Takeaways: Cantrell, Nunez, and others talk team maturity and more
Four members of the Texas Tech football team met with the media Thursday afternoon going into their final week to prepare for the first game of the season against Eastern Washington. Coach Kliff Kingsbury did not speak following practice, so the following are quick notes from DB Douglas Coleman, DL Talor Nunez, LB Brayden Stringer and WR Dylan Cantrell.
-Coleman said the difference for him between this fall and last is that he is more aware of the play calls. He went on to say the defense as a whole is faster when it comes down to everyone knowing their assignments.
-Coleman will be the main guy at the nickel position. He said he enjoys the position more than playing at corner because he can be more involved while also being closer to the ball. He said he is also capable of being used to blitz the quarterback.
-As far as the number two guy at nickel goes, Coleman said DB Willie Sykes is pushing him and is competing well every practice.
-Moving over to the linebacker spot, Stringer mentioned his growth from his freshman year into this fall camp. He said he was more or less “thrown in the fire a little bit.” However, he feels more comfortable with the system this year then he did in 2016.
“I think it’s more of a maturity thing,” Stringer said. “So far this year it’s been going really well for me. The system for sure has came a lot easier than last year.”
-For Stringer, the weight room has boosted his performance along with coach Rusty Whitt’s training program. He said he came in last year weighing around 205 pounds but reached around 230 pounds in the spring while also keeping up his speed.
-Stringer said he feels as though freshman LB Riko Jeffers has been doing pretty well in practice and is picking up on defensive coordinator David Gibbs’ system despite it being challenging.
-He said Jeffers is one of the hardest hitting defenders on the team along with DL Broderick Washington, DL Joseph Wallace and DB Vaughnte Dorsey.
-The two sophomores said they have felt a difference in this camp compared to the previous year, and Cantrell can agree with them.
-Cantrell is rolling into his senior year and credited the coaches with being smart in how the team practices now that two-a-days are no longer a thing.
-Cantrell said it gives everyone more of a desire knowing they only have one practice each day to compete in even if they are going for longer periods of time.
“As the team goes, this has been the highest competition level,” Cantrell said. “A lot of times in the past it’s been kind of offense versus defense and it’s like two teams out there. But, this year it’s been different that we’re working together. We’re competing with each other, but at the same time we’re helping each other out and really working together at the same time.”
-Cantrell said the extra week of practice hasn’t been noticed when it comes to his health or body.
-On the subject of his quarterback Nic Shimonek, Cantrell said he has seen him grow even more since the spring when it was known he would be slinging the ball for the Red Raiders. Shimonek prepares and works harder than anyone else on the team, Cantrell said.
“He knows the offense. We have all the faith in him. Like I said, his leadership he brings to the team is one of his biggest assets,” Cantrell said.
-As a receiving unit, Cantrell said it’s harped on to be physical and to make blocks down the field to help each other out.
-Cantrell may be entering his senior season, but his little brother, Cameron, will continue the Cantrell line after committing to Texas Tech. Cantrell is only going to be a junior at Whitehouse High School in Whitehouse, Texas, but Dylan is excited for him to be able to keep the Cantrell legacy going.
“It’s been fun to see him grow up and get into that varsity role,” Cantrell said. “It’s awesome to get another Cantrell up here. It gives me a little bit of extra incentive to go out on top and build a legacy that him and his teammates can come continue to build.”
-While one teammate feels joy for his family, another has to prevail through a tough time – that’s the case for Nunez and his family the past few weeks.
-Nunez spoke about his life as a married man and said it’s been great, but he also brought up that his father has been in the hospital recently.
-Nunez said last Thursday that an obstruction in his dad’s bile duct had been identified as cancer. He was pulled from practiced that day and informed at the hospital about the finding. The mass was then removed this past Tuesday, but the family is still waiting for test results to see if the cancer has been eliminated.
-However, Nunez said he is still 100 percent focused on his team and what he has to do on the football field.
-Nunez said he has to step up for his family being the oldest brother. He says he had an emotional day that Thursday but has pulled through with the strength of God.
“He didn’t want me to miss anything. He wanted me to 100 percent be there for my teammates and he told my brothers the same thing as far as their high school ball as well. He told them, ‘go back home, make sure to do your responsibilities.’ So I have not been taking any focus away from football. I’ve been 100 percent here with my team and with my teammates.”