Texas Tech cornerback Nigel Bethel and linebacker D’Vonta Hinton both were in non-contact blue jerseys at the end of Monday’s practice.
Defensive coordinator David Gibbs and cornerbacks coach Kevin Curtis referred questions on injured players to head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who wasn’t available to the media Monday.
Bethel also was outfitted with a padded splint or cast on his left hand that extended from mid-forearm and covered several fingers.
He stayed several minutes after practice, however, getting in extra work with an assistant coach.
Texas Tech coaches have wanted a more reliable backup the last two years for Pete Robertson so that he didn’t wear down late in games and over the course of the season.
Co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith is optimistic Zach Barnes and Mike Mitchell can offer some relief to Robertson, who had 12 sacks last season. The two sophomores are battling to back up the rush end.
Running backs coach Mike Jinks said it’s too early to tell whether Corey Dauphine might redshirt this year. The 6-foot, 194-pound freshman from Port Arthur Memorial rushed for 1,215 yards last season and, the last two years, has been a state champion and a state runner-up in the 200 meters.
“What you want to do is get your program to a place where you can have a kid with that kind of talent come in and sit and wait a year,” Jinks said. “And barring injuries right now, I think we have the ability do that.”
Breiden Fehoko’s lofty reputation as a recruit seems to be translating onto the field so far.
The second-semester freshman from Honolulu Farrington is running with Texas Tech’s first-team defense, co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith said Friday, though it’s a battle between Fehoko and senior Keland McElrath for a starting job at defensive tackle.
There’s been little question since last season ended that redshirt freshman Justin Murphy would take over at right tackle, the only offensive line position where Texas Tech lacks a multi-year returning starter.
Line coach Lee Hays has said since last season that he loves Murphy’s mean streak and physical attributes, and teammates say Murphy never looked tentative or intimidated as a freshman.
“Not at all,” right guard Baylen Brown said. “He came in and owned a spot from the day he got here.”
Another year, another defensive coordinator, another challenge to Texas Tech safety Keenon Ward to show he can tackle.
New DC David Gibbs said at the start of preseason practice he has “got to get him to tackle better,” echoing something Tech coaches said about Ward after the 2013 season.
The 5-foot-9, 205-pound junior from Snyder is used to it.
Texas Tech noseguard Rika Levi wore the name “Talolo-Levi” on the back of his jersey last season. He plans to continue it to honor both his parents, though he hasn’t had his name legally changed.
“But that’s something I want to do,” he said. “Levi’s still my legal name, and I’m proud of that name, too, but I want everybody to know both my names: Talolo-Levi.”
The Tech lineman said “Levi” is father’s last name and “Talolo” his mother’s.
Texas Tech offensive line coach Lee Hays is having to preach patience to newcomer Paul Stawarz as the transfer from College of DuPage (Ill.) works back slowly from a stress fracture in one of his shins.
“I haven’t had a chance to really see Paul get out there,” Hays said. “Without hitting so far, he’s looked good.”
Stawarz (6-5, 295) is a sophomore who could help eventually at guard or tackle once his leg heals. It’s been an issue since he arrived on campus.
Texas Tech’s second-team offensive line — a big question mark — currently consists of left tackle Madison Akamnonu, left guard Emeka Okafor, center Tony Morales, right guard Robert Castaneda and right tackle Terence Steele, line coach Lee Hays said Wednesday.
Akamnonu and Steele are true freshman. Castaneda’s a redshirt freshman, Okafor a graduate transfer from Houston and Morales a fifth-year senior who’s never played because of injuries.
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury on Wednesday singled out flanker Dylan Cantrell and noseguard Rika Levi as early standouts in preseason drills.
Cantrell’s been vying with fellow junior Reginald Davis for the starting flanker job.
“He was solid last year,” Kingsbury said, “but he’s really taken that next step and made a ton of big plays. We’ve been very pleased with him.”
The 6-foot-2 Levi has dropped his weight to the current 325 pounds — 75 less than what he once weighed in junior college and down from the 348 to 350 at which he played last season.