If Texas Tech had a game this Saturday, seniors Kenny Williams and Austin Stewart would be the 1-2 at Raider outside linebacker, co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith said Tuesday.
“What’s great about that is they’re both playing pretty well,” Smith said. “They’re both competing and both of them are cheering each other on. When you have two guys at a position playing well, competition makes a football team. They practice hard every day because they both want to play.”
Stewart was Terrance Bullitt’s backup last year. He was productive as a sub-package player with 39 tackles, four behind the line, two sacks, three pass breakups, a forced fumble. Coaches didn’t guarantee Stewart anything this spring, however, because he also busted assignments when given more responsibility last season.
Stewart helped himself during Saturday’s scrimmage in Midland.
“Austin Stewart graded out actually the highest of everybody in my room at outside linebacker,” Smith said. “He just had some big plays, some (pass breakups) and a sack and just moving around. He’s another guy that’s been in the system for a year.”
Raider outside linebacker was one of the team’s most unsettled positions when spring practice started. It’s also been one of the most talked about with Williams lobbying coaches for a chance to play there after being the team’s leading rusher the last two seasons.
Coaches still have to determine to what extent they can live without him at running back, a position with no proven players outside of junior DeAndre Washington. Remember, Williams and Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury have both described it not as a position switch, but Williams’ attempt to be a two-way player.
But they’ve committed to giving him a full dose of 15 spring sessions to see whether he’s part of the solution at linebacker.
“He’s doing a great job,” Smith said. “He’s picking it up. Every day he goes out there, he looks more comfortable. Right now, it’s just ironing out little things with his eyes and being in the right place.
“It’s new to him, but he’s tough and he wants to be good. He wants to be great. He’s going to will himself to be successful.”