Texas Tech started spring football practice Wednesday. This is the 13th in a series of spring previews, looking at the
Of all the position groups on the Texas Tech football team, the one that’s experienced the least turnover since the end of last season is running back. Tech running backs coach Mike Jinks has five players in his meeting room this spring, all of whom were with him last year.
That includes leading rushers Kenny Williams, now headed into his senior year, and DeAndre Washington, now a junior. The other holdovers are sophomore Quinton White, senior fullback Rodney Hall and redshirt freshman walk-on Armond Weh-Weh.
“We really do have a great idea of what those guys are capable of and just want to see them continue to grow and practice their craft,” Jinks said Tuesday. “The thing I’m most interested in will be seeing the development in Quinton White.
“He’s shown he can be pretty good with the ball in his hands. Throughout the last few months, his focus and commitment to the weight room has been impressive. He’s been in studying video, and we’ll be eager to see how that translates to the practice field.”
All-purpose player Sadale Foster, who played running back, receiver and return man, is the only player the unit lost after last season.
Williams led the team with 125 carries for 497 yards and eight touchdowns, and Washington carried 107 times for 450 yards and four TDs.
But Tech ranked No. 111 in the FBS for rushing offense, so Jinks wants the Red Raiders to run the ball more effectively.
“What we want to do as a group, as a whole, is helping out the offensive line,” he said, “doing a better job pressing the hole, setting up linebackers and understanding the overall concept of the defense we’re facing and kind of manipulating the defense, so to speak. I think that’s what the great backs do.”
Jinks starts spring listing Williams and Washington as his first-teamers in two-back sets and White and Hall as second team. Washington is now more than two years removed from major knee surgery, so the Red Raiders think he could be in position for a productive last two years.
White got 13 carries for 130 yards and a touchdown in 2013.
“I want to make sure we get Quinton quite a few reps with the ones and make sure we give him a fair evaluation,” Jinks said. “He’s kind of earned it. Those guys know what they’re doing, so I feel comfortbale with them. We want to continue to develop depth.”
Fans took to White last season when the 5-foot-7, 200-pounder made a couple of eye-catching runs late in lopsided non-conference games. However, he also had some missed assignments. The inconsistency — combined with the presence of established older players — kept White from cracking the regular rotation.
“I feel like people think I’m getting on him,” Jinks said. “He’s where he should be. He had two guys in front of him. He redshirted the year prior. This was his first look at reps. And once we’re coming in (to the season), we’ve got to get two guys ready to play.
“It’s not all his fault. The kid wants to be good, and he’s doing the things it takes to be successful. I’ve been very happy with his approach this spring. He could have pouted, complained about X, Y and Z, but he didn’t, and I think it’s going to continue to pay off for him.”
Hall, a 5-10, 245-pound senior from Angleton and Tyler Junior College, played in every game last season as a regular on the kickoff-return team. Plenty of Tech fans probably didn’t notice Hall, however, until he caught a fourth-and-goal touchdown pass on the first series of a Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona State.
With blocking back Omar Ontiveros having departed, Hall is likely to inherit more of the short-yardage package duty.
Jinks said Hall earned a promotion about midseason last year from mostly scout team to more game preparation with the offense.
“He gave himself a chance to be successful,” Jinks said. “He went over and busted his tail on the scout team. (Defensive coordinators) Mike Smith and coach (Matt) Wallerstedt would tell me, ‘This guy works. We’ve got to find a role for him, find a fit for him.’
“One of the things I fell in love with is, number one, the way he competes, and number two, he’s got great hands.
“I think he’s going to be an asset in short-yardage situations, down on the goal line and in three-back formations.”
Follow Don on Twitter