His big chance
This preseason camp is a big opportunity for senior cornerback Ola Falemi. As a JC transfer last year, Falemi played little except on special teams.
Given time to settle into the program, he seized a first-team spot at cornerback in spring practice. Cornerbacks coach Kevin Curtis said this summer Falemi had some separation on other candidates but needs to keep it up to hold onto the job.
Falemi said the difference between his year one and year two is, “just knowing what you’ve got down.”
“Coming in at first, you’re kind of scared and stuff,” he said. “Now you’re comfortable and ready to go and make plays.”
Falemi said being a senior also makes a difference, because he and fellow senior Bruce Jones were told after spring they need to set a hustling example for young players in their position group.
Falemi said effort is the reason he rose to the top of the depth chart in the spring.
“I was just hustling — hustling, hustling, hustling, trying to get my name out there since I started from the bottom,” he said.
Falemi’s chances are helped inasmuch as two other candidates, senior Derrick Mays and sophomore Jeremy Reynolds, are working their way back from knee surgeries. Mays has 10 career starts over three seasons.
Defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said those two will be monitored.
“I think both those guys would be not as much volume (of work) as you typically would if you’re a hundred percent,” Wallerstedt said. “But I think it’s a day to day, practice to practice, feedback from the training staff and we’ll have to see. Do they have any flareups from their injuries? Is it hindering them or are they able to work through it?”
View from inside
Jackson Richards, a defensive end throughout his career, is getting ready for a change. As Tech converts to a 3-4 front, Richards will be a defensive tackle in the Red Raiders’ terminology.
Richards said he’s mostly lining up as a 4-technique, which is head to head against an offensive tackle. The 6-foot-4 junior from Southlake Carroll is up to 275 pounds.
“It was kind of different in the spring,” Richards said, “but we worked it all summer to where by the time we hit the start of camp it kind of set in. It wasn’t anything different.”
First-team All-Big 12 returnee Kerry Hyder is the first-teamer at tackle, backed by Richards and incoming transfer Demetrious Alston from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.
Richards started all 13 games last season, getting credit for 29 tackles, 31/2 tackles for loss and two pass breakups.
Big, but OK
Texas Tech offensive tackle Poet Thomas, a freshman signee, is listed at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds on the roster the team released Friday.
And offensive line coach Lee Hays isn’t necessarily going to quibble with that.
“Poet came in, I think, at 340,” Hays said recently, going off memory. “But it’s a good-looking 340 if it’s 340.”
Thomas, from Beverly Hills, Mich., Country Day, was listed at 6-6 and 295 when he signed in February. Hays said before training camp started that Josh Outlaw and Thomas, both offensive tackles, are in a position at which they could be called upon to play this season.
Le’Raven Clark at left tackle is a for-sure starter, but beyond him the picture at left tackle and right tackle is a question mark.
Name to remember
Cornerback Justis Nelson was one of Texas Tech’s most off-the-radar recruits in the class of 2013, coming from private Dallas Christian, but the fact Tech coaches offered him a scholarship and took his commitment seven months before signing day attests to their holding him in regard.
At 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, Nelson could be the Red Raiders’ tallest cornerback since Verone McKinley, also 6-2, in the mid-1990s. Tech coaches think his rangy build and his maturity offer potential.
Last year, Nelson caught 35 passes for 783 yards and nine touchdowns.
“He’s going to be a wild card,” said cornerbacks coach Kevin Curtis, who has Nelson to begin with. “He’s played some wide receiver, played corner. Coming from a private school, it’s the same thing like Dee Paul (from Class 1A Munday). It’s a different competition level.
“He’s a guy that wants to do good,” Curtis continued. “He wants to compete. He’s not a guy that’s coming in like a prima donna, chest out. He’s a guy that will do whatever you ask, and that’s what you want.”
Compiled by Don Williams