You know it’s officially game week when the media luncheon and press conference come back on the schedule. Texas Tech held its first of the year yesterday and we’ve got your dose of the news and notes. You can find the full transcript here.
Early on, coach is asked about how Gibbs feels about the defense (since the coordinators will no longer be made available) and he rattles of some of his standard coach speak, but he mentions improved size on the defensive line. The follow up to his response was on specific improvement from the defensive line and he points to the number one thing we as fans have been clamoring for over the past few years, quality depth.
I think the numbers on the defensive line, last year we asked those guys to play 70, 80 snaps a game, which wasn’t fair to them and wasn’t great for our defense. Now we’ll be able to roll some numbers through there and keep guys fresh, and hopefully that will help them be more effective.
If you haven’t heard yet, senior transfer linebacker Luke Stice has been named team captain and Kingsbury is asked about what this means for the team (team captain is awarded on players’ votes).
Like I said all along, the intensity he’s brought, the leadership, max effort every single rep with everything he does. So it didn’t surprise me. Those guys have fallen in love with the kid and what he’s about, what he stands for, how he works. So just a testament to how he was raised and the type of character he has.
We all love to see depth charts released, and there was one released this morning. Tech and Kingsbury will not likely update this through the season, as they haven’t updated the depth chart mid-season previously. Kingsbury is asked about the OL depth, especially with all the rumors going out last week with freshmen being seen as starting at the tackles. Kingsbury, in his best Bill Belicheck impression, flatly says that we will just have to see who goes out there on Saturday. Kingsbury ends up expanding on that a little later, mainly referencing the receivers, but the point is universal with the team.
It is. We’ve taken the approach it’s day-to-day at that position. We feel like we have such good depth that if you want to come out and show up late or not bring it one day, you’ll probably be the backup the next.
And that’s what we’ve been striving for at every position. We feel like we established that at wideout. So it’s literally day to day, who practices the best will go out there and be the starter.
An interesting point was brought up about playing FCS schools and if Kingsbury likes opening the season with a tune-up game essentially.
I think you just play whoever they put in front of you, you know? I like the way our schedule sets up. I think Stephen F. Austin is a talented team with a bunch of returners, so it’s a good test early at home to see where we’re at. … I think you look across the country, playing the 1-AA teams there, and quality opponents. In the last couple years, they scored quality points on us. So we approach Game 1, throw everything into that, then we worry about the next game after that.
That was a very diplomatic way of saying he’s not in control of the schedule and he’ll play whoever is on the schedule. My take is that he uses this first game to assess the team’s progress over the off season and that it’s a gentler start to the season where every win counts for something against a team where you are heavily favored. Nobody likes to lose, especially on opening night.
Mahomes is certainly anxious to get the season going and he says he’s excited to see how everybody reacts to being under the lights. This is followed up with a question about Dylan Cantrell being back in the rotation at receiver. My feeling is we might get a lot more of the Potts-Leong “he’s been throwing to him since they were in grade school” cliches this season.
It’s awesome. Having that chemistry on the field, it’s hard to really replicate that with a lot of the receivers. It just takes repetition. Just having a guy you’ve thrown to since you were a little kid and he knows where you’re going to be at and he knows where you want him to be at, really helps out a lot.
Mahomes and Kingsbury were both asked about what they’ve seen from Devin Lauderdale and they were both vert praising of his efforts since his suspension last fall/winter.
I’ve seen a lot of maturity. A guy who really came in off a little bit of the suspension, coming in ready to play and ready to prove why he should be here and what he has. And you saw it a little bit with Jakeem last year. A guy that was really out to prove something, and I’m seeing that in Devin Lauderdale this year.
This is high praise for an athlete that could have easily slid off the map to never be heard from again, especially considering the depth, which Mahomes is also asked about.
It’s definitely benefited a lot, just having that competition every day. No guy really can come every day and expect: I’m going to be starting. They have to come out, go 100% in every drill and really try to earn their starting spot.
It’s built great relationships. I feel like everybody has taken it well. They’re really cheering for each other, and you like to see that. When you play in this offense, everybody’s going to play. You’re going to be two deep at least in receiver. So to see those guys out there competing is really going to help out the team.
One of the things that Kingsbury has consistently mentioned when asked about Mahomes improving, which Mahomes repeats here, is to cut on turnovers and take what’s available instead of trying to force something heroic.
For me, it’s just stopping the bad plays. Really, just moving the chains, being more efficient. Cutting interceptions down and really just being the best quarterback for the team and not just trying to make the big play at all times. … Yes, of course, and just really worked on my pocket presence, and you’ll for sure be able to tell. I feel like just stepping up in the pocket and making those threes, making those ten-yard outs and stuff like that instead of every single play running around. And there are some times you want to run around and make those big plays happen, and knowing where the line is and when you need to throw a five-yard completion to get the chains moving. … I feel like it’s really just going through my progressions. I feel like last year there were some times you can tell before the play even started I was going to run, I feel like I had it in my mind, and it just goes back to my high school days of really just trying to make a big play happen all the time. But really going through my progressions, and when that isn’t open, then running and making those big plays happen is where the line is.
I think it’s really something to see Mahomes acknowledging that last year there were certain times he was already knowing he was going to be scrambling and running before the snap. I know we all love to see the highlights, but being able to move the chains and keep drives alive is so much more important than looking for the homerun every snap.
Nelson, like Stice, has been voted a team captain (along with Mahomes and Baylen Brown), and Nelson is asked about it right away.
I mean, it’s a great honor. We have guys that work just as hard as I do, but the fact that the team voted for me to be one of the people to represent them, I mean, it doesn’t feel any greater than that.
As a starter and a senior, Nelson is asked about what he sees as the biggest improvements from the defense in year two under David Gibbs.
I just think discipline-wise that’s the biggest improvement. Guys staying in gaps. Guys being physical, tackling. That’s something that we’re working on day-in and day-out. So I think those are the biggest improvements. Just like I said, staying in gaps and coming up with a body part. Making sure we don’t let any big plays.
Nelson also mentions that the defense has been integrating more tackling drills into their practices – actually taking guys to the ground and everything. This was probably blown out of proportion over the previous seasons, especially when it came out that Tech wasn’t practicing a lot of live tackling, especially considering how atrocious the tackling was.
Finally, Nelson is asked about the wide receivers and who he’s had the hardest time covering.
I’d probably have to say Cam, Cam Batson. He’s a shifty guy and he’s physical too. So having him out there on the slide. He’s fast, he’s little, he has some of the best routes that I’ve seen on our offense, so he’s probably given me the most trouble out of all the receivers.
This time next week, we’re going to be reading about how Kingsbury and the players are reacting to the first game of 2016! Let’s get it!