It's another week of Spring Ball, so let's talk about the Midland Scrimmage and Kliff Kingsbury's media availability.
Kliff started off this media session by talking about the Midland scrimmage. Here's what we know so far:
Patrick Mahomes will be limited
Derrick Willies is a full go
The script will be heavily controlled
Let's break down what Kliff means by controlled. In this context, controlled does not necessarily mean that what we see will be not full-speed, but rather that we're not going to see any game-time decisions or audibles, especially not in the 3rd down situations or goal line situations. This scrimmage will not feature the offense or defense getting out of any bad situations. If the QB notices a blitzer about to come unblocked off of the edge, there will be nothing the QB can do to stop it.
This has the potential to inflate or deflate players in Spring Practices. I'm on record as not being a fan of Spring Football in general, but that doesn't mean I don't see the necessity of it. When watching these glorified practices, keep in mind the rigidness that the team is stuck in. A big pass just got completed over the heads of the DBs? They'll most likely not be in those same coverages come gametime. The OL got blitzed to death? There will be protection packages for that in the fall.
Kliff Kingsbury has still not seen Derrick Willies's incredible jump. For those of you that haven't seen it, here it is:
I can't get enough of this jump. This is an obscene jump without the weighted vest and the sitting start, and it just adds to the insanity that he did it with those obstacles.
For those of you that forgot, this will be the first time we've seen Dylan Cantrell since spring of last year. The possibility of having an even split of Reginald Davis and Dylan Cantrell at outside receiver splitting playing time is great for Texas Tech. We'll always have a fresh receiver on the field. Obviously we'll need them to stay healthy, which is why we rested Cantrell all last year.
Kliff also makes a great point with the penalties. We've seen Texas Tech drives killed and opponent's drives extened due to penalties over Kliff's tenure at Texas Tech, and rest assured good fans, he knows about it and it working on it. Texas Tech cut down on the penalties in 2015, and if we continue with the improvement in 2016, we'll be even better.
Kingsbury has also talked about the position battles, which make this Spring Football more interesting than the others. We're in a situation where we have a lot of spots open, which will make these watered down practices a relatively solid metric for who's going to get the starts in the fall.
Malik Jenkins was also talked about as a guy who's getting work all over the linebacking spectrum. He's apparently learning Mike, Will, and Sam, and looks to be a big part going forward. The linebackers have a fair amount of experience coming back in 2016, and could potentially be one of the strengths of the team going forward, provided the DL does their job and keeps the OL from the defensive second level.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN THE MIDLAND SCRIMMAGE:
In the goal line scenarios, pay close attention to Breiden Fehoko, Broderick Washington, and Ondre Pipkins. The interior of the DL will more than likely be the focal point of the offensive attack, and how they react will be crucial. We're going to catch a little bit of the mettle our DL is made of in these scenarios.
Over the course of the long drives, keep your eyes on the matchups between the outside receivers and the corners, specifically how well the outside receivers block. A huge portion of DeAndre Washington's 2014-2015 success was excellent downfield blocking by Davis, Cantrell, and Lauderdale, and if our ground game is to stay consistently explosive, these edge blocks will need to be great.
A good barometer on how to stop explosive runs from happening to us is the DB's ability to shed blocks. If the DBs are able to clear the receivers out and find the ball, a 50 yard gain can be shortened to a 10 yard gain. Over time, those 10 yard gains will be shortened to 5 yard gains, and then to 2 or 3 yard gains, but right now we need to focus on stopping the explosion of the offense. A bend-but-don't-break defensive philosophy only works if you don't break every other drive.
I would keep an eye on how many carries Justin Stockton gets between the tackles. We all know about his home run hitting ability on sweeps and screens, but a lot of inside carries for Stockton could indicate who's getting the starting nod at RB. If Stockton can make an impact in all facets of the running game, he might be the one toting the rock for us next year.
EDITOR'S NOTE: None of these are guaranteed to be good metrics on how far we've progressed as a team, but they are the best metrics we have at this point in time.