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Takeaways: Tech ready to roll against SFA this weekend

RELATED: Closing the book on Texas Tech's quiet preseason

Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury, Pat Mahomes and Justis Nelson met with local media on Monday for the first game week press conference of the 2016 season. The team is preparing to take on Stephen F. Austin in this weekend's season opener, and here are our takeaways from the event...

-When asked about the biggest step or development for his team in fall camp, Kingbsury noted that he was pleased with how the team's chemistry has developed. He feels that the team has meshed well together, there were no fights in camp after the first handful of practices, and the group - while very competitive - encouraged their teammates and helped push them forward.

-While Kingsbury believes that defensive coordinator David Gibbs would undersell the progress his unit has made, the head coach feels the unit is much more physical up front and has some real depth in the defensive line they flat out didn't have a year ago. Many players were required to play 70 or 80 snaps a game in the front seven, and Kliff feels that won't be the case this fall.

-The Red Raiders have named their four captains for the season: QB Patrick Mahomes, OL Baylen Brown, CB Justis Nelson, and LB Luke Stice. Stice has only been on campus for roughly eight months, and Kingbsury had this to say about the senior Houston transfer being elected to the position by his teammates: "Like I said all along, the intensity he's brought, the leadership, max effort every single rep with everything he does. So it didn't surprise me. Those guys have fallen in love with the kid and what he's about, what he stands for, how he works. So just a testament to how he was raised and the type of character he has."

-The offensive line has been shuffled around a bit throughout fall camp, but Kingbsury is confident in the group and how they've performed so far going into the opener: "Yeah, it's a solid group. I think it shows we have a couple bodies that we can slide in there and not skip a beat. So excited about that group. Bigger, stronger, more athletic than we've been, and just have to get some experience."

-Mahomes was asked about the offensive line as well, saying this: "I feel like it's developed well. We've had some surprises with some guys that have really stepped up and stepped up the competition level. There's been a lot of movement, but I'm pretty sure it's pretty solid now. We've kind of run the same ones in the last few days, and I'm expecting to really solidify this Monday and have that offensive line for the rest of the week and rest of the season hopefully."

-Kingsbury spoke briefly on the Stephen F. Austin defense, noting the group returns eight starters, including some defensive ends they'll have to prepare for. Big, tough defense that Kingsbury believes it will be a good litmus test for his offense.

-As was first reported on RRS, former Texas Tech offensive lineman and 10 year NFL veteran Manny Ramirez has been hired as the Director of Player Development, the role occupied by Emmett Jones in an off-the-field capacity before he was promoted to outside receivers coach. Kingsbury on why he went with the hire: "Everything, really. I think we have him in that player development role. His story, the way he's grown as a man since I first met him as a freshman and what he's accomplished in his life. He's a big-time Christian and treats people the right way. I can't imagine a better role model for our players to be around and be able to connect with on a daily basis than Manny Ramirez. And that was first and foremost our thought. Obviously he has great football knowledge, but, to begin with, that's going to be the capacity he'll be in."

-The head coach, when asked about the competition between the receivers in the two-deep, noted that it's a day-to-day competition at all four spots. It's made things highly competitive across the position, and they'll keep it that way.

-Kliff has been extremely pleased with the growth and maturation of outside X receiver Devin Lauderdale since his suspension in December. He's been a model citizen and worked his tail off according to the head coach: "It's night and day. The young man I've seen this summer through training camp is a different young man than what we saw previously. I think he got a taste of the real world and he knew what he had lost and didn't ever want to feel that again. So he's been focused. He's been locked down. He's been early to everything. He's been working harder than he's ever worked. So he's had his best camp by far. It's been fun to see. It's been good for those young wide receivers to see the way he's worked, the way he approaches every practice, and I'm very proud of him."

-Mahomes has been impressed with Lauderdale's progress, too: "I've seen a lot of maturity. A guy who really came in off a little bit of a suspension, coming in ready to play and ready to prove why he should be here and what he has. And you saw it a little bit with Jakeem last year. A guy that was really out to prove something, and I'm seeing that in Devin Lauderdale this year."

-In somewhat of a surprise move, true freshman linebacker Jordyn Brooks is now starting at mike linebacker on the inside. Kingbsury on the true freshman making strides and jumping into the role: "Jordan's been a linebacker his entire life. So I think just some of the instinctive things that he does naturally, he was able to pick up on quickly and slide in there."

-CB Justis Nelson on Brooks: "Yeah, he's been picking it up quick. He's a big guy. He's a physical guy. That's what the coaches like about him. He's fast. He has all the talent that you need to play linebacker, whichever position he's at. So we're just looking for him to be athletic, make tackles, and just do his job. Not try to do too much."

-Mahomes on where how he feels about where the offense is at going into game one: "I think the offense is at a high level right now. We're really progressing fast, and I like how we are progressing throughout fall camp. I'm excited to see us get on the field, under the lights and see how everybody reacts and show who is really ready for the season to go."

-So why does Justis Nelson think the defense will improve? Fundamental, physical play: "I just think discipline-wise that's the biggest improvement. Guys staying in gaps. Guys being physical, tackling. That's something that we're working on day-in and day-out. So I think those are the biggest improvements. Just like I said, staying in gaps and coming up with a body part. Making sure we don't let any big plays."

-Who does Nelson see as the toughest receiver he had to cover in fall camp? Slot H Cameron Batson: "I'd probably have to say Cam, Cam Batson. He's a shifty guy and he's physical too. So having him out there on the slide. He's fast, he's little, he has some of the best routes that I've seen on our offense, so he's probably given me the most trouble out of all the receivers."

-Many have wondered if tackling has improved for this Red Raider defense. Coach Gibbs and his staff have certainly made an effort to up the amount of live tackling reps in practice, something Nelson has certainly noticed: "Yeah, definitely. We've got a lot more live reps against our offense. Just tackling guys out in space. They brought in some new equipment to help us tackle, so every day we're doing at least three, four tackling drills live. So going to the ground, actually wrapping up and finishing."

-Nelson is excited about what D.J. Polite-Bray brings to the table as a starting corner for this team: "I feel like D.J., like you said, he's made big strides switching from receiver to corner. He's starting to pick up the actual feel of corner. His footwork has gotten a lot better. His hands are a lot better. He's making plays on the ball, just like he did when he was receiver. But he's just made that transition, and he looks a lot better. He's a physical guy. Like you said, he's about 185, 190, and he can tackle too. So we're excited about him."