Texas Tech is hoping the healthy return of Javon Bell boosts a receiving corps that lost five seniors. However, Bell has been concentrating on academics rather than participating in spring practice, co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Sonny Cumbie said Wednesday.
The Red Raiders have had four of their 15 sessions of spring ball.
Bell’s 2012 season ended before the sixth game when he suffered a broken foot in practice. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury said recently he had rehabbed well from that.
Bell played flanker last season, where the depth chart now has junior Bradley Marquez, redshirt freshman Reginald Davis and senior squadman Brandon DeFrance.
In four games last season, Bell caught 17 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown.
The other outside receiver spot has Eric Ward and young prospects Dominique Wheeler and Derreck Edwards.
“The thing I’m interested to see is how Eric Ward pushes himself and makes himself a better player,” Cumbie said. “Derreck Edwards, Reg Davis and Dominique Wheeler, those three guys how much improvement will we see from spring (practice) 1 to spring 15? And then Bradley Marquez, just get him back in the flow from that knee injury.”
Here is the current depth chart for each of the receiver positions, according to Cumbie:
Split end: Eric Ward, Sr.; Dominique Wheeler, Fr.; Derreck Edwards, So.
Inside receiver (H): Jakeem Grant, So.; Jordan Davis, Jr.; Brent Mitcham, Jr.
Inside receiver (Y): Jace Amaro, Jr.; Peyton Williams, Fr.; Aaron Fisher, Sr.
Flanker: Bradley Marquez, Jr.; Reginald Davis, Fr.; Brandon DeFrance, Sr.
CU transfer in mix
Southlake Carroll graduate Peyton Williams, who transferred to Tech from Colorado in January, will try to carve out playing time for himself this spring as a “Y” inside receiver.
Williams suffered a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament in Carroll’s state semifinal victory in 2011, then grayshirted in the fall of 2012 at CU while he rehabbed. He decided he wanted to be back in Texas and opted for Tech, which had recruited him in high school.
“He’s a good route runner,” co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie said. “He understands the game pretty well. He understands space. He’s a tough, competitive kid with pretty sure hands.”
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Williams was a two-time all-District 7-5A selection. His career totals at Carroll were 154 catches for 1,986 yards and 18 TDs. That included a senior year of 92 catches for 1,196 yards and 10 TDs, covering 15 games before he got hurt.
“We’ve been impressed with him,” Cumbie said. “At Southlake Carroll, they do a great job coaching them. They know how to work. This is really his first time to be out here in live football since he was injured. For him, it’s just getting back up to speed and understanding what we’re doing on offense.”
Junior Jace Amaro is the starter at Williams’ position. It appears he’ll be competing for a rotation spot with senior Aaron Fisher.
Ward, Grant impress
When asked what receivers have impressed him so far, Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury singled out two who finished last season on a high note.
“Eric Ward, I knew he was good. He’s better than I thought he was,” Kingsbury said. “And Jakeem Grant has really stepped up. He had some success late in the year last year and that’s really carried over. He’s had a great camp.”
Ward followed up an 84-catch, 11-touchdown season in 2011 with an 82-catch, 12-TD season in 2012. Grant caught 33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns as a redshirt freshman.
Grant wowed Tech fans by returning kickoffs for touchdowns in each of the last two games.
“I think he can be as good as he wants to be,” Kingsbury said. “He has that type of speed and quickness. If he puts the work ethic with it, watch out.”
The defensive players in Texas Tech’s 2009 signing class are on the verge of setting some sort of unofficial NCAA record. In five years, they’ve played for a different defensive coordinator each year: Ruffin McNeill, James Willis, Chad Glasgow, Art Kaufman and new hire Matt Wallerstedt.
The ones who stuck around for all five are defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, linebacker Terrance Bullitt, cornerback Derrick Mays and defensive end Chris Knighton, though the latter two both spent time on offense.
Wallerstedt said he’s had experience with similar situations.
“I’ve been in those shoes, and I’ve seen it,” he said. “I went through it (last year) at A&M. As a linebacker coach at A&M, my seniors I had, I was the fourth face they had seen.
“So I told them on the front end, just give us time to earn their trust. They’re going to have our trust at the beginning of this thing, and together we’ll get this thing done. But that’s a tricky deal when you have five faces in five years.”
Wallerstedt plans to put a stop to the revolving door.
“I just bought a house here in Lubbock,” he said. “I plan to be here a long time, and I know these coaches, they’re all excited to be here.”
Texas Tech had coaches from Wayland Baptist and several high schools at Wednesday’s workout. Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said, considering his dad was a high school coach, their attendance is something “very close to my heart.” “We love having them out here,” Kingsbury said, “and sometimes they have tips for us, so it’s a good mix.” ...
Though Tech players say the pace of Kingsbury’s offense is faster than what they’re accustomed to, the contact aspect might be comparable to what they had under Tommy Tuberville. “We only tackle in scrimmages,” Kingsbury said. “We’ll thud up. We like it to be a violent practice, but we don’t take to the ground.”
Compiled by Don Williams