Takeaways: Red Raiders getting chippy as camp grind continues
The Texas Tech football team completed its fourth practice of preseason camp on Thursday afternoon. Here are a few takeaways and notes from the day's action.
- Kliff Kingsbury addressed the media afterward, noting that practice has been physical and that a number of fights that have broken out in the last few days. While he likes to see the chippy play early on in camp, Kingsbury indicated that he is ready for it to end so the team can focus on improving.
- Kingsbury on his team so far this fall: "I think both sides have some leadership that we may not have had in the past, so that's good."
- Kingsbury has been pleased with the improvement made by the defensive line so far in camp. That group has gotten the better of its offensive line counterparts at points this week, which Kingsbury attributes to the defensive line's progression. "I feel like on the offensive line we have three returning starters, so it's a pretty solid group. I think (the defensive line) is making strides. Some of these guys are growing up, and with adding Kolin Hill, Ondre Pipkens and those true freshmen to the mix, they're playing well."
- Madison Akamnonu got first-team reps at left guard once again. That's two days in a row for him. I think from what we've seen so far, you can likely consider him the early favorite to win the job. There is still a lot of time left in camp, but he looks to be getting more reps at this point.
- Kingsbury feels like too much has been made of the Red Raider offensive line being a question mark heading into the season. "We're not stressing about that as much as maybe some people are because we have three returning starters. Terence Steele is gonna be a very, very good player. And then we're kind of just figuring out that fifth piece. Those veteran guys have shown great leadership, and it's gonna be a solid line."
- Wide receiver Derrick Willies was not seen at practice today. Kingsbury confirmed that the former JUCO All-American is out with a hand injury but should return next week. Willies apparently has been running routes and working on conditioning on his own while missing practice.
- Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is starting to implement more of the no-look passes that emerged as viral sensations this spring. During the early 11-on-11 session open to the media on Thursday, Mahomes looked off several defensive backs to the right before coming back over the middle, though the ball was dropped and maybe a bit off target. The junior signal caller certainly got the defenders to shift how he wanted, which resulted in a wide-open pass catcher. It's going to be interesting to see how much of it he actually does this fall.
- In the defensive backfield, DJ Polite-Bray and Thierry Nguema ran as the first-team cornerbacks with Justis Nelson as the nickel once again. I imagine you will still see Paul Banks rotate in quite a bit with that first unit, and he could still push Bray or Nguema for one of those starting spots.
- Kingsbury on Nguema: "Thierry has been having the best camp he's ever had by far. He's bigger, stronger, faster, making plays on the ball."
- For the second time in three days, Zach Barnes ran with the first-team defensive line at end over Kolin Hill. That will be one of the more interesting position battles to monitor heading into the season.
- True freshmen linebackers Jordyn Brooks and Brayden Stringer ran with the second-team today, with Jamile Johnson and John Picone running with the second string yesterday. That's likely going to be a very, very fluid depth chart at linebacker.
- Redshirt freshman defender Christian Taylor has been rolled down from safety to linebacker because of the weight he's put on. He's playing on the outside at WILL.
- Kingsbury has been impressed with the true freshmen defensive linemen: "They're big in numbers and compete hard and get after people, and they really haven't backed down to anybody."
- Kingsbury went into detail on freshman Joe Wallace: "I think Joe Wallace, the big D-lineman, he's really, really turned it on since we put the pads on. He's not afraid to mix it up, not afraid to get into a couple of fights, and he won't back down from anybody."
-True freshman TJ Vasher saw some reps as the second-team Z-receiver on Thursday. It will be hard for him to break through into the rotation, but it's telling that he is getting some run here early.
- After they finished up with the opening team period, the Red Raiders divided up into offense and defense and went into the gauntlet drill. This is where three players line up spaced out in a straight line, and another player must fight through each player and get to the end of the line. It's purely a physicality and toughness builder, but it's a drill that's fun to watch.
- On defense, newcomers such as defensive back Desmon Smith, defensive end Clarence Henderson, linebacker Jordyn Brooks and JUCO transfer nose tackle Mych Thomas were tasked with completing the gauntlet. Brooks was extremely impressive in the drill, mowing through the defenders that tried to slow him down.
- Offensively, junior wideout Dylan Cantrell was the standout, plowing through a number of his receiver teammates, including Devin Lauderdale, who wasn't too happy about getting mowed over by the bigger receiver.