Concerns at Corner: The undoubted theme of the day was Tech’s receivers burning corners on deep fades and safeties on seam routes. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the deep ball completions were innumerable.
JUCO import Bruce Jones, whom Tommy Tuberville and the defensive coaches were counting on heavily to produce, got the worst of it. Frankly, he was totally ineffective. Derrick Mays, Jeremy Reynolds and Happiness Osunde didn’t fare much better although Mays did intercept Michael Brewer’s fade pass to Derek Edwards in the end zone. And second-string safeties J. J. Gaines and Austin Stewart seemed utterly helpless against seam routes by Tyson Williams and Jace Amaro.
There was some good news though. Cornelius Douglas continues to shine. He draws big Darrin Moore on a regular basis and wins probably 75 percent of those battles. Eugene Neboh was decent at boundary corner, getting burned only once by Eric Ward in the end zone on a fade. Additionally, Brandon Bagley turned in two fine plays against Dominique Wheeler, breaking up fades both times. If today’s scrimmage is any indication, he may be Tech’s third corner.
At the end of the day, it is evident that Douglas and Neboh must remain healthy or the Tech defense will be devastatingly vulnerable to the deep passing attack.
Jittery O-Line: First, it should be noted that the offensive line was down four men. Starters Beau Carpenter and Terry McDaniel were out, as was key backup Bryan Thomas and possible rotation guy Matt Wilson. Consequently, many raw and inexperienced linemen played heavy reps. One result was no less than nine false start penalties. Depending upon the future health of the missing quartet, these linemen will have to grow up early or the offense will be behind the 8-ball.
Mismatch: It is entirely understandable that the Tech coaching staff is in love with the idea that Pete Robertson can provide the team with a major pass-rushing threat and the speed to track down opposing ball-carriers like a Tomahawk missile. But the reality is that, at least today, Robertson generated no heat while facing off against LaAdrian Waddle. What’s worse, most of the offense’s big running plays came right at Robertson. I fear that Robertson, who was in the starting lineup, will be more of a liability than an asset at his current listed weight of 220 pounds. Just for the record, he was giving up 110 pounds to Waddle.
No-Play Tre: Possibly the biggest disappointment so far in this camp has been the performance of Tre Porter. Simply put, he has done nothing so far. Tech’s secondary sorely needs a player who can make big plays, and Porter, who is currently number one at the nickel position, has the range and athleticism to do just that. But so far, he has not. Jarvis Phillips, Porter’s backup, was the better player today.
Bringing Back the Excitement: Based on today’s brief special teams workout, it appears Jakeem Grant will be Tech’s primary kick returner. If the new kickoff rules haven’t effectively eliminated this play from college football, Grant promises to provide the Red Raiders with a kick return threat that has not been seen in these parts in many a moon. He’s got the burst and fearlessness to be absolutely lethal in this role.
Quarterback Comparison: Seth Doege and Michael Brewer both had very good outings. So much so that there’s not much separating the two. Brewer may have been a bit slightly more accurate overall with his passes, but three interceptions, one in skeleton drills and two in goal-line situations during the scrimmage, hand Doege the edge. Doege made very, very few mistakes.
Running Back Report: Deandre Washington and Eric Stephens, as a precaution, sat out the scrimmage. In their stead, Kenny Williams and Sadale Foster did well. This duo is the classic thunder-and-lightning combination. Williams is a good, straight-ahead power back while Foster is as slick and slippery as an eel in the open field. Foster’s play today suggests that his emergence in the spring was no fluke. He is a legitimate Big 12 back.
Mackey Making Noise: One positive on the defensive side of the ball was Leon Mackey. There is little doubt in my mind that he is Tech’s most disruptive defensive tackle right now. The suspicion here is that he will be very difficult to keep out of the starting lineup.
Wide and Long: Something we’ve seen throughout fall camp and even more so today, is the Tech offense’s tendency to throw the deep ball and to run reverses and end arounds. Neal Brown has indicated he wants to increase the explosiveness of the passing game, and the plethora of fades, seams and go routes suggests he wasn’t just a-woofin’.
During a recent press conference, Tommy Tuberville made the astonishing statement that he’d like to run end arounds and reverses seven to 10 times per game. One might have chalked that statement up to coaching hyperbole or a touch of sun stroke, but the play-calling in the scrimmage suggests Tuberville wasn’t exaggerating.
The reality is that the Red Raiders have the size, and more important, the speed to make these tactics work. If what we’ve seen so far holds true, Tech will have a very exciting offense in 2012.
One More Weapon: On those rare occasions that the Red Raider offense stalls, points should still be in the offing thanks to kicker Ryan Bustin. Kicking into a slight headwind, Bustin nailed all five of his field goal attempts, with a long of 45 yards. And the majority of those kicks were dead center and high above the crossbar. Based solely on practice performance, Bustin is the most impressive Tech kicker I’ve seen in the last seven years.