During spring practice, head coach Tommy Tuberville stated that he wanted to find 25 players on defense that he thought could play. With the season just around the corner, it's time to speculate who those 25 players might be (for offense and defense) and how they might fit into the grand scheme of things. This is not a top 25 list and the players are not listed in any particular order other than they're the top 25 players who I think will make an impact on each side of the ball. We'll alternate between offense and defense.
Defense: 25-21 (S Cody Davis; OLB Julius Howard; OLB/DE Aundrey Barr; DT Donald Langley; ILB Tyrone Sonier) | 20-16 (CB D.J. Johnson, DE/DT Scott Smith, SS Brett Dewhurst, ILB Brandon Mahoney, CB Tre'Vante Porter) | 15-11 | 10-6 | 5-1
Offense: 25-21 (IR Cornelius Douglas; TE Bo Whitney; RG Deveric Gallington; QB Steven Sheffield; C Justin Keown) | 20-16 (OL Beau Carpenter, RB Harrison Jeffers, IR Austin Zouzalik, OL Chris Olson, WR Lyle Leong)| 15-11 | 10-6 | 5-1
#15 | Derrick Mays | 5-10/166 | RS FR | H-WR
Rationale: This is a wild-card and very well probably should have picked another offensive lineman, but I decided to go with Mays based on his raw potential and speed alone. Mays is a track phenom, but even as the former staff was evaluating him, they said that he has the same acceleration as Nehemiah Glover, but with better top-end speed. Most likely, Mays won't see the field for one second, but his unique trait is that he's faster than anything, sans maybe Zouzalik, we have at the receiver position. Speed alone can be a dangerous thing and to be honest and if there's even a smidgen of ability then Mays could be an interesting prospect this year.
#14 | Mickey Okafor | 6-6/319 | JR | LT
Rationale: Okafor moved to tackle during the spring and he's lost 20-something pounds during the spring. Okafor openly admitted that he felt that he wasn't good at guard last year and the thinks he can be a great tackle. Right now, it's a four-man race at the tackle spots with Okafor, Waddle, Carpenter and McDaniel at the tackle spot and this will play itself out over the course of the fall practices. I still think that McDaniel has a leg-up on Okafor at left tackle and OL Coach Moore has said that Carpenter is really making a push to get playing time. I'm not sure if this is a case where Moore is trying to motivate his veteran linemen. Okafor played basketball in high school and I know that one of his calling-cards was that he was very athletic. Now it's up to Okafor to prove that he belongs on the line in a starting spot.
13 through 11 after the jump.
#13 | Taylor Potts | 6-5/218 | SR | QB
Rationale: My own personal opinion is that Potts sees time this year, although I think the coaching staff would prefer to play just one quarterback. My concern over Sheffield, who was better than Potts, is that he's not a big guy and due to his ability to run, he might take more of a beating and be more susceptible to injury. There's a big part of me that really roots for guys and Potts is no different. My hope is that Potts has matured a bit after starting a bulk of last year and now that he won't have so many options in OC Brown's offense, perhaps this will simplify things should he get onto the field.
#12 | Alexander Torres | 6-1/196 | SO | WR
Rationale: An absolute hidden gem. I really don't think that we knew what we had in Torres prior to last year. Who would have thought that a walk-on receiver would have such an impact on the team, leading Texas Tech in receptions and tied for second for touchdowns. Torres' contributions was an absolute blessing and the best part about Torres' last year was that he was incredibly consistent. There were only four games last year where he had two receptions: Kansas St. (blowout); Nebraska (offensive struggle); Kansas (blowout); and Michigan St. Other than that, he showed up just about every single game. Torres is not a burner, but he did solidify the spot that Crabtree had for two years and for Texas Tech to get this type of production from a guy that was a complete unknown is a blessing.
#11 | Eric Stephens | 5-8/182 | SO | RB
Rationale: Stephens made it known to the prior staff that he just wasn't going to be denied. Despite the fact that he had Batch and Jeffers in front of him, he wasn't going to sid idly by and let others play in front of him. For Texas Tech it paid off nicely as he ended up being the second leading rusher on the team and was a nice change-of-pace to Batch. Stephens' biggest contributions were on special teams as he was second in the conference at 25.72 yards per return and I think you can expect similar production from Stephens this year, except that I think he'll return a couple for a touchdown. Tuberville has said that he thinks that Batch and Stephens are SEC-starting type of running backs. I'm still trying to wrap my head around how many more carries that the running backs will get over the course of a game, but I think that Stephens gets 5-7 carries a game while Batch carries the rest of the load. I think that Stephens biggest job in front of him is figuring out how to be more involved in the passing game (only 14 receptions all year last year) as his speed and elusiveness can be just as deadly there.
Thoughts, comments, agreements and disagreements are welcome.