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Spring Football: Texas Tech
May 02, 2010
By Wendell Barnhouse | Correspondent

2009: 9-4 overall, 5-3 in Big 12.
Starters returning: Offense (7), defense (6).

Tommy Tuberville has made it crystal clear: He's not at Texas Tech to just win games. He wants to win championships.

Spring practice marked the start of one of the more intriguing coaching changes this season. Mike Leach's messy departure last December paved the way for Tuberville's returning to coaching after a one-year sabbatical. The former Ole Miss and Auburn coach wants to improve the Red Raiders' commitment to defense while adding more running plays to the offensive play book.

The quarterback picture wasn't developed during spring workouts. Seniors Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield both suffered injuries that required surgery and missed about half of the practices. Their battle to be the starter won't resume until preseason practice starts in August.

Tuberville hired James Willis, the linebackers coach from national champion Alabama, to run the defense. Willis is using a 3-4 scheme. He wants Tech's defensive backs to be more aggressive and tighter with their coverage. Generating a pass rush will be a concern because five defensive linemen - 3 starters, 2 reserves - must be replaced.

Who's missing
Both defensive ends - Brandon Sharpe and Daniel Howard - are gone. Sharpe had 15 sacks last season. The defense also must replace steady cornerback Jamar Wall and linebacker Marlon Williams. The offensive line is without two starters - guard Brandon Carter and tackle Marlon Winn.

Who's new
Sophomore wide receiver Cornelius Douglas turned some heads and probably earned playing time with his solid work during the spring. Junior college transfers Scott Smith and Donald Langley should help fill some of the holes on the defensive line.

You'll hear about
The NASCAR offense. Tuberville wants to continue to Texas Tech's reputation as a pass-happy offense but he also wants a salty running game. He believes the best way to make sure both happen is to turn the Red Raiders' offense into a fast break. The goal is to run 100 plays a game. Even if that number is not achieved, Texas Tech should be able to run the ball as often as the new head coach wants while still throwing it 40 to 50 times.

Spring buzz
* In addition to Potts and Sheffield missing time, there was quite a bit of injury news coming out of spring practice. Running back Baron Batch underwent surgery for a sport hernia and is expected to return to off-season workouts in mid-June. Cornerback LaRon Moore suffered a broken bone in his right leg during the spring game and had it surgery repaired. He should be back to training in mid-July. Defensive tackle Colby Whitlock underwent surgery for a broken jaw during the last week of spring practice. He has returned to conditioning.

* Tuberville places an emphasis on speed and the regime change brought a new strength and conditioning coach (Joe Walker) his drills and weight lifting techniques emphasize building the lower body. "Now we're running before we lift, which kind of helps, because if you're tired while you're lifting, you get stronger," running back Harrison Jeffers said. "It's different. I basically like it. You get strong in the lower body and everything else.''

* While former defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill was respected and revered by his players, his replacement has been a hit. James Willis, in his first season as a defensive coordinator, has instilled an aggressiveness that the Red Raiders like. "The dude's a stud," linebacker Bront Bird said of Willis. "He knows his stuff. Sitting in a meeting room with him is incredible, how much he knows about defense."

Coach speak from Tommy Tuberville
"It's a wide-ranging defense. We won't run the same thing two times in a row. We'll be a lot like we'll be on offense. We'll be very diverse and give our guys an opportunity to use their speed. (The linebackers) will have a lot of fun, because they get to do a lot of things. … They get to play full speed. They get to blitz. They get to come from the inside, from the outside. They'll have opportunities where they'll cover receivers."
- On the new defensive schemes and philosophy.

"This is not about any one person. It's not about a coach. It's not about me or anybody else. It's about Texas Tech. If you'll make it about the school and make it about the program, then you're headed the right direction. I think if anybody points fingers at players or coaches or administrators, it's wrong. Because that's life. You've got to overcome obstacles and go on.''
- On any fans who are still upset over coach Mike Leach's departure.

"We'll do that every day, almost every day and then we'll do it as we go along in the season. We've got a long way to go to have a chance to get to the championship game and win it. But it's not just in the football part. It's in conditioning and running and lifting.''
- On the new emphasis on running after practice.

2010 Schedule
Sept. 5 SMU
Sept. 11 at New Mexico
Sept. 18 Texas*
Oct. 2 Iowa State*
Oct. 9 Baylor* (in Dallas)
Oct. 16 Oklahoma State*
Oct. 23 at Colorado*
Oct. 30 at Texas A&M*
Nov. 6 Missouri*
Nov. 13 at Oklahoma*
Nov. 20 Weber State
Nov. 27 Houston
* - Big 12 game
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