Anthony Smith and J.J. Bynum share a mutual goal of making Texas Tech a better defensive football team. That’s first and foremost, but not the only aspiration for the massive defensive tackles.
One day, perhaps when the Red Raiders are both pitching a shutout and knocking on the door late in the fourth quarter, the big fellas might sidle up to offensive coordinator Neal Brown and ask to be sent in to score a touchdown.
It’s not as if they don’t know how.
Coincidentally, the 6-foot-1, 300-pound Smith and the 6-3, 280-pound Bynum were used as goal-line running backs this season by their high school teams. Smith bulled into the end zone for 10 touchdowns for Spring Westfield, and Bynum scored twice for College Station A&M Consolidated.
“It’s cool to be in there,” Bynum said, “looking the other team in the eye and seeing, ‘Oh, crap, there’s this big boy about to come at me with the ball.’”
Smith knows the feeling. Spring Westfield used not only him, but a couple of his fellow defensive tackles as short-yardage ball carriers.
“It’s been a big threat for us on the goal line — three defensive tackles that can run the ball,” Smith said.
Bynum called it “every kid’s dream to score a touchdown on Friday night.” He’s on the brink of another dream. He and Smith are among the recruits set to sign with Texas Tech when the national signing period begins today. The Red Raiders, who already signed and enrolled nine players at mid-term, are looking to add another 16 who have made commitments.
Smith and Bynum both pledged to the Red Raiders last spring and never budged.
Smith relishes the opportunity to do his part to improve a defense that ranked last in the nation against the run in 2011. That’s why he resisted the attempts by Boise State and Oklahoma State to change his mind after he pledged to Tech.
“I always knew about Tech throwing the ball across the yard, putting up major numbers,” Smith said. “But the defense hasn’t been on the map for a while, so I want to help change that. Tech is always going to score points. If we stop a few people, slow other people down, then (opponents) are going to be in trouble.”
Tech coaches no doubt are counting on the pair of young defensive tackles to be part of the long-term solution. Both are known for their strength. Bynum placed second as a state-meet powerlifter last year and has bests this season of a 755-pound squat lift, 400-pound bench press and 610-pound dead lift. He said the state record in the squat is 800 pounds.
A&M Consolidated coach David Raffield said Bynum translated the weight-room strength to the field in the fall. He made 60 tackles, 10 for losses. In addition to being a unanimous, first-team all-district choice for the third year in a row, he was honored as Class 5A third-team all-state by the Texas Sports Writers Association.
“J.J. had a tremendous senior season,” Raffield said. “He wreaked total havoc on offenses around District 12-(5A).”
As for Bynum’s work as a goal-line runnign back, Raffield said, “We actually put in a formation called ‘Chicago,’ and the play was called ‘Bear.’ It was a la the ‘Fridge.’ He just took a straight dive. I think he scored two doing it and then was a decoy on a couple of other plays like that.”
Smith wowed scouts at a Nike football combine early last year in Houston, where he posted a record 49-foot power ball throw. In that event, an athlete launches a 6.6-pound ball from chest level while on his knees.
At least a dozen Division I schools were willing to overlook the fact Smith is short. He’s strong, displays surprising quickness — he said his best 40-yard dash time is 4.85 seconds — and considers down-in, down-out effort his best asset.
“I’m an undersized, quote-unquote, defensive lineman, not the typical 6-4, 6-5 guy,” Smith said. “You really don’t find one 6-1, 300 with the motor. That’s what gives me the drive, being an underdog. I’m not the tallest, longest dude. I’ve got to make up for that with my drive.”
Bynum recently initiated the process of having his last name legally changed to Lollar. He wants to honor his mother, Lolita, taking her maiden name of Lollar because of the work she did as a single parent.
“Growing up, it’s always just been me and my mom,” he said. “I never had my father, so I didn’t see the need to carry around the last name of a man who didn’t raise me. So I wanted to change it to my mom’s maiden name.”
Bynum hopes the process is final within a few weeks.
Then someday maybe he’ll get his new name called over the Jones AT&T Stadium public-address system for a tackle or a sack ... or something even better, a chance to carry the football.
“I’ve been trying to talk coach (Tommy) Mainord into it since I committed,” Bynum said. “I’m trying to get them to see if I could return a punt or two, but I don’t think I’m going to get to.”
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TEXAS TECH COMMITMENTS
The following players have signed with or made commitments to Texas Tech. The national signing period begins Wednesday for spring-semester graduates.
Signed at mid-term (9): SaDale Foster, 5-8, 190, IR-KR, Riverside (Calif.) CC/Riverside North HS; Javon Bell, 6-0, 184, WR, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC/Jacksonville (Fla.) Ribault HS; Jared Kaster, 6-4, 268, C, Altair Rice Consolidated; Rashad Fortenberry, 6-5, 283, OT, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC/Franklinton (La.) Bowling Green HS; Lee Adams, 6-3, 265, DE, Riverside (Calif.) CC/Corona (Calif.) Centennial HS; Will Smith, 6-3, 220, OLB, Riverside (Calif.) CC/Riverside (Calif.) Notre Dame HS; Chris Payne, 5-10, 190, LB-S, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC/Columbia (S.C.) HS; Thierry Nguema, 5-11, 175, CB, Corona (Calif.) Santiago; Austin Stewart, 6-2, 200, FS, Pierce (Calif.) College/Charlotte (N.C.) Butler HS.
Oral commitments (16): Clayton Nicholas, 6-3, 210, QB, Abilene Cooper; Quinton White, 5-8, 188, RB, College Station A&M Consolidated; Keenon Ward, 5-10, 180, IR, Snyder; Reginald Davis, 6-1, 188, WR, Tenaha; Dominique Wheeler, 6-1, 175, WR, Crockett; Trey Keenan, 6-6, 270, OT, Argyle; Michael Starts, 6-4, 280, OT-DL, Waco La Vega; Chase Robison, 6-4, 225, DE, Memphis (Tenn.) Christian Brothers; J.J. Bynum, 6-3, 280, DT, College Station A&M Consolidated; Anthony Smith, 6-1, 300, DT, Spring Westfield; Micah Awe, 6-0, 196, LB, Mansfield Summit; Ryan Flannigan, 6-1, 200, LB, Sugar Land Marshall; Kris Williams, 6-2, 202, LB, Dallas Bryan Adams; Olaoluwa Falemi, 5-10, 170, CB, Los Angeles Harbor College/Wilmington (Calif.) Banning HS; Bruce Jones, 5-8, 175, CB, Riverside (Calif.) CC/Corona (Calif.) Roosevelt HS; La’Darius Newbold, 6-1, 190, CB, Lancaster.