With Texas Tech starting preseason practice the first weekend of August, we’ll spend a couple of weeks looking at players for whom summer workouts will be important.
By now, most Tech fans know all there is to know about all-Big 12 candidates such as Eric Ward and Kerry Hyder. These discussions will focus on players who are less proven, but trying to work into key roles.
Under the microscope: Cornerback Martin Hill.
Bruce Jones is Texas Tech’s clear-cut No. 1 cornerback, based on production last season and performance this spring. As for the other job, Ola Falemi came out of spring practice with a bit of separation on the other candidates.
Beyond that, the position is a grab bag going into preseason workouts, partly because some of the returnees were dealing with setbacks. The most experienced corner, senior Derrick Mays, missed most of March and April workouts after arthroscopic knee surgery. Sophomore Jeremy Reynolds played in the first two games last season and intercepted a pass, then suffered a knee-ligament tear that felled him for the season and for spring practice.
There are more than a half dozen candidates, any of whom could crack the rotation with an impressive August.
Hill, a versatile transfer from Pierce College in Woodlands Hills, Calif., is one of the possibilities.
Pierce coaches used Hill in diverse ways — as a wide receiver his freshman year and as a safety, plus a little cornerback and nickel back, last season. He was a hurdler and long jumper at Lutheran North High School in St. Louis, Mo.
“He was a very good cover guy, a really good athlete who can run,” Tech cornerbacks coach Kevin Curtis said this summer. “He’s got good quick feet. He played wide receiver his first year, and those guys — if you’re capable of running routes and coming out of your (breaks) quick — normally have good feet, and he has good ball skills. He’ll be a guy that’s intriguing.”
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Hill had 26 tackles and one interception last season for a team that finished 9-2. Because Hill has played multiple spots, Tech coaches have to judge where he’ll fit their scheme best.
They’ve settled on cornerback, at least to begin with.
The No. 2 strong safety spot is open, but the plan for preseason practice is to let Dorian Crawford slug it out with Jalen Barnes to be J.J. Gaines’ backup. Crawford is a transfer who played at Humboldt State and Mt. San Antonio College, Barnes a freshman signee from Port Arthur Memorial.
While they’re doing that, Hill will try to be part of the solution at cornerback.
“He’s still learning the position,” Curtis said, “but he’s eager to learn. He was always, through the recruiting process, asking questions about what he could do to be better, different drills he could do. He’s a guy that wants to be good and wants to prove people wrong.”