Whatever first-year Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville wanted to accomplish in spring camp, he had to do it without his top two quarterbacks.
Which, of course, made it rather difficult to settle on a starter between Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield.
Potts, who began and closed last season as the starter during a 9-4 run Tech capped with a win in the Alamo Bowl, required surgery on his throwing hand. Sheffield, meanwhile, required surgery on his foot.
"It probably worked out the best," Tuberville said after examining backups Seth Doege and Jacob Karam during Tech's spring game. "These young guys needed the work, because they're one or two plays away from having to play."
That was the situation Sheffield found himself in a year ago when the former walk-on stepped in after Potts suffered a concussion. Sheffield was praised for his leadership capabilities by then-coach Mike Leach and claimed the job before suffering his foot injury in a win at Nebraska.
Leach, of course, was fired prior to the Alamo Bowl for his alleged mistreatment of an injured player, a situation that finds the former coach battling the Tech administration in court. Tuberville, meanwhile, was hired out of exile after previously directing turnarounds at Mississippi and Auburn.
Cognizant of the popularity Leach gained with the "Air Raid" offense he established guiding the Red Raiders to 10 bowls in 10 seasons as coach, Tuberville promised to keep the ball flying. Tech will do so at a faster pace, which has been dubbed the "NASCAR" offense. A no-huddle attack was implemented the entire spring game by new offensive coordinator Neal Brown.
"They line up and just snap it over and over and over again," linebacker Bront Bird told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It gets pretty rough out there on that."
Rough enough that Karam threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns in the spring game, while Doege added 204 yards. Each fired 34 attempts.
It almost seemed as if little has changed at Tech, especially after players insisted after the spring game that the transition to Tuberville and his new staff went smoothly.
"With the way everything went on we've really moved on and we've hit the ground running with this new coaching staff," said senior wide receiver Alex Torres.NOTES, QUOTES
--The demands of former coach Mike Leach were called into question during spring camp by veteran WR Detron Lewis, who claimed he was forced to play last season on a tender hamstring he injured in the second game. Lewis eventually caught 65 passes for 844 yards, down slightly from the numbers (76-913) he posted in 2008. Lewis said he could have performed better had he been allowed to heal. It was Leach's policy not to disclose injuries.
--Although the offense installed by new coach Tommy Tuberville and his coordinator, Neal Brown, is a no-huddle attack that snaps the ball quickly and will attempt to trigger as many as 100 plays in a game, Tech probably won't scrap the run. Sure, Tuberville promised to throw the ball after he was introduced and just about has to keep Leach's supporters from revolting. But with RB Baron Batch among the top returnees in the Big 12 and speedy RB Eric Stephens capable of busting a big gain, Tech has capable backs.
QB Jacob Karam -- Injuries allowed the redshirt freshman to play throughout the spring game and he responded by completing 23 of 34 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns.
WR Alex Torres -- Although he is coming off an impressive freshman debut after averaging a team-high 5.4 receptions last season, Torres was solid throughout camp and led all Tech receivers with 10 catches in the spring game.
WR Cornelius Douglas -- Shed four tackles on a 64-yard touchdown reception in the spring game and made five catches, even though he was blasted in the third quarter on a hit by S Terrance Bullitt, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We want to play faster, we want to try to get going at a good tempo, and our kids have bought into that. That's probably the best thing we've gotten out of the spring." -- Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: The transition to new coach Tommy Tuberville is the story that will continue to receive the most headlines after Texas Tech went to 10 bowl games in as many years under Mike Leach, who went 84-43. Leach was fired just prior to the Alamo Bowl last season for his alleged mistreatment of a player. The firing prompted Leach to file a wrongful termination lawsuit and will be something his former players, including the player in the eye of the storm, WR Adam James, can keep tracking as the season approaches. Will it be a distraction? Will the Red Raiders embrace Tuberville and his staff? Only time will tell. The new coach stepped in and immediately began predicting championships, one thing Leach failed to deliver as coach.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Expect Texas Tech to continue winging the football after annually ranking among the nation's top passing teams under Leach. Two veterans with starting experience, Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield, return at quarterback, though both missed most of spring drills with injuries. Several additional skill players return to make the transition to a new offense easier on the healing quarterbacks. RB Baron Batch is one of the most versatile backs in the Big 12, capable of producing off the catch or the rush. WR Alex Torres was the top receiver in the spring game and WR Cornelius Douglas is capable of breaking tackles after the catch. Tech will run its offense at a quicker pace under Tuberville with a scripted attack capable of snapping the ball immediately. Blocking up front will be the key question with three new starters along the line.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Yes, Texas Tech does play defense. In fact, under Leach, the Red Raiders didn't emerge as potential contenders in the Big 12 South until the defense underwent a sound makeover under previous coordinator Ruffin McNeill. McNeill, who coached Tech in the Alamo Bowl, is now the head coach at East Carolina. If the spring game is any indication, the Red Raiders again look capable of applying pressure after leading the Big 12 with an average of 3.3 sacks per game last season. DT Donald Langley, who began his collegiate career at Tennessee, could be tough to budge up front. LB Brian Duncan returns after leading the Red Raiders in tackles last season.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Eric Stephens and PR Austin Zouzalik both broke in as freshmen last season. Stephens, who will share time with Batch at running back, is the top returnee in the Big 12 among kick returners after averaging 25.9 yards a year ago. PK Matt Williams, whom Leach put on the roster after watching him audition during a time out promotion, returns, though he only attempted 11 field goals (made nine) last season. P Ryan Erxleben also returns after debuting last season as a freshman.
--DT Colby Whitlock missed the spring game because of a jaw injury, which required surgery. Whitlock practiced with the injury, which he suffered in an earlier scrimmage, before complaining of pain.
--CB LaRon Moore a returning starter, suffered a leg injury in the spring game that is expected to keep him from conditioning for two months.
--DT Myles Wade missed the spring game with a sprained right knee, though the injury was not expected to keep him out of conditioning very long.
--IR Derrick Mays moved to his new spot after previously lining up wide, though the transition was slowed by a knee ailment.
Previous Report: 04/11/2010