculous. I won't dare compare him to Crabtree because that's an unfair comparison, but he's going to be very good. Douglas is right behind him. The coaches mentioned towards the end of the spring that Douglas was really impressing with his play-making ability and the kid has a motor that doesn't quit and can play.
My final point is more of a discussion point in that I think this team's best and most consistent players were mere pups and adjusting to the receiving part of this game (Crabtree comparisons must be put aside) is tough. For the most part of last year four of the teams top seven receivers (Torres, Swindall, Zouzalik and Franks) were all sophomores or redshirt freshmen. Sure, you had your Lewis, Leong and Britton, but I'd hate to dismiss this group so quickly when there's so much youth there. Now add two redshirt freshmen, Ward and Douglas, who are potentially the game-breakers of this group, and you've got an even younger group of players who may have more potential.
Impact Player: I'm supposed to give some deep answer that you're not expecting, but there's no way that I'd want to pick against RB Baron Batch. I should mention, that I thought that Lonnie Edwards was also considered fairly heavily as I think he's going to play on Sundays, but this is probably me talking over as a fan rather than being objective. Seeing Batch succeed is something that I want and hope to see and I think he's going to be as motivated as we've ever seen him. Last year, Batch rushed for a little under 900 yards and a whisker under 400 yards receiving. Breaking 1,000 yards rushing for Batch would be tremendous for him and I hope he does it.
Future Watch: It's pretty amazing that I've gone this far without so much as mentioning the quarterbacks. I was pessimistic going into the scrimmage, but at the end of the day, both Seth Doege and Jacob Karam both performed pretty well. I've preached this way too much, but I'm convinced that Leach thought that a big part of quarterback success was dependent upon the repetitions that the quarterback receivers. Both Doege and Karam received limited repetitions until Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts were injured and this may have been a blessing in disguise. Before going much further, here's their numbers:
Seth Doege : 47-68 (69.11%) : 1 INT : 530 Yards (7.79 Y/A): 5 TD
Jacob Karam : 23-34 (67.64%) : 326 Yards (9.58 Y/A): 3 TD
Last year, watching Seth Doege absolutely fail at the spring game gave me little to no confidence in his play. Then, Leach decided that Doege deserved a shot in a game after lackluster quarterback play from Taylor Potts. Again, the results weren't great, but there's no other position on the field that requires more time and experience than quarterback. In comparison to the 2009 spring game, Doege looks like a completely different quarterback. He looks so much more confident and capable. I will never forget walking onto the field after the 2009 spring game and the kid was depressed and disappointed in himself. Last year was Doege's first real opportunity to play since signing at Texas Tech and just like any other player that signs a scholarship with Texas Tech, he expects to play.
Although my memory is getting a bit fuzzy, Karam started off a bit slower, but he was awfully effective. The great thing about competition is that it forces players to step up their play and although it does seem as if there are fans that are divided between Doege and Karma, but the competition isn't and shouldn't stop. Karam does look good rolling out in the pocket. He looks comfortable throwing on the run, but truthfully, both Doege and Karam looked similar. Despite Karam's huge Y/A, a good chuck of that average was Douglas' huge yards-after-catch, although that sounds like a knock against Karam, but that catch was all Douglas.
In any event, both quarterbacks played well and there really wasn't any one thing that made me think that Doege has not made progress and Karam looks like he's done a very good job of grasping the offense. Both quarterbacks completed a high percentage of their passes and for the volume of passes, to be over 7 yards an attempt is pretty darn good.
And although I focused on the quarterback play, the original intent of this subject was to project an offensive player from the 2010 class that would have an impact in 2010. The easy, and my pick, is WR Shawn Corker. You can never have enough playmakers on your team and I think that Corker is a playmaker. However, I think that there's so much depth in front of Corker, it's hard to imagine Corker not redshirting. I suppose that because OL Beau Carpenter spent the entire spring practicing with the team that he could see some time at tight end in goal line situations, but I'd have a tough time taking off his redshirt for this limited purpose.
Optimistic 2010 Prognosis: If you can't tell already, I am overly optimistic . . . and it's only April. Call me a fool, but I think the pieces are in place for the offense to continue to put up yards and points on a regular basis. There's still a ton to be determined. How will OC Neal Brown manage a game? Will Brown and Tuberville be more conservative? Will the offense do a better job of not stalling in the redzone? There's nothing to suggest that Brown won't be able to perform at a high level, but just as the players take time, I would imagine that coaches may take time to adjust as well. And adjusting is probably my biggest concern about moving forward. I'm nervous about the offense being prepared and I'm nervous about in-game adjustments. If Tubs and Brown can put together a solid game plan and make adjustments on the fly, then I don't think this offense takes much, if any, of a drop-off in production.