Though Texas Tech defensive line coach John Scott Jr. has been impressed with defensive tackle Demetrius Alston so far in spring practice, some others in his position group have shown up as well.
“Branden Jackson did a really nice job for us in the scrimmage (before spring break),” Scott said Tuesday. “Jackson Richards is getting better with his feet and technique. You see him looking like a different guy than he looked at times in the fall and last spring, so we’re really excited about him.”
Richards, a versatile 6-foot-4, 270-pound senior, can play multiple defensive line spots. Jackson (6-4, 263) should be the line’s best playmaker coming off nine tackles for loss, four sacks and three pass breakups as a first-time starter in 2013.
Sophomore Zach Barnes (6-3, 230) started spring as Jackson’s backup and was credited with a sack for a safety in the scrimmage. Barnes figures to have direct competition from junior-college signee Brandon Thorpe when the latter arrives this summer, so Barnes needs to take advantage of his head start this spring.
“Zach Barnes has done some really nice things rushing the passer, creating sacks,” Scott said.
One issue for Barnes is adding weight. Tech coaches believe he’s more cut out for a down defensive end rushing the passer than a linebacker in pass coverage.
“We’ve got him eating 6,000 calories a day to get his weight up — guys that have those high metabolisms,” Scott said. “But he’s doing what we’re asking him to do.”
Richards is getting some of his work inside at noseguard, along with junior Donte Phillips and sophomore Anthony Smith, two players who haven’t cracked the regular rotation so far. The arrival of junior-colleg e signees Rika Levi, a noseguard, and Marcus Smith, a noseguard or defensive tackle, figure to change the picture.
“We probably will not look the same as we go into the fall at a couple of spots inside,” Scott said. “Right now, it’s a fluid deal at the noseguard position.”