When Texas Tech starts preseason football practice next week, the Red Raiders will face all sorts of questions about the receiver corps while sorting through more than a dozen candidates for those positions.
But at least the unit will have a starting point with the way Eric Ward played and finished the 2011 season. A year ago at this time, the wide receiver from Wichita Falls Rider had six career catches.
He caught 84 passes — a school record 16 in the last game — and scored 11 touchdowns during Tech’s otherwise dismal 5-7 season.
“Being a Texas Tech receiver, it’s a grind — a daily grind,” Ward said of his three-year journey from touted signee to big producer. “You have to prepare yourself for every opportunity, every situation possible. I just felt like I had had good preparation and it was the right time for me, and I took advantage of the opportunity.”
Tech needs Ward to build on his breakout sophomore season, especially early. Senior Alex Torres is coming back from knee surgery, and last week Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said sophomore Jace Amaro and senior Darrin Moore “are kind of in limbo” stemmimg from legal problems dating to the spring.
Still, offensive coordinator Neal Brown lists all three as first team going into August — Torres at “H” inside receiver, Amaro at “Y” inside receiver and Moore at flanker.
Torres, who suffered a torn knee ligament in last November’s game at Missouri, might practice every other day in the preseason, Brown said, and his workouts will be closely monitored. Brown hopes Torres can play in non-conference games and be full speed when Tech starts Big 12 Conference play Sept. 29 at Iowa State.
Behind the starters, battles are in store at every position for rotation spots. On the outside, Marcus Kennard and Derreck Edwards are bracketed behind Ward at split end, and Bradley Marquez and Javon Bell are behind Moore at flanker.
Marquez, who caught 25 passes last year as a freshman, has spent the last several weeks playing baseball for the New York Mets’ rookie-league affiliate in Kingsport, Tenn. He’s scheduled to go back home to Odessa on Friday and check in for Tech’s reporting day Aug. 5, the day before practices start.
Marquez, drafted by the Mets in June 2011, was slowed recently by a quadriceps injury.
“He said he’s healthy,” Brown said. “Hopefully, when he gets back, he is.”
Inside, steady senior Austin Zouzalik and speedy redshirt freshmen Jakeem Grant and Javares McRoy are bunched behind Torres. Senior redshirt Tyson Williams and junior Aaron Fisher back up Amaro.
If those aren’t enough to consider, Brown said he expects redshirt transfer Jordan Davis to be a factor at both inside spots, based on his strong finish to the spring.
That’s 14 receivers, not counting true freshmen, contending to crack a top eight to 10.
Brown said it’s still possible the team could sit a veteran who has a redshirt year available to reduce the bite of losing five senior receivers when the season ends.
“We want to get it down to eight,” he said, “and if we can afford to redshirt somebody, we will.”
Although the Red Raiders have a lot of options at receiver, the lack of depth at tight end could be a concern, Brown said. Amaro’s the only scholarship tight end on the roster, but Tech will want two for when short-yardage situations crop up.
Those duties could fall to fullback Omar Ontiveros and-or backup right tackle Matt Wilson.
“Omar Ontiveros has put on enough weight. He’s about 245 now,” Brown said. “And there’s a couple of offensive linemen we can use there. Matt Wilson moves well. He played some tight end in high school.”
Texas Tech’s preseason depth chart at receiver, according to offensive coordinator Neal Brown.
SE: Eric Ward, Jr.; Marcus Kennard, Sr.; Derreck Edwards, Fr.; Dominique Wheeler, Fr.
IR (H): Alex Torres, Sr.; Austin Zouzalik, Sr.; Jakeem Grant, Fr.; Javares McRoy, Fr.; Jordan Davis, So.
IR (Y): Jace Amaro, So.; Tyson Williams, Sr.; Aaron Fisher, Jr.; Jordan Davis, So.
FL: Darrin Moore, Sr.; Bradley Marquez, So.; Javon Bell, Jr.; Shawn Corker, So.; Reginald Davis, Fr.
To comment on this story:
email@example.com • 766-8734
firstname.lastname@example.org • 766-2166