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.
Texas Tech’s pre-practice team meeting on Wednesday turned out to be anything but routine for Talor Nunez.
The sophomore defensive lineman from Midland Lee was told in front of the team he’d been placed on scholarship. Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury highlighted top classroom performers from the summer II session, then showed a practice clip of Nunez.
“He was just pointing out positive things,” Nunez said, “and out of nowhere — it was kind of like a left hook — he said, ‘And on top of that, you’re on scholarship.’”
Defensive tackle Josh Outlaw is wearing No. 2 during Texas Tech's preseason practice, which started Thursday.
That's a switch from the No. 58 that Outlaw wore during his first two years in the program. He's a 6-foot-4, 309-pound sophomore from Lithonia, Georgia, Martin Luther King.
Tech has four defensive linemen suiting up in single digits, the others being freshman tackle Breiden Fehoko (No. 4), sophomore defensive end Gary Moore (No. 5) and senior defensive end Branden Jackson (No. 9).
Two years ago, Texas Tech coaches compared defensive end Gary Moore’s build to that of Branden Jackson, the player he trains behind. Jackson’s grown to 6-foot-4 and 272 pounds whereas Moore, at 6-5, remains slim.
“Last time I heard, he was at 230, which for him is like 300,” defensive coordinator David Gibbs said.
Someone might call Moore skinny.
“He is,” Gibbs said, “but he is a tough, strong skinny dude.”
Moore played in 11 games as a redshirt freshman, on special teams and pass-rush packages. He was credited with seven tackles.
When Texas Tech signed five offensive linemen in February, line coach Lee Hays thought Terence Steele, being young for his class, might need the most time to develop.
He made a good first impression, though.
“I projected him to be a little bit behind, but that hasn’t been the case,” Hays said. “And his work ethic has been unbelievable. The o-line, to a man, when I asked who got the ooey gooey pie or the ooey gooey cake as hardest-working freshman at the end of the summer, they all pointed to him.”
Andre Ross has spent as much time on the sidelines as he has on the football field during his first two years at Texas Tech, derailing his bid to be a pass-rush contributor.
The senior from Calvert is running out of time, but feels prepared to make up for the lost time.
“I feel pretty healthy and strong, ready to go now,” Ross said.
Tech starts preseason practice on Thursday. Ross will compete with sophomore Gary Moore for backup snaps at defensive end behind Branden Jackson.