Health the concern at RB
Ward is a playmaker
It may not seem that way by glancing at the stat book from last season, but
Texas Tech's receiving corps will be a strong point for the team this fall. The
Red Raiders are a legitimate 10-12 players deep and, most importantly, are close
to full health heading into fall camp.
"We're solid with our receivers," quarterback Seth Doege said. "We have
some of the best receivers in the country. Eric Ward is coming back and is very
explosive, but we also have Darrin Moore, Marcus Kennard and
Javon Bell on the outside. They're all really talented and could be the No. 1 guy
almost anywhere else. We have a bunch of guys on the outside that can really
Texas Tech's receiving corps should be the deepest
position on the team this fall. In fact, this is arguably the deepest
the Red Raiders have been at receiver in five-plus years. The team isn't
as top-heavy as it has been in years past with an obvious Wes Welker,
Joel Filani or Michael Crabtree-like headliner but, unlike years past,
there isn't a dramatic drop from the top to the bottom of the rotation.
Departures: Jacoby Franks, Adam James, Tramain Swindall
2011 NUMBERS TO KNOW
• For the first time since the 2001 season, Texas
Tech only had one player (Eric Ward, 84) register more than 55
• Before getting hurt against Nevada, Darrin Moore was leading the
country in receiving yards per game (169.5) and was second in receptions
per game (10.5).
• Ward caught 16 passes against Baylor, breaking Michael Crabtree's
school record for most catches in a single game (15).
BATTLE TO WATCH
Based on what happened last season and during
the spring, it's hard to imagine Darrin Moore and Eric Ward not starting
the season as Tech's top two guys at Z and X. What will happen at the
two inside spots is a little harder to gauge, though Alex Torres (H) and
Jace Amaro (Y) were listed as starters on the Red Raiders' official
pre-camp depth chart. Will Tyson Williams push Amaro at Y? Can Jakeem
Grant make a push at H? Austin Zouzalik has played both, where will he
"Don't forget on the inside that we're going to get back
Austin Zouzalik and Alex Torres from injuries. They're both really dependable
guys. Then we have Tyson Williams. And then we have tight end
Jace Amaro. I could go on forever. Jace has had a great summer, he's 6-foot-6,
260 pounds and can run.
"We also have two midgets that can really scat around. The list goes on forever
and I can go on and on. As a quarterback, there's unlimited guys we can get the
Ward led the Red Raiders in all major receiving categories last season,
including receptions (84), yards (800) and caught 11 of Doege's 28 touchdown
The 6-foot, 203-pound receiver is respected for his physicality in the run game
as well as his hands.
"I'm physical and the defense doesn't like that because they're used to pushing
the offense around," Ward said. "The defense isn't used to getting hit the same
way they hit you. On top of that, I have a great surge off the line and can
catch the long ball.
"I feel like the best receivers have to do it all, including blocking. It's
important to help your teammates out by sacrificing your body to end a
defender's pursuit on the play. I want them to block for me and I'll always
block for them."
Ward says he wants to break 1,000 receiving yards this season, but Moore might
give him a run for his money.
Moore was on pace for a monster season -- he caught 21 passes for 339 yards and
four scores in Tech's first two games -- but sustained a serious leg injury in
the third game of the season and was never quite the same. Still, Moore finished
2011 with 571 receiving yards, which was third-best on the team behind Ward and
Torres (616 yards).
Torres is coming off of a torn ACL injury but should be healthy and at full
speed by Sept. 1.
Wideout Derek Edwards joins the mix on the outside after redshirting
last season. With Ward missing most of the spring due to bruised ribs, Edwards
received a lot of quality reps and took full advantage of the opportunity.
Amaro, who had a limited role last season, should give the Red Raiders a good
big play threat down the middle. He seemed much more polished this spring and
should be much more effective this fall.
Jakeem Grant and Javares McRoy, neither taller than 5-foot-7,
are the players Doege referred to as midgets. While small in stature, Grant and
McRoy both have plus speed and a lot of wiggle.
NEW FACES: U.S. Army All-American Dominique Wheeler and
Texas 1A State Champion athlete Reginald Davis joined the Red Raiders this summer and are all
expected to redshirt this fall.
Look for Wheeler and Davis to contribute as redshirt freshmen in 2013 and
continue a tradition of very strong receiver units into the future.
PRESSURE IS ON: Tyson Williams. Because of the depth that the
Red Raiders enjoy at receiver, there really isn't any single player that's
facing an 'under the gun' situation. Williams may be feeling more pressure than
his peers because of the fact that, by transferring from West Texas A&M to Tech
after the 2009 season, he effectively forfeited his second-to-last season of
collegiate eligibility in order to prove himself on a bigger stage. Williams got
the opportunity and now, after a year of waiting, he has to prove that the
gamble was worth it.
BIGGEST QUESTION: Will Tech's depth make up for a lack of a
dominant, No. 1 receiver? Will that kind of all-conference type player --
perhaps Darrin Moore -- emerge this season?
PRE-CAMP DEPTH CHART
The Red Raiders may not be as top-heavy
at receiver as they have been in years past -- they don't have a
returning all-conference type -- but, top to bottom, this is arguably
the deepest the program has been at the position in several years. The
two most noteworthy developments with Tech's official pre-camp depth
chart is that newcomer Javon Bell being listed second at X-receiver
instead of Marcus Kennard and Jakeem Grant being listed second at
H-receiver ahead of a fourth-year veteran like Austin Zouzalik. The
absence of Derek Edwards is a testament to how deep the Red Raiders are
at receiver, as the redshirt freshman had a terrific spring and is very