Texas Tech’s discussions with Arkansas about renewing their football series predated Kliff Kingsbury’s mid-December hiring, but the Tech coach said he likes it for two reasons: Fan appeal and improving strength of schedule, which is about to be given more weight in college football’s postseason.
Tech hasn’t played such a marquee non-conference opponent since 2002 and 2003 when the Red Raiders had home-and-home series with Eli Manning-led Mississippi and North Carolina State-led Philip Rivers.
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said senior flanker Javon Bell, who missed all of spring ball for academic reasons, is no longer on the team. His Tech career appears to be over.
The speedy junior-college transfer played in four games last season, catching 17 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown before he suffered a broken foot that ended his season.
At the time he went down, Bell led the team in receiving yards and was three off the team lead in receptions.
Jordan Davis’ name isn’t written in pencil behind Jace Amaro on Texas Tech’s post-spring football depth chart.
Though he joined the program as a walk-on and has seven career catches, Davis impressed new Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury so much this spring that he’s been put on scholarship, Kingsbury said.
“He impressed me the entire spring from day one,” Kingsbury said Thursday. “He’s a great route runner. Real savvy. He has some of that (Danny) Amendola, (Wes) Welker, as far as at the top of his routes. So I’m excited about him.”
Texas Tech passed the midpoint of spring practice with its scrimmage Saturday. One of the players who made the biggest impression during the first half of spring was outside linebacker Chris Payne, a junior transfer who played in nine games last season, mostly on special teams.
That’s partly because Payne plays a spot where the expected starter, Terrance Bullitt, is limited while coming off surgery. But Payne’s play is just as big a reason.
This has been no ordinary spring practice for Texas Tech junior Jackson Richards, who’s learning not only another defense but a somewhat new position. Richards, a 4-3 defensive end his first 21/2 years on campus, is a 3-4 defensive end — actually, a tackle when a rusher such Brandon Jackson or Pete Robertson is on the line of scrimmage.
“It’s a big change,” he said after Monday’s workout at Jones AT&T Stadium. “I’m used to just playing outside the (offensive) tackle, really, not as much moving. Now we’re moving everywhere. It’s really fun.
Sophomores Branden Jackson and Pete Robertson are jostling back and forth to be first team at Tech’s bandit position, which is an outside linebacker in the 3-4 and a defensive end in the 4-3.
“Both those guys have extremely bright futures,” said co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith, who coaches the outside linebackers.
Jackson’s the bigger of the two at 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds. The 6-3 Robertson is trying to get back to 230, his playing weight last year, though he’s the more athletic of the two.
Chris Payne played in nine Texas Tech games last year, mostly on special teams, in his first season after arriving from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. But he’s making the most of the evaluation period that comes with a new coaching staff.
Co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith raved about Payne on Tuesday after the Red Raiders wrapped up their sixth session of spring practice.
Southlake Carroll graduate Peyton Williams, who transferred to Texas Tech from Colorado in January, will try to carve out a role for himself this spring as a “Y” inside receiver.
Williams suffered a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament in Carroll’s state semifinal victory in 2011, then grayshirted in the fall of 2012 at CU while he rehabbed. He decided he wanted to be back in Texas and opted for Tech, which had recruited him in high school.
Former Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville started calling Anthony Smith “Crash” after the freshman defensive tackle injured an ankle last August in a scooter accident. Teammates have another nickname for Smith: Big Snacks.
Texas Tech will operate out of both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts next season, co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith said recently. That left room for conjecture about who would line play where.
The first two days of spring ball, Kerry Hyder, Dennell Wesley and Dartwan Bush have gone with the first group in a 3-4 front. Jackson Richards rotates with Hyder at boundary-side defensive tackle, Anthony Smith backs Wesley at nose tackle, and Delvon Simmons backs Bush at field (wide side) defensive end.