Entering preseason camp 2012, the Texas Tech football team
arguably has more question marks than exclamation points. That’s what happens
when you’re coming off a losing season and sporting a retooled coaching staff.
Tommy Tuberville and his team will need to resolve the following issues in
particular if the squad is to get off to a fast start this season.
What is the status of
the running back position? We’ve all heard that Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington are ahead of schedule in recovering from
serious knee injuries they suffered in 2011. Likewise, reassuring hearsay has
suggested that Kenny Williams’ legal troubles are trifling and will not
interfere with his participation.
But we all know what they say about the pudding.
The reality is that this team will need to know where it
stands regarding Stephens, Washington and Williams before the season kicks off.
Will the former two be anything like their old selves early in the season? Or
will they be shadows of their former selves?
Can the team count on Williams being in the lineup, or will
his status be in limbo?
And if the answers to these questions are not favorable, can
SaDale Foster and true freshman Quinton White carry
Will the offensive
line gel and become physical? On paper, the Red Raider offensive line looks
impressive. Several of its players have sterling high school pedigrees, and
most of them are ideal from a size standpoint.
Despite appearances, however, there are some nagging doubts.
Left tackle LaAdrian Waddle is a
prime NFL prospect, but he has yet to put together a truly dominating season.
He has one last shot.
Left guard Beau Carpenter has drawn praise from the moment
he set foot on campus, yet is being challenged by sophomore Alfredo Morales.
Has Carpenter plateaued or is Morales just coming on real strong?
Center Deveric Gallington
is almost totally new to the position and depth behind him is questionable. If Gallington flames out or gets injured, there could be real
trouble. Contingency plans must be built.
And what of freshman Le’Ravin
Clark at right tackle? His performance in the spring was not reassuring. Will
he develop, and if not, is Texas A&M transfer Brian Thomas far enough along
in the system to take over?
Are the defensive
tackles salty enough for the Big 12? If you don’t have defensive tackles,
your defense doesn’t have a chance. They anchor the defense, but if that anchor
is actually a bobber, every offense will exploit the weakness without remorse.
This problem plagued Tech’s dreadful defense last season.
Kerry Hyder, Dennell
Wesley and Delvon Simmons are a year older. JUCO all
everything Leon Mackey has moved inside to lend a hand. And newcomers Lee Adams
and Donte Phillips will also pitch in.
But is that group really good enough? It contains no All Big
12 candidates, and with the exception of Wesley, is light in the britches.
The bottom line here is that there is enormous pressure on
guys like Hyder, Simmons and Mackey to really rise to
the occasion. If they don’t, new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman will be
fighting a rearguard action all season.
What will Tech get
out of Cody Davis and D. J. Johnson? Kaufman has publicly expressed his
approval of the spring performances of starting safeties Johnson and Davis. In
particular, he rated Davis as one of the defense’s two best performers in
spring camp. But to this observer, certain concerns persist.
Davis, indeed, was excellent in run support during the spring.
He actually looked a lot like Terrance Bullitt when Bullitt is fully healthy.
And that’s a real compliment.
But is Davis instinctive enough and does he have the lateral
movement to blanket the deep third of the field side in coverage?
With Johnson the issue is consistency. He has as much big
play ability as anybody on defense, but also disappears at times. Johnson blows
hot and cold. The 2012 defense will need him to bring the stink game in and