Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed Monday that sophomore defensive end Talor Nunez and redshirt freshman fullback Stanton Keane are out for the season with knee injuries.
Both players are former walk-ons who had begun to make a name for themselves. Nunez was placed on scholarship in August, led the team in touch sacks in preseason practices, according to co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith, and began the season as the top backup to Branden Jackson.
If Ian Sadler can’t play this week, Jonathan Giles and Zach Austin would be the 1-2 at “Y” inside receiver, Texas Tech offensive coordinator Eric Morris said Monday.
It might not work out that way in real time, though. Morris said there could be some shuffling to get the four best options on the field. Giles is a true freshman, Austin a sophomore with no career catches.
A who’s who of Texas Tech football greats is expected to be back in town this weekend in conjunction with the Red Raiders’ game Saturday against No. 3 TCU.
Zach Thomas and about 40 of Thomas’ former Tech teammates and coaches are on the list. So are former all-Americans Tracy Saul, Wes Welker, Marcus Coleman and Bam Morris, according to Rodney Allison, director of the Double T Varsity Club.
The Texas Tech offense’s preparation for Saturday's game agianst TCU comes with some guesswork, considering the Horned Frogs have lost eight projected defensive starters just since the beginning of the season.
Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury trusts TCU coach Gary Patterson’s reputation as a defensive whiz to still field a representative unit. He said not being certain of all the names and numbers on the other side isn’t a big factor in preparation.
Jalen Barnes is not currently practicing, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said Tuesday, but remains on the team.
Kingsbury said Barnes and Derrick Dixon, both sophomore safeties, are dealing with “family issues,” but declined to elaborate. He said that’s why neither traveled for the Arkansas game last weekend.
Each played in the first two games, and Dixon has practiced this week.
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday that redshirting is a possibility for flanker Dylan Cantrell and cornerback Nigel Bethel II. Neither has played this season, Cantrell because of back issues and Bethel because of a hand injury.
“We don’t know what week would be the cutoff,” Kingsbury said, “but if neither one progressed like we’d like them to, that would definitely come into consideration.”
Cantrell’s issue was described as back spasms when he missed the season opener, and it appeared to be a short-term recovery at the time.
Tech safety Jah’Shawn Johnson on Monday was named the Big 12 Conference defensive player of the week. The 5-foot-10, 179-pound redshirt freshman was credited with 16 tackles in the Red Raiders’ 35-24 win Saturday at Arkansas.
That included a tackle behind the line on a third-and-3 play from the 4-yard line that forced Arkansas to settle for a field goal.
Johnson closed the game by stripping a fumble away from Arkansas running back Alex Collins.
The role Quinton White had last year as a third-down back has gone away, but the Texas Tech running back has started the first two games and played quite a bit.
The Red Raiders are using two-back sets frequently. That’s been White’s ticket to playing time, pairing him at fullback with DeAndre Washington or Justin Stockton at tailback.
“Those are three of our better players,” running backs coach Mike Jinks said, “and we want to try to get them on the field a little bit together, so yeah, we have (used more two-back sets).”
Redshirt freshman Justin Murphy made his first career start for Texas Tech last week at right guard and made the most of the opportunity.
Offensive line coach Lee Hays, not usually prone to exaggeration, said Murphy “played as hard as I’ve ever seen a guy play in 20 years.”
That’s saying something, given that for the last two or three years, left guard Alfredo Morales gets touted unanimously by Hays and linemates as the unit’s hardest-working player.
Offensive coordinator Eric Morris said he’s not concerned about the throws Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes has missed. Though Mahomes had a hand in six touchdowns Saturday, he twice overthrew speed receiver Devin Lauderdale and overshot Jonathan Giles another time while throwing on the run. All three would have been big plays, and Giles would have had a virtual walk-in touchdown.