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Spring preview series: Tech seeks stability at corner, depth at safety

Posted: February 15, 2012 - 3:40pm  |  Updated: February 16, 2012 - 1:26am
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Texas Tech's Cornelius Douglas impressed coaches during his brief time starting at cornerback last season.  Stephen Spillman
Stephen Spillman
Texas Tech's Cornelius Douglas impressed coaches during his brief time starting at cornerback last season.
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Seventh in a series previewing Texas Tech spring football practice.

 

When Texas Tech starts spring practice Friday, it might have the “Help Wanted” sign posted in regard to cornerbacks. Tech coach Tommy Tuberville wants to see if the late-season play of Cornelius Douglas was for real and if new defensive backs coach John Lovett can find another corner with whom to pair him.

The Red Raiders have several returnees who have started games at that position the last two years, but Tuberville said Wednesday that Douglas is the only corner he considers first team on the depth chart going into February and March workouts.

“As well as he played for us having not ever played (corner), I’m anxious to see how much better he can get going through spring and summer and then through two-a-days,” Tuberville said. “I think his upside’s huge.”

The 5-foot-9, 197-pound senior spent most of his Tech career as an inside receiver, but started the last two games of last season on defense.

“He made some mistakes,” Tuberville said, “but he covered up for a lot of it, too, just with his athletic ability.

“He’s physical. Has great acceleration to the ball. Plus, he understands football. After playing receiver, he understands routes and what they’re trying to do on the other side.”

On a unit that ranked 113th in the nation in pass defense efficiency, Tech got five starts apiece out of returnees Derrick Mays and Eugene Neboh, four from Jarvis Phillips and two each from Happiness Osunde and Douglas. Osunde’s out for the spring after knee-ligament surgery in December.

Also in the audition line are sophomore Urell Johnson and freshmen Jeremy Reynolds and Thierry Nguema.

Tuberville seemed down on the whole group for much of last season.

He released cornerbacks coach Otis Mounds when the season ended and replaced him with Lovett, who served as Tuberville’s DBs coach from 1995 to 1998 at Mississippi and his defensive coordinator from 1999 to 2001 at Auburn. Lovett is one of three new defensive assistants added in a staff shakeup.

Tuberville was reluctant to put the cornerbacks in any order beyond Douglas.

“I want John Lovett to make his own opinions,” he said. “We’ve watched film — all of it; cutups and all those things — but I intentionally want to let all these new (assistants) make their own opinions from day one about them.”

The secondary is more settled at safety. D.J. Johnson and Cody Davis were the two leading tacklers on a sieve of a defense. After making six starts at corner in 2011, junior Tre Porter will move back to safety. He started five games there late in the 2010 season, and it’s the position for which Tech coaches believe he’s better suited. A concussion caused Porter to miss the last four games, so he'll be brought back carefully over the next month.

Johnson and Davis will open spring with the first team.

“I thought they played well at times,” Tuberville said. “They improved. They were two guys probably that improved most during the year. I thought if there was a bright spot of two guys getting better in their position, those two guys were.”

Depth could be an issue with five safeties gone from the 2011 roster: Brett Dewhurst and Jared Flannel, who were seniors, and Giorgio Durham, Desmond Martin and Russell Polk, all of whom had eligibility remaining, but aren’t back.

Tuberville said the depth shortage likely will force sophomore transfer Austin Stewart from Pierce (Calif.) College to play in 2012, though he has a redshirt season available. Other safeties are Shawn Corker and J.J. Gaines, though Corker will be limited this spring coming off shoulder surgery.

Corker, a sophomore, made stops at wide receiver and cornerback before safety. Gaines, a redshirt freshman, spent the fall training first at corner and then at safety.

Tuberville said the secondary will use field corner/boundary corner and strong safety/free safety at some point, but won’t make those distinctions early in the spring.

“We want everybody to learn pretty much every position,” he said. “We eventually might play right or left corner or boundary or field corner. We’ll have them play both sides (in spring). Same thing with the safeties. We want the safeties to have to play on a tight end side and the open end side.”

 

To comment on this story:

don.williams@lubbockonline.com

• 766-8735

george.watson@lubbockonline.com

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Spring depth chart

DEFENSIVE BACKS

(* — returning starter)

Cornerback: Cornelius Douglas, Sr.; Jarvis Phillips, Jr.; Urell Johnson, So./Thierry Nguema, Fr.

Safety: *D.J. Johnson, Sr.; Tre Porter, Jr.; J.J. Gaines, Fr.

Safety: *Cody Davis, Sr.; Austin Stewart, So.

Cornerback: Derrick Mays, Jr./Eugene Neboh, Sr.; Jeremy Reynolds, Fr.

Injured/out or limited for spring: CB Happiness Osunde, Sr. (knee); S Shawn Corker, So. (shoulder); S Chris Yeakey, Sr. (knee).

Key losses: S Brett Dewhurst (10 career starts, 35 tackles last season); S Jared Flannel (22 tackles, 3 tackles for loss); CB Sawyer Vest (12 games, 13 tackles last season).

Left program/eligibility remaining: S Giorgio Durham, Sr.; S Desmond Martin, So.; S. Russell Polk, So.

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Stability?

I've been out of town for two years. What's this about stability? Heck, we've got a coach that's been to a bowl every year since he's been here. We win all our home games. The coach went 12-4 in the league in '08--'09. We don't lose games we are supposed to win. Right?

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@factsRfacts

Maybe you better recheck in with your drs Facts. You mightve been in a coma or somethin. Times changed for the better around here The Pirate - u know the one that won most of his home games and never a big game on the road - the one who NEVER beat OU or UT at their house the whole time he was here- yeah, that one - H I S T O R Y !!

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@ factsrfacts

That explains everything. From the nonsense you throw against the wall to see if it sticks on here we knew you had problems but figured it wasn't this severe. If your talking past history then compare coaches against each others accomplishments then before you went Braindead you might remember the current coach in the sec going undefeated and to a bcs game. Last time I checked leach never won the conference or went to a bcs game. Go back to sleep now

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Pride

Oh the Hancer pride, dressed in false Tech loyalty. Yep, things have changed for the better! It's kind of like the Monty Python scene from Holy Grail: "oh, it's just a flesh wound."

So when Tech is bouncing around on nothing but a torso this season and next (WVU, meet our secondary and our 1995-98 mindset), the Hancers will be there, still drunk on whatever flavor of Koolaid and excuses the Admin are then lobbying you to buy (anything but on the field facts, except those selectively chosen for spin of course).

Just a few plays from 7 wins, the wind, the OL, the injuries, the refs, Leach sabotaged things before he was fired, the talent, the coaching changes, the 5 murderous row schedule, a QB change and youth, scheme changes, departing players and depth..."Tis but a scratch"..."A scratch? Your arm's off!"..."No, it isn't" (Holy Grail 1975).

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@ lodotx

That has absolutely nothing to do with this article. The article is about the secondary, depth at corner, safeties, you know that type of thing. Stop looking into your crystal ball man... If your that smart go to Vegas

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I love it when you

I love it when you demonstrate facts about the programs history the Leachbots refer to us as Hancers. It is virtually all they have, these Leachers are so attached at the hip to the ex coach that they are willing to predict and hope for the demise of the program and the University for that matter. Then they will talk about their opinions and reference them as facts. Love this school spirit!

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@LODOTX & FactRfacts

I don't agree with your constant comments about our team heading in the wrong direction. I don't agree with most of your rants, but I don't agree with some of what the administration has done either. All want is to just enjoy seeing our team compete and win. If you want to make this about politics go to a politically blog. If you want to talk football lets talk football and get away from all this political garbage. I really don't care about "Leachers" and "Hancers", I just want to evaluate the talent, coaches and the upcoming season and root for my team. If you want to criticize the coaching staff okay. If you don't think great recruiting classes matter fine. If you want to argue coaching resumes, okay. Let's argue about football not who's side your on. Guns Up! Thanks

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@ al

Very well said Al.... At some point they have to move on

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@ al

Very well said Al.... At some point they have to move on

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@bill214

They are not going to move on. They are being paid to continue repeating the same old talking points.

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Leacher or Hancer

Does not matter what you are. Fact of the matter is, We were 5-7 last year and were embarrassed numerous times. You might say humiliated. Nearly last in defense in all of division 1 football. I have been a fan since 1979, and guess what, we have never been close to a championship (except for 2008, and that was with UT,OU, and OSU at the top of their game), and 2011 was about as far as we have been away from one ever. I don't blame you so called Hancers from blindly following your fearless leader General Custer Tupperware into little big horn, you know no better. Most of you are so young, you only know success. Fact of the matter is that the best coach that ever graced our presence at Tech was horribly wronged by a loser and his dad, and an angry set of rich good old boys that wanted all the attention and glory. As a result, our football program will not recover for a long time, but that recovery starts with restitution, and the departure of the culprits as well as the has been non-coach called Tupperware. No one wants Leach back, that is in the past, and our leadership's stupidity is now Washington State's good fortune. What the multitudes of us want is to believe once again in the inscription that is on our rings - STRIVE FOR HONOR!

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@chand298

Well said. Checks in the mail.

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