The look of Texas Tech’s rushing game could change somewhat this year, given that smaller, shiftier backs are likely to get a lot higher percentage of the carries.
With two-time rushing leader Kenny Williams expected to play defense primarily, junior DeAndre Washington becomes the feature back with sophomore Quinton White and freshman signees Justin Stockton and Demarcus Felton vying for time.
None weigh more than about 200 pounds, a big difference from the 228-pound Williams.
“There’s subtle changes,” offensive line coach Lee Hays said Monday after the team’s first preseason practice. “There’s some things maybe play-wise we’ve added or taken out, just based off the personnel we have now. We’ve got some speed in the (backfield), so maybe a little bit more outside zone versus inside zone, stuff like that.”
White, who carried only 13 times last year, relies on elusiveness more than power. And Stockton, a career 6,000-yard rusher at Cibolo Steele, has the reputation as a speed back. He went to state as a senior with Steele’s 800-meter relay team that finished second in Class 5A in 1 minute, 25.84 seconds and went to state as a junior in the 100 meters and finished ninth with a time of 10.77 seconds.
“We’ve got some guys with a little more speed than we’ve had here,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said, “so that’s exciting.”
Senior fullback Rodney Hall could get more playing time, but he’s primarily a blocker with 46 career carries in three seasons at Tyler Junior College and Tech.
Shoulder sidelines OL
Texas Tech guard Cody Hayes is expected to miss significant time and possibly the season with a shoulder injury he suffered during summer weight training, line coach Lee Hays said Monday. If the injury requires surgery, Hayes would miss the season.
Losing Hayes doesn’t significantly hurt the team’s depth, given that he’s a young player not in the two-deep. But Tech coaches like the 6-foot-4, 306-pound redshirt freshman from Fort Worth Western Hills.
“But he needed this (training camp), from (the standpoint of) getting the reps and learning,” Hays said, “because athletically he’s got some potential.”
Noseguard Bennett Ofor also isn’t on the preseason roster for medical reasons, Tech spokesman Blayne Beal said, but is expected back.
Ofor had surgery after the 2013 season to repair a torn knee ligament. Used mainly in pass-rush packages last season, Ofor played in nine games and was credited with five tackles, including 11/2 tackles for loss.
The roster is limited to 105 players before school starts, so there’s no point in including a player unable to practice when slots can be used for others who can.
New linebacker Sam Atoe, a transfer from College of San Mateo (Calif.), was added to the roster Monday, putting the Red Raiders at the limit.
Out of the blocks
Texas Tech went through its first workout of the preseason Monday in pleasant early evening conditions. Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury reiterated that an NCAA rule change allowing coaches to provide two hours of weekly instruction to players makes a difference.
“It was good, spirited,” Kingsbury said. “We moved around pretty good. We can tell this summer, being able to meet with them really helped. They were following along a lot better than last year. That’s encouraging.”
Kingsbury said the first practice of 2014 was “much smoother” than last year’s.
“The young guys knew what they were doing a little bit more,” Kingsbury said. “Good energy. We’ve got to clean things up, but not a bad first day.”
Since signing day, much of the anticipation for Tech’s recruiting class centers on four junior-college defensive line transfers. Tech isn’t making those players available to the media, probably for several weeks, Beal said.
They’ll be talked about, even if they can’t speak publicly.
Asked if he had seen potential in 6-foot-2, 348-pound noseguard Rika Levi, offensive line coach Lee Hays said, “Oh, have I. My little freshmen (offensive linemen) saw it, too.”
Levi, defensive end Brandon Thorpe (6-3, 277) and noseguard Marcus Smith (6-3, 302) all are on the team for the first time. Defensive tackle Keland McElrath (6-4, 312) was with the team in spring practice.
“They’ve moved around well,” Kingsbury said. “I thought just bigger bodies, which helps. More size.”
Starting center Jared Kaster hasn’t had contact since he underwent shoulder surgery after last season. Given that Kaster started every game last year, the Red Raiders won’t rush him in camp.
He’s wearing a harness that limits the range of movement for the surgically repaired shoulder.
“He should be OK,” line coach Lee Hays said. “If there’s any threat, we’ll hold him back every other practice or something like that.”
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