The Texas Tech defensive staff knows a thing or two about offenses, having to go up against one of the most consistently explosive units in the country every day in practice. So it's safe to say that they know a great offense when they see one. And what the Red Raider defense will be facing on Saturday definitely fits in that category.
"[Colt McCoy]'s probably going to be one of the best football players on the field," said cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell after Wednesday's practice. "He's a great competitor. He throws the ball well, and he's got some targets to throw the ball to. "
McCoy's top three targets this season are receivers Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, as well as running back Chris Ogbonnaya, who collectively account for over 73-percent of the leading Heisman Trophy candidate's completions. While, unlike previous years, the Longhorns don't have a clear featured player at receiver or running back, it certainly doesn't seem to be adversely affecting them this season.
"When you have great targets like he has, it doesn't matter who you throw it to. Shipley and Cosby have caught the most balls, and the running back is a big part of that passing game too. He's got weapons at all positions."
The utilization of the running back in the passing game is something that Texas did not do as much last season. In fact, in all of 2007, Longhorn running backs combined for 39 receptions, which is only seven more than Ogbonnaya (32) through eight games this season.
"He's doing shovels, screens, he's an outlet guy," explained Mitchell. "He's got good hands and has a good feel for the passing game. McCoy does a great job, if the first read is not there and he goes through his progression, he'll find the check-down guy. And the back is usually the check-down guy."
- Aaron Dickens
WHAT WILL WILLIAMS DO FOR AN ENCORE?
Matt Williams, the Red Raider placekicker who will forever be known as the "Kick For Rent" contest winner, was perfect in his debut last weekend against Kansas. Now the question around Lubbock is what will he do for an encore?
"We were nine for nine with PATs, which is good," said special teams coach Clay McGuire. "I was real happy with the way Matt kicked, Taylor [Potts] did a good job holding, and snapping by [Austin] Burns was good.
"[Williams] proved himself in the game, we were real pleased with the performance, but we've got to work hard and continue to get better. He's only been kicking for three and a half weeks, so we're trying to work him into the field goal situation, but Donnie [Carona] has been doing a good job working hard there and we still have a lot of confidence in him."
Though going perfect on the day in PATs is not something that is new to teams in the Big 12 Conference – former Red Raider Alex Trlica hit 233 consecutive extra points during his career – Williams was honored by the league on Monday, naming him its Special Teams Player of the Week.
"I was excited for him," smiled McGuire. "That's a heck of an honor, it's an awesome deal. I was real happy for him.
"[Williams reacted] kind of like he does with everything else. He's real calm, cool and collected about everything and that's part of the reason why he is where he is and why he's doing what he's doing."
We'll have to wait and see if Williams gets a chance to kick a field goal against Texas on Saturday, but it wouldn't shock me after the way his story has unfolded so far (i.e. like a Disney movie).
- Aaron Dickens
MORE THAN TWO TANDEMS
With as much attention as the electrifying tandems of Michael Crabtree/Graham Harrell and Shannon Woods/Baron Batch receive for what they do offense, it is easy for one to overlook the huge contributions that McKinner Dixon and Brandon Williams have made on the other side of the ball. Time after time, the two have come up with a big sack, tackle for a loss or quarterback hurry to stall the opposing offense.
"I think they've got like 15 sacks between them right now and some of those have come at crucial situations that have allowed us to have success in our games," stated defensive line coach Charlie Sadler after Wednesday's workout.
The praise for the two highly talented defensive ends didn't end there. When asked about how the duo stacked up against others that he had coached Sadler said, "As far as pass rushers and a combination of two guys, this is probably the best scenario that I have had."
Entering the Texas game, Texas Tech is ranked second in the Big 12 in rushing defense, allowing an average of only 101 yards per game. The improvement of Brandon Williams has been a big reason for this. "He knew coming out of last year and in spring and fall camp that it was a scenario that he did need improvement in and he has improved. Got bigger stronger and hasn't lost any speed," said Sadler
- Brock Batchko
RUNNING BACKS WILL PLAY KEY ROLE
While Texas Tech running backs Baron Batch (537 yards) and Shannon Woods (481 yards) both have outgained Texas' leading rusher (McCoy, 412 yards) so far this season, it's their roles as blockers in the passing game which will likely make the biggest impact on Saturday.
"You've got to make sure you're able to see what kind of defenses they're in and what kind of blitz packages they're trying to run against you," said running backs coach Seth Littrell. "Whether it's a defensive end that you're having to pick up or a linebacker, those guys are big, physical guys and they're always probably going to be a little bit bigger and a little stronger than you.
"You just have to use good technique. As long as you use good technique, and are physical, Graham does a good job of getting the ball off."
Harrell will likely need to get the ball off very quickly when facing the Longhorn defense, which boasts the Big 12's leader in sacks (Brian Orakpo) and is playing a very aggressive but disciplined style under new coordinator Will Muschamp.
"Biggest [change] I see is the intensity," explained Littrell. "They're probably more aggressive. Every single down they play hard, and they do that for four quarters. It's going to be a tough test for us. They have a lot of great athletes on the field, they know their job, and they're doing their job really well. And I think they're playing really well for all four quarters."
- Aaron Dickens
QUOTABLE QUICK HITS
"One, he's comfortable with reading the blitzes. Two, I think he uses great technique. And three, I think he's physical once he gets over there." – Seth Littrell, on what makes Shannon Woods such an asset in pass protection.
"He's steady, very intelligent on the football field. He's playing plays before they happen. He's been a surprise, but you kind of expect that out of him." – Brian Mitchell on the play of cornerback Brent Nickerson.
"On the field goal [against Kansas], it was a great kick. Got it up fast, had plenty of distance, but we were off on the aim. I was pleased with everything with the kick except for missing it." – Clay McGuire, on the Red Raiders' lone field goal attempt last week.