Each of the last two weeks, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville has said injured wide receiver Darrin Moore might be able to play in the next game.
Though it’s yet to happen, Moore presumably will return at some point and trigger a coaching decision when he does: Will Tech keep two of its best pass catchers — Moore and Alex Torres — in the same spot? Two weeks ago, Torres moved from inside receiver to Moore’s flanker position and delivered big production in losses to Texas A&M and Kansas State.
Tech has four 100-yard receiving performances this season — two by Moore in the first two games and two by Torres in the last two games.
When both are available, will they stay in the same spot?
“In certain situations,” Tuberville said Monday. “It would be hard to beat Alex Torres out now. The kid catches everything that’s thrown to him. He’s had a great couple of games, but you need depth.”
Moore, a 6-foot-4, 214-pound junior, whetted the appetite of Tech fans with 21 catches and four touchdowns in the first two weeks, but has missed nearly four full games with ankle and knee injuries. Tuberville said the ankle was giving Moore problems Sunday in practice, so he doubts he’ll play in Saturday’s road game at No. 3 Oklahoma.
But the 1-2 at Moore’s spot were more than adequate the last two weeks. In a 45-40 loss to A&M, Torres made eight catches for 111 yards and a touchdown, and senior Jacoby Franks had a career-high nine receptions for 63 yards. An ankle injury kept Franks from playing in Saturday’s 41-34 loss to Kansas State, but Torres caught a career-high 12 passes for 104 yards and Tramain Swindall set up a touchdown with a 42-yard reception.
Tech ran 105 plays against A&M and 96 against K-State, so Tuberville said it wouldn’t be the worst thing to have Moore behind Torres.
“He could use a break,” Tuberville said, “but Darrin’s a good ways away from being a hundred percent, and Alex Torres is as good a receiver as there is in this league catching the football. That’s exactly what (quarterback) Seth (Doege) needs. He needs somebody that he knows when he’s going to throw it in the area, it’s going to be caught. It goes a long way when you have a lot of confidence in players.”
Torres, a 6-1, 194-pound junior from El Paso Franklin, started the first four games of the season at inside receiver in what’s usually a four-receiver offense. He said he’s played enough both outside and inside in his career to be comfortable at either.
The biggest development for Torres this season has been staying injury-free. Recurring back problems caused him to regress from 67 catches for 806 yards as a freshman to 39 for 481 as a sophomore.
“I still don’t know the exact terms or whatever it was,” he said. “All I know is my back would lock up, and I couldn’t move like I wanted to. I couldn’t cut. I couldn’t get separation from DBs. I just couldn’t run well. As a receiver, if you can’t do that, you’re pretty much shooting yourself in the foot.”
Torres said Tech trainer Arnold Gamber and his staff have “helped me out tremendously doing my exercises and staying on top of it to prevent things like that from happening.”
Split end Eric Ward has solidified the other outside spot with team highs in catches (38) and receiving touchdowns (eight). With Torres at flanker, Austin Zouzalik, Adam James and Aaron Fisher have combined for 11 catches, 110 yards and a touchdown the last two games at the position he vacated.
Torres moved to inside receiver in the middle of last season, but his height and body control have made him an attractive target for fade patterns and other vertical routes Tech outside receivers run. Tuberville didn’t disagree with a suggestion that he might be better on the outside.
“With what we’re seeing coverage-wise, I think probably right now he is,” Tuberville said. “But you get down in that red zone, and it’s awful hard to cover those 6-5 receivers (such as Moore). That’s where Darrin was so good was catching the ball and out-jumping people, because you don’t see 6-5 corners.”
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