Spring Games are generally a formality that signals the end of the Spring and starts the long Summer waiting period until the start of college football in August. For Texas Tech this season, it was an opportunity for Joey McGuire to show off the fruits of his labor over the first full season as the program builder in Lubbock. The program certainly does seem to be building. The players are bigger and faster. The expectations are growing. Heck, even the facilities are growing under McGuire.
Because of those facility upgrades, the Red Raiders spent the spring game at Lowery Field. The scrimmage was well attended with seemingly more than 5,000 in attendance even with it off campus and across town. The game itself didn’t have a ton of action with less than 40 total points with four quarters and a Red Zone drill.
Even without the high-flying action, I think there were a few takeaways we will discuss.
Tyler Shough and Behren Morton played the entire first half and Red Zone Breakout session. Shough and Morton had interceptions in the contest, but only Morton had a touchdown to Loic Fouonji on what looked like the duo taking advantage of a busted coverage. Founji finished with three catches and more than 100 yards. Morton’s pick came in the red zone at the hands of redshirt freshman linebacker Ty Kana. Shough’s first interception came on the second play of the game after a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage was corralled by transfer safety CJ Baskerville. His second came late in the half on a deep shot into thick coverage where Dadrion Taylor-Demerson came down with the ball.
Morton didn’t have to deal with the starting defense for most of his reps, a struggle that led to three sacks on Shough.
I still think Tyler Shough will be the starting quarterback when the team lines up for the first game of the year in Laramie against Wyoming, but I do believe the sentiment that this is a legitimate position battle that will run through Fall camp.
The offensive line did give up three sacks, but the offense rushed for more than 130 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and red zone period. I thought the offensive and defensive lines won about the same amount of plays, but it was obvious the defensive line was dominating at times, and the offensive line was just surviving for most of it. The defensive line, including the sacks, had 11 tackles for loss and they were short-staffed.
Jaylon Hutchings, Tony Bradford, Joseph Adedire and Isaac Smith will all factor into the two-deep in 2023, and none of them played this spring, yet the defensive line didn’t miss a beat. Steve Linton, the transfer from Syracuse is the real deal and Myles Cole looks to have continued his improvement that culminated in the Texas Bowl game last season. Tyree Wilson saw a similar outbreak in the Liberty Bowl, could we see that kind of jump from Cole? He had two sacks on Saturday.
Sophomore Blake Burris is 6’5″ and 310 pounds and was the personal protector for Austin McNamara last season. After his performance in the Spring Game, he’s one of my picks for a breakout season of sorts along the defensive line rotation.
Offensively, the line looked solid but will be happy to not have to contain Cole and Linton when the season starts.
As mentioned, the defense did take the ball away three different times. There was also an apparent fumble recovery early in the game, but I think the running back was ruled down. Before the game, I commented that the offense was about to dominate because during the warmups they seemed much more excited, which I mistook for more intensity. I was mistaken, the defense has the intensity of a contract killer. They are there to do a job, and that job was completed on Saturday.
The Size Difference
This is related to the trenches, but not entirely about the front seven or offensive line. This team just looks bigger.
Berhren Morton looks like he’s gained 15 pounds. The running backs, receivers, and defensive backs all looked stronger and faster. It’s impossible to make any real judgment there, but I can’t help but notice a difference in the team.
Maybe it’s a placebo effect of drinking deep from the well of McGuire Kool-Aid.
Maybe it’s the truth.
Maybe a bit of both.
The Youth Movement
This 2023 Texas Tech team has a TON of senior leadership. 11 starters across the offense, defense, and special teams are Super Seniors and at least five more are Seniors in the starting lineup. The team that will be on the field in the fall will have the kind of depth and experience to compete for a Big 12 championship. To win one though, they’ll need a talent infusion on the two-deep from a bunch of freshmen and sophomores.
True freshman Joseph Adedire provided a glimpse of that last season. Who could it be this season? Miquel Dingle, the part-time track star, entered the game and immediately got a TFL early in the second half. Sophomore running back Cam’Ron Valdez looks to be a major part of the offense as the lightning to Brooks’ thunder. Another Sophomore Jerand Bradley is going to be WR1.
Redshirt freshmen linebackers Ty Kana and Ben Roberts performed well in the Spring game and true freshmen Brendan Jordan and Lewis Chapman both had multiple tackles.