Texas Tech football wrapped up Saturday's practice with the offense taking about a half step backward and the defense taking a half step forward.
The Red Raider offense just wasn't as crisp as it had been Thursday much to the shagrin of head coach Tommy Tuberville.
"We had a scrimmage and it looks like on defense we got a little bit better," Tuberville said. "Offense, we went the other way. We made mistakes mentally on offense with 14 or 15 penalties and you can't beat anybody doing that. Not very sharp with our snaps. We just weren't very good physically for some reason on offense. The defense challenged them coming out of practice Thursday.
"(The offense) did a little bit better the last 20 to 30 percent of practice, but the first part of practice was all defense. A lot of room for improvement obviously, we're looking for some guys to step up."
There's no doubt the Red Raiders are a better defensive team than a season ago with the junior college players they added on that side of the ball. Linebackers Will Smith and Chris Payne are doing good things to help bolster that position group, the defensive line picks on an inexperienced offensive line and the secondary seems to have improved under the leadership of coach John Lovett.
While quarterback Seth Doege looked good, he wasn't as sharp as he was Wednesday nor were the receivers who had a surprisingly high amount of drops after Thursday's good practice. But the most glaring problems offensively have been on the offensive line -- something Tuberville and crew expect to have sorted out come fall camp.
"The offensive line has made a lot of mistakes," Tuberville said. "Le'Raven Clark had two or three times he's lined up in the backfield. Sometimes blocking those defensive ends, like Branden Jackson is pretty tough and so he's got to get better. Our snaps have improved. Deveric Gallington is getting better. We switched Tony Morales with Jared Kaster as the second team center. Waddle has been about 80 percent. He's got a pulled muscle in the back of his leg, but he knows he has to have a good spring."
No one was expecting a great team in March of 2012. For Tuberville, it's about how far the Red Raiders can advance between now and Sept. 1.
"We've got a long way to go," the head coach said. "We've got a lot of work to do in these next seven practices and then we've got a lot of work to do after spring practice in the summer. We're still a work in progress, but we're getting better at every position."
Bullitt Ready to Play
With both a move to linebacker and post-shoulder surgery rehab, Terrance Bullitt has had a full plate on his hands this spring. He's having to learn a new position without the physical reps, and the star defender is eager to get back out there and mix it up.
"I'm doing really good. I should be ready to roll by May. That's what I'm planning on, but it's doing good. Rehab every day, and I just can't wait. I'm working out and all that, I just can't have any contact right now. Out there I'm liable to knock a receiver out, so they need to hold me out for right now," said the linebacker with a smile. "It's killing me. I can't wait to get back out there and that's the thing. I've got to get a lot of mental reps playing a new position. I'm definitely tired of being on the sideline."
The defensive improvement has been impressive so far this spring, and Bullitt said that the overall experience gained from last year and the competitive spirit of spring ball is helping the D grow and evolve.
"We have a lot more experience now, and that really helps. We don't want the offense to win. The coaches over there are always talking smack, so there's a lot of competition going on, and we just have to carry that over to Saturdays in the fall and treat them the same way that we're going to treat our opponents."
Many onlookers have noticed that the defense is carrying itself with more attitude and a bit of a mean streak as compared to years past. Bullitt said that the defense has to act that way if they want to intimidate opponents come September.
"We have to. We have to have something. Last year, our defense was bad. That's just how it is. We have to do something. Our attitude has to be different coming out there. My motto is you look good, feel good, play good. That's how I feel. Just add some swag and just be you."
Just like everyone else on the defense, Bullitt is learning the ropes from new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Art Kaufman. Bullitt said that whether he's teaching a new coverage or coaching the linebackers, Kaufman is the same 24/7.
"He's the same guy. He's trying to teach a whole defense, and he knows what he's talking about with linebackers too," he said. "I like him. I like Coach Kaufman. He teaches us everything and it's real simple. We can line up, play fast, and he's doing a good job coaching."
While the defensive improvement has been promising, Bullitt knows that there's a long road ahead between being a bottom of the barrel unit and becoming a shutdown D.
"Not at all. We've got to get better every day. But at this point we're still learning, but we've got a long ways to go. If we want to get to that Big 12 title in the BCS ranks and stuff like that, we've got a long ways to go, and that's just me being honest. I like our progression and everything. We know our offense is going to put up a lot of points, it's up to us to stop the opponent, so we have to work on that."
Since he's spent the majority of his spring sitting on the sideline with his shoulder injury, Bullitt has had time to watch the defense progress with everyone else taking in practice. Bullitt's been impressed with cornerback Cornelius Douglas' performance so far, but the real eye catcher for the stand out defender has been cornerback Eugene Neboh. He's even coined a new nickname for the DB.
"He's doing a real good job, but I'm most impressed with 'The Reptile.' We call Eugene Neboh 'The Reptile.' So ya'll get that out in the media. That's what we call him in the locker room. Kind of like 'The Honey Badger,' but he's 'The Reptile' for us. He's doing a good job," he said. "Every practice he's bringing it. I don't know how he did today, but he's doing a real good job, him and Corn. That's what I'm really excited about."
"The Reptile. He's fast and quick like a reptile. He strikes."
A Second Opinion
Doege said that he felt like the offense got better on Saturday afternoon, but cornerback's Eugene Neboh and Cornelius Douglas were trying to stop that from happening as best they could. Doege said that the two starters have made huge improvements since last fall and feels that can't do anything but help the offense get better as well.
"They've gotten a lot better. You can tell, especially when they man up. Sometimes our receivers have a hard time getting releases and that's good to see. It helps our receivers as well. They're getting better," he said. "They're huge. They work really hard and you can tell it means something to them. Both of them are really strong, and Neboh's really fast. I think they're going to be good corners for us."
Doege said that while the team didn't play as well inside the twenty as he would've liked, he did feel that the offense improved throughout the scrimmage.
"We definitely took a step forward as an offense. We moved the ball well. We didn't finish in the red zone like we wanted to, but all we need to do is eliminate the penalties. We are getting better every day, and it's good to see."
While a step forward is certainly a good thing, the senior QB knows that there's plenty of ceiling space left in the Red Raider offense's potential.
"We still have a long way to go, but it's a process and we got some new guys stepping up at new positions and trying to get better at that. It's just going to take time, but we're on the right track and like I said, I think today was a step forward for us."
Another player that has stepped up this spring is redshirt freshman Derek Edwards. Edwards showed flashes last spring, but the wideout is consistently turning heads half way through his second round of spring ball.
You always kind of saw it, that he had the athletic ability and the want to to be good. These last couple of practices he's eally stepped up and made a lot of plays. It's good to see that, because he works hard and it does mean something to him. He wants to be a good football player, and it's good to see him start to emerge."
Daniels Trucks Just About Everyone
Reinstated running back Ronnie Daniels has shown the same skills that had him poised to be a breakout player last season.
As you recall, Daniels was dismissed from the team for the majority of last season after an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Fortunately, Daniels does not seem to have lost his edge. He's plowing through the Red Raiders front seven just like he was last season and that has people optimistic he can develop into the running back he risked never becoming last season.
"Here's a guy that played a little bit and then went soft on us," Tuberville said. "I think now he's got everything in perspective. It was good to see him doing well today. Last week he did some things decent and today he did a lot better. We were able to throw the ball to him too. He's going to make big plays for us.
"It's just good to see Ronnie out here with a positive attitude and the right frame of mind. He's a team player and that's what we need."