Among the major reasons college coaches enjoy the bowl system is the extra practice time it affords their teams.
Squads playing in the postseason are allowed 15 additional sessions after the regular season. It is time different coaches use in different ways, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a coach who doesn’t relish the opportunity to work with players for a couple extra weeks.
So how will Tech and coach Tommy Tuberville use the extra practices, the first of which begins for the Red Raiders on Friday, as they prepare to face Minnesota in Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on Dec. 28?
Reps for youth
The first portion of Tech’s bowl practices are likely to have a spring-ball look to them, as the Red Raiders aim to give substantial repetitions to players who are redshirting, or to young players who are in part-time roles now.
That starts at the quarterback position. Michael Brewer will certainly have a leg up on the competition heading into spring practice after completing 33 of 47 passes for 362 yards and three touchdowns in spot action this season behind Seth Doege. Brewer said last month he is eager for the bowl practices after missing out on that development a year ago, when he was redshirting.
“I think it’s going to be big,” Brewer said. “We missed out on that last year. This year we’re going to be able to get some practices together and see what the team is going to be like next year both offensively and defensively. It’s basically just extra practice leading up to spring ball, and I think it’s good that we’ll be able to get those practices in. This year we’re starting spring ball pretty early — I think Feb. 13 — and really having some momentum going into spring ball, hopefully we can build on it from there.”
Tech has tried to use Brewer a few different ways in recent weeks — he lined up as a receiver, caught a lateral, then threw incomplete against Baylor — and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the staff find a way to use the freshman in the bowl game, thus affording him some valuable big-game experience.
Speaking to a Lubbock radio station earlier this week, Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown said Brewer “is the leader in the clubhouse” heading into spring’s quarterback race, but Clayton Nicholas and Dustin Walton should get repetitions during the bowl-practice period, as well.
The practice time for young players will extend past the quarterback spot, as coaches aim to take a closer and players on the roster who could contribute next season.
“It’s going to be fun for our players,” Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said, “but we’re going to work them awfully hard.”
But not every player will be going hard from the start of Friday’s practice. Tuberville said this week the team still has a handful of players nursing injuries following a stretch that saw the Red Raiders play games nine weeks in a row.
“We got beat up physically and mentally,” Tuberville said. “Hopefully we can get a couple of guys healthy where we can be a little bit better going into the bowl game.”
Senior wide receiver Alex Torres missed the last two games of the regular season with a back injury, while offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who was named to the Associated Press All-Big 12 first team Wednesday, had to fight through a knee injury in order to play against Baylor.
Veteran players like those two will likely work their way slowly through bowl practices as they aim to return healthy for the final college games of their careers.
“We have 16 or 17 seniors,” Tuberville said, “and it will be their last time, most of them, to put on a helmet and shoulder pads. We want those guys to especially have a great time and understand that this game is really for them.”
The biggest question mark from an injury standpoint for Tech is whether sophomore tight end Jace Amaro will be able to play. Amaro has been out since Oct. 13 with an undisclosed injury stemming from a hit to the midsection against West Virginia. He caught 23 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns in six games.
Asked during a bowl teleconference on Sunday whether Amaro will play against Minnesota, Tuberville said he is still unsure.
“We’re not going to play anybody that’s not 100 percent healthy,” he said, “so we’ll have to wait and see in the next couple weeks.”
Just as they would whether Tech made a bowl game or not, most of the team’s coaches will spend parts of the next month on the recruiting trail trying to add a few more key pieces to the class before national signing day in February.
But playing in a bowl game helps in that recruits who Tech hosts on its campus, including a number of them this weekend, are able to attend practice and see the team’s style in person.
“Going to a bowl is priceless,” Tuberville said. “You can’t put a price tag on it for recruiting.”
Tech will try especially hard to get its name out in the Houston area this month. Tuberville said Tech has made progress there in recent years, and playing the bowl game in that city provides the opportunity to make even more gains on that front.
The same goes for Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, who also views the bowl game as an opportunity to make inroads in the Lone Star State.
“Anything like this that’s positive,” he said, “will help you get there a lot quicker than sitting at home.”
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