Concussions taken seriously
Some of Texas Tech’s key players with concussion histories are going to be participating in preseason practice on a non-contact basis only. Nickel back Tre Porter and inside receiver Austin Zouzalik, both of whom suffered concussions late last season, are in red jerseys — meaning no contact. So is split end Eric Ward, who had a concussion last year during August workouts.
Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said they won’t hit until the first game.
“Kind of like we did in the spring,” Tuberville said. “They’ll wrap up, but they won’t have any head contact. Players know not to block them if they’re on defense. If they’re receivers, to kind of lay off of them.
“Those guys are just a step away from ending their careers if they’ve had concussions. So we keep an eye on them.”
Scooters: Bad luck, no ban
Tech coach Tommy Tuberville says he doesn’t plan to be heavy handed with scooter usage in the wake of having two players involved in accidents while riding scooters this summer. Backup safety Austin Stewart ran into a bus on campus in late April, and freshman defensive tackle Anthony Smith suffered an ankle injury while riding a scooter on the eve of practice starting.
Tuberville acknowledged the bad luck, but said he had no plans to ban scooters when asked about it Tuesday.
“We haven’t had a whole lot of problems,” Tuberville said. “We talk to them all the time about it, but it’s just part of it. Everybody in the country’s got them. It seems like we’re the only ones having scooter problems.
“I would think the ones that are on them hopefully would use common sense, and if you’re 320 pounds, you don’t get on a scooter. You get in a car.”
The latter was a playful reference to Smith, who will miss the first few weeks of practice. The defensive tackle from Spring Westfield is in a protective boot. When Tuesday’s practice ended, he used crutches to join the team at the middle of the field.
Lineman playing catch-up
Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown said he has seen impressive spurts from new offensive guard Brian Thomas.
Now the key for the transfer from Texas A&M, who has one remaining season of eligibility, is to stay on the field.
Asked how far behind Thomas is from a conditioning standpoint compared to his fellow linemen, Brown didn’t hesitate.
“A lot,” Brown said. “ ... He’s not anywhere close to where he needs to be.”
Thomas joined the Tech program in the summer after he graduated from A&M, where he was a two-year starter. The Pearland product doesn’t have to sit out a year, by NCAA rules, because he earned a degree at one school and enrolled in a graduate program not offered by his original school.
In addition to learning a new offense, the 6-foot-3, 319-pound guard is also battling a flare-up of acid reflex, Brown said.
Still, Brown believes Thomas can make an impact once his fitness is where it needs to be.
“When he practiced (Monday) he looked as good as anybody, maybe minus (LaAdrian) Waddle, on several plays,” Brown said. “Then there are sometimes, after he goes several reps, there’s a significant difference.”
Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown said last week he would have a better idea after a week or two of practice to what extent his players coming off major knee injuries can help this year.
So far, he likes what he sees from running backs Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington and receiver Alex Torres, all of whom are practicing for the first time since suffering season-ending knee injuries in 2011.
“I can’t tell a whole lot of difference, to be honest with you,” Brown said after Tuesday’s workout. “I thought Eric and Torres were really good (Monday), and I didn’t notice them falling off today. I thought DeAndre was significantly better today than he was day one.”
Stephens and Washington were the team’s top two rushers in 2011. Torres has averaged 52 catches for more than 600 yards a season in his first three years.
Brown said each player’s recovery will depend to a certain extent on mentality.
“A lot of it has to do with Eric and Alex are older. They trust their body more,” Brown said. “DeAndre’s still young. It’s the first time he’s ever really been injured in his life. That’s a little bit different challenge for him.”
Bright day for backups
During the 11-on-11 team period, split end Derreck Edwards made a leaping catch down the left sideline over cornerback Olaoluwa Falemi, and freshman running back Quinton White broke a big gain.
Backup quarterback Michael Brewer, who wasn’t accurate during Monday’s team period, was much better Tuesday. He completed the deep throw to Edwards, then connected with flanker Bradley Marquez and inside receiver Tyson Williams.
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown referred to the plays Edwards, White and Brewer made when asked about the depth.
“I thought our twos (second-team players) in team, our skill twos, were significantly better than our ones,” Brown said.
Tech players can practice in shoulder pads today for the first time. The first two practices are in helmets, shorts and jerseys only, according to NCAA rules. ... DE Branden Jackson made one of the most eye-catching plays of the day from the defensive unit. Jackson intercepted a Seth Doege pass during the 11-on-11 team period. ... Several defensive players made plays during the 7-on-7 period. S Cody Davis and CB Happiness Osunde intercepted passes, Osunde by getting underneath SE Eric Ward on a deep throw. S D.J. Johnson made a good break on a pass over the middle to bat the ball down. ... SE Marcus Kennard had one of the day’s best catches, snagging a 40-yard throw in the end zone from Doege in 7-on-7. ... Tuberville said the team will have a scrimmage on Saturday. ... Asked which receiver had improved the most since spring, WR coach Tommy Mainord named Javon Bell. The juco transfer is the third FL behind Darrin Moore and Bradley Marquez. Mainord said Bell had a difficult spring in his first semester with the program. “He’s kind of caught up with things,” Mainord said. “He’s kind of where we hoped he’d be the first two days.” Bell has changed uniform numbers, from No. 82 to No. 1.
Compiled by Don Williams and Nick Kosmider