Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Will there be any freshman making an impact this year?

I'm glad you asked...the answer is not only yes but ABSOLUTELY YES!!! Mike Leach hauled in arguably his most talented recruiting class to date (the 2010 class might just take that title if it continues developing) and we can expect to see quite a few of these newbies playing meaningful snaps this fall.

Pearlie Graves - This beast of a DT was one of the great surprises of Tech's 2009 recruiting class. Considered a long shot at best just a few days before National Signing Day, Graves faxed in his letter of intent to the Red Raiders early in the day and provided one of the biggest surprises of NSD. Since arriving in Lubbock in June, Graves has made an impression first in the weight room and now on the practice field during fall camp. We aren't totally sure just how much PT Graves will see this fall but he's likely the 5th or 6th DT in the rotation if they are going to skip a redshirt. His progression is especially important now that Rajon Henley is moving to DE this season. If Tech's defense is going to perform close to last year's squad, keeping a fresh DLine is essential and Graves will play a key role in ensuring that the drop off is minimal (if non-existent) when Whitlock, Jones, etc comes off the field. Expect 5-8 snaps/game.

D.J. Johnson - It's not every day that you see a kid go from playing private HS ball to earning playing time as a true freshman on a Big 12 team but that's exactly what D.J. Johnson has done. Every indication is that he will be in the rotation at CB behind Wall, Moore, etc. Expect 9-12 snaps/game.

Eric Ward - Another steal in recruiting, Ward quietly enrolled at Texas Tech last January after committing to Oklahoma. He showed flashes of greatness in the spring but also has a big learning curve to crack the two deep at wideout. While Tech would prefer to not play him, nothing definite has been announced so as I write this Ward is still in contention for the last outside WR spot with Rashad Hawk. If it were up to me, I'd rather see Ward get 5-10 snaps/game instead of hoping that Hawk will finally figure it out this fall. I hate throwing around the word upside...but Ward has it and Hawk hasn't shown anything to make one think that he's on the verge of a breakout season. Also, Ward can contribute on special teams. Expect 15-20 catches, 250 yards, and 3 TD's along with spot work at kick returner

Terrance Bullitt/Daniel Cobb/Will Ford - I'm lumping these three guys together. They are all similar in size, speed, and Rivals rating as recruits. It looks like two of the three will play. Early indications were that it would be Cobb and Ford but Coach Ruff said yesterday after practice that he can comfortably announce that Bullitt and Ford will not be redshirted. He did not make any mention of Cobb. Regardless of who plays this fall, I like the fact that these guys are in the running for playing time right out of the gate. It tells me that 1) Tech is upgrading in talent on the defensive side of the ball and 2) that Ruff is going to put the best players on the field whether that are true freshman or 5th year seniors. Expect 15-18 snaps/game for each player that doesn't redshirt.

Eric Stephens - I tabbed Eric as the star of the recruiting class back in February and he appears to be all that and more so far. When Baron Batch went down with an injury, it gave Stephens the opportunity to take first team reps in practice and he has made the most of his opportunity. If nothing else, he's demonstrated that he's a viable backup to Batch and Jeffers (instead of Crawford being the 3rd man) and that he just might be the best punt returner on the roster. While it would be great to redshirt him, it doesn't look like that luxury is available with Batch's injury history and Crawford unable to consistently practice w/o having to wear a no-contact jersey. This doesn't mean that I think he's going to start taking significant carries away from Batch or Jeffers...but he'll get more than was originally planned. Expect 25-30 carries, 10 receptions, 300 total yards, and at least 2 jaw dropping TD's. He will also see time at punt returner.

2009 Preseason Blog Schedule

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