Spring Takeaways: Coaches Morris & Juluke share thoughts on Spring Ball
Offensive coordinator Eric Morris and new running backs coach Jabbar Juluke met with members of the local media on Thursday afternoon to discuss spring football and share their thoughts heading into the practice period...
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR ERIC MORRIS
-First, Coach Morris shared his thoughts on slot receiver Ian Sadler, who has retired due to medical issue with his knee:
"Just unfortunate with how well he played as a freshman and then that spring, thought he had a great spring. But, the injuries have been nagging him. I felt bad for him, but he's seen a ton of doctors, went to Dallas to get some second opinions with the guy who did his surgery in high school, so unfortunate, but luckily we've built up a lot of depth at the inside receiver position, so we should be fine. But, he was a tough player, great kid, and really hate to see him go."
-Coach Morris was also asked a handful of questions about quarterback Nic Shimonek and what he's seen from the senior signal caller so far this spring:
"He's been great in the weight room so far. Coach Whitt has actually had to bring his weight down because he wants to get in there and lift with the offensive linemen and push those guys. Strong kid, competitive in everything he does, and he's done a great job of leading this squad. He comes in every day and tries to learn what the offensive line does. Obviously, he already knows what the running backs and receivers do, but he's a kid that's putting in a ton of work, and our team really respects him, and they listen to him in the huddle, which is a great starting point for us. He's been here for three years, knows the offense in and out, and excited to see him lead the charge this spring."
"I think he's a combination of Patrick and Davis Webb. Davis was a really vocal guy, and then Pat kind of led by example, and he had the creativity stuff out there that kind of kept guys going. But, I think he's a combination of both guys, which is what we need, and I think all 10 guys will be looking at him in the huddle with confidence and trust what he's doing. So, he's a guy that we're going to look for throughout the offseason to lead the charge offensively."
-The offensive coordinator thinks that Shimonek will play within the rules and constraints of the offense much more than Pat Mahomes ever did as well:
"I think you'll see that more than you did with Pat. He's a guy that kid of reads offenses. You won't see all the broken plays and running around for 20 seconds, throwing it off your back foot. I think he'll be an on-time operation guy that will be able to move us down the field."
-The OC also ran down his individual position group, the inside receivers:
"KeKe Coutee I think really ended the season on a bright note for us the last three games, played exceptionally well. Cameron Batson is a guy that's been here, will be his fourth year, and it's crazy that he'll be a senior, but the weight room numbers he's putting up right now are astronomical. Pound for pound, he's probably the strongest guy on our team. i'm looking forward to seeing those two guys, and then Jonathan Giles, this'll be his third year to play receiver. Had some ups and downs last year, played really well at times, but I think he kind of went through some lulls, his body got beat up, but he's put on some weight. He's at almost 200 pounds now, and really looking forward to seeing him add some physical stuff to it. Then after that I'm excited to get Zach Austin back. He's a guy that sat out all last year that people forget about, has had some really good games for us in the past, so those are four guys we'll lean on. We've also moved Tony Brown inside, so we'll see how he adjusts to that role."
-Coach Morris noted that Cameron Batson and Jonathan Giles will be playing H this spring with Giles moving over from Y, KeKe Coutee and Tony Brown have moved from H and Z respectively to play the inside Y role, and then Zach Austin will play at Y.
"I like having the different body type there at H. We've always had the smaller guys there with Jakeem and Cam playing that. We'd like to add the aspect of having a bigger body, do some different things with him. I also like the fact of having Tony Brown (at Y), a 6-1, 200 pound guy, and then KeKe at Y, too."
-Coach Morris' thoughts on the outside receivers:
"Quan Shorts is a guy that really came on late that we like what he's done this offseason. Dylan Cantrell, the leader of that whole group of all the receivers combined, a kid that's put on a ton of weight. He's up to almost 230 pounds right now. So, I'm excited. As a unit, I think we have eight guys that we're really confident in right now. But, they can't be selfish. That's not how this offense works. We're going to get it to them all, and when they start double teaming one guy cause we're throwing it to him too much, we're going to throw it to the next guy. So, it'll be good to have experience at every single receiver position."
"I think the sky is the limit for those guys. We're really going to have some battles out there to see who wins the job. I think when you put TJ (Vasher), Quan, Derrick Willies, Antoine Wesley, all those guys in the same boat and say the top two are going to start for us and make a lot of plays. Dylan is probably the only one that has a clear cut edge over everybody. Those other five kids are going to have to battle their butts off, and may the best man win."
RUNNING BACKS COACH JABBAR JULUKE
-Juluke was initially hired by Kingsbury last year but then moved on to LSU to coach at his alma mater. Things obviously didn't work out there with the new offensive staff, but Juluke feels like he was meant to be in Lubbock:
"Absolutely it's fate. I'm a Christian, I believe in God, and he doesn't make mistakes. The warm embrace that I've received from Texas Tech and the family here is unbelievable, the first time as well, and also for them to be on board with me to allow me to go to LSU and go back home and coach football but to also open their arms again is kind of remarkable. It says a lot about the Red Raiders and the family that they have here and how they embrace people. I'm just excited about the opportunity, and I just want to try and make the best of the opportunity that I'm given."
-Interestingly, it was Juluke who made the initial contact to come back to Tech:
"Oh, I called him. It was more or less, 'Are you sure?" It was yes sir. I wasn't here for a negotiation. It's not here for any form or fashion, it was do you want me back, and if you want me back, I want to be here. I'm excited about what he's doing under his leadership, being able to learn from him. I think highly of the man, and I'm just grateful and honored that he allowed me to come back and be a part of the program. It was a very easy conversation. It wasn't hard at all."
-Juluke on his position group in general:
"I'm excited about the young men. Speed, very hard workers, very good athletes, catch the ball very well, and good open field runners, going to bring some good things to the table."
-On running back signee Desmond Nisby, who will be at Tech in the summer:
"Big guy that can run, is big, fast, strong. He's going to try to complement what the guys I have right now can do, bring a bigger guy into the backfield that can run, catch, and do all the same things that they're able to do. So, there's going to be a balance there, it's going to be a competitive room, and I'm looking forward to seeing how our kids compete on Saturday and through the rest of spring football."
-His thoughts on Da'Leon Ward and the second half to the 2016 season the true freshman had:
"I was very impressed with Da'Leon, because the month I was here I recruited him, made sure he was doing what he had to do in school at Skyline, and I was very impressed. Most freshmen hit that wall, and it looked like he got stronger as he went on, got more familiar with the offense. We're looking for some great things from him. Also looking for some great things from Justin Stockton and DeMarcus Felton with their experience to build on to what Da'Leon has and to help him to be that leader. I'm just excited about the group. We have a good group of guys in that room, adding Donte (Thompson) is also going to be good for us, adding a little more athleticism along with Mason (Reed), so I'm excited about what that room is going to offer."
-The most interesting tidbit from our conversation with Coach Juluke was about his relationship with O-line coach Brandon Jones and how the two have already begun working together to sync up blocking assignments in the passing game and clean up the running game as a whole:
"Working with Coach Jones, Brandon Jones, I think we've cleaned up some things in the run game. I've been with some really good offensive line coaches, and he's one of the best that I've been with. I've been with some really good offensive line coaches, and he's one of the best that I've been with. I think with the addition of him and what we're going to do in the backfield with some rules and regulations and hitting landmarks and doing different things, I think we're going to improve in that aspect of it immediately. I can see that within the three weeks that I've been here with our walk throughs and what we're doing. He's doing a really good job, making things simple for myself to understand, and it allows me to teach it to the kids so they can understand it, and not just in the run game, but in the pass protection as well, because we're kind of intertwined with each other. It's been good, and he and I have a good relationship off the field, so I think that's going to continue to make both groups better, and we have to be able to run the football."