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2008 Texas Tech Preview - Offense
Texas Tech OT Rylan Reed
Texas Tech OT Rylan Reed
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 20, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Texas Tech Red Raider Offense

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Preview 2008 - Tech Offense

- 2008 CFN Texas Tech Preview | 2008 Texas Tech Offense
- 2008 Texas Tech Defense | 2008 Texas Tech Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Texas Tech Preview | 2006 CFN Texas Tech Preview 

What you need to know: The machine should be humming better than ever with almost everyone returning. Expect close to 500 passing yards per game, a lot of points, and a whole bunch of fun for what could be the best offense yet under head coach Mike Leach. The only starter gone from last year is WR Danny Amendola, and Edward Britton and Detron Lewis are expected to fill in the gap without a problem. The phenomenal pitch-catch combination of Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree will once again set all sorts of records, while the mammoth, veteran offensive line will give everyone time to work. The one issue is a running game that took a major step back last season, but now it has three options in the rotation to try to generate more production, or at least more yards per carry.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Graham Harrell
512-713, 5,705 yds, 48 TD, 14 INT
Rushing: Shannon Woods
84 carries, 439 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Michael Crabtree
134 catches, 1,962 yds, 22 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Graham Harrell & Sophomore WR Michael Crabtree
Player who has to step up and become a star: Redshirt freshman OT Mickey Okafor
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Edward Britton
Best pro prospect: Crabtree
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Crabtree, 2) Harrell, 3) OG Louis Vasquez
Strength of the offense: Everything about the passing game, offensive line
Weakness of the offense:
Running game, yards per carry

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
If senior Graham Harrell doesn't lead the nation in every major passing category, he'll be in the top three. Despite throwing for 38 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, he was inconsistent as a sophomore. Then he turned his game up a notch as he became more accurate, more consistent, and more of a leader. The statistics are mind boggling. 72% completion rate. 5,705 yards, 48 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, ten 400-yard games, and one 646-yard outing (in the loss to Oklahoma State). The two games under 400 were a 397-yard day against Missouri and a 338-yard performance in a half before sitting down in the 75-7 win over Northwestern State.  The key is to keep the interceptions to a minimum with eight of his picks coming in a two-game stretch against Missouri and Colorado, both losses, and then he started to get the ball out of his hands even quicker to counteract the pass rush. While he's not a regular runner, he's mobile enough to take off from time to time when needed. A long, thin 6-3 and 203 pounds, he doesn't look like he's tough as nails but he is. Most importantly, he is clutch. After two straight fantastic bowl wins and big performance after big performance, he is the team's unquestioned main man.

Projected Top Reserve: Call this the warm-up year of apprenticeship for sophomore Taylor Potts, who completed 32 of 49 passes for 409 yards and three touchdowns with an interception in a little bit of relief work last year. At 6-5 and 221 pounds, he's a big, strong passer with a live arm and the talent to potentially be the most talented quarterback to ever play for Mike Leach. While he's not going to push for the starting job this season, very soon he's going to be a college football household name.

There will be a battle for the third man in the mix with sophomore Steven Sheffield and redshirt freshman Stefan Loucks each auditioning to be the top backup behind Taylor Potts next year. Sheffield, a former walk-on, is a tall, skinny passer with good decision-making skills, while Loucks is a small, skinny passer who threw for 13,701 yards and 147 touchdowns in his Arkansas high school career.
 
Watch Out For ... Harrell to finish his college career with close to 16,000 passing yards. It's not like the Red Raiders are going to throw it any less.
Strength: Harrell and Potts. There's a fantastic 1-2 combination of passing talent to keep the attack rolling for the next few years. If Harrell goes down, Potts can step in and throw for 400 yards a game.
Weakness: Ability to handle the pressure. Harrell has been around long enough to sniff out the pass rush, but he was a bit off at times last year when he had to hurry his throws. The key to the offense is giving the quarterback time, and while the line is terrific, there will be times when Harrell will have live with getting smacked around a bit.
Outlook: The production will once again be out of this world. Harrell is a true Heisman candidate in the same way Hawaii's Colt Brennan became the man last year, and Potts is ready to step in and shine at any time. There are interesting young prospects buried on the depth chart.
Rating: 10


Running Backs

Projected Starter
:
There isn't one. Texas Tech will rotate its backs throughout the season, like it did last year, and it'll go with the hot hand, or legs, depending on the situation. Sophomore Aaron Crawford took over the starting gig late last year leading the running backs with 38 catches for 246 yards and two touchdowns, but he was a merely average runner with 214 yards and four scores. At 5-11 and 202 pounds, he has a little bit of size with good hands and excellent potential. He's a better runner than his stats indicate.

Projected Top Reserve:  The leading rusher last season was senior Shannon Woods, who led the Big 12 in yards two years ago and was stuck deep in the doghouse early last year. Despite being second and occasionally third on the depth chart, he still ran for 439 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 34 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. He has 4.4 speed and he has the experience, but he can't hang on to the starting spot.

Splitting time with Aaron Crawford was going to be junior Kobey Lewis, a jitterbug-quick runner who caught 24 passes and ran for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Nowhere near the type of back who can handle the ball 20 times a game, he's effective enough to be a major factor on third downs ... next year. He was suspended for the season for a violation of team rules.

The third man in the mix, at least until Shannon Woods gets back in everyone's good graces again, will be sophomore Baron Batch after missing all of last year getting over an Achilles heel injury. When healthy, he's a great combination of rushing skills and breakaway speed with 4.4 wheels in a 5-11, 209-pound frame. Want-to won't be a problem; he's ready to make an impact.
 
Watch Out For ... the whole to be better than the sum. The running game, statistically, was the worst in America last season, and while there will never be a regular ground attack, the combination of talents should be more effective.
Strength: Tremendous quickness. By design, the Red Raider backs aren't big, but they can dart through holes like a bolt of lightning. Batch is fast, Crawford is really fast, and Woods is really, really fast.
Weakness: Yards per carry. Rushing for 100 yards isn't necessary, but being effective when it's time to run the ball is a must. The Red Raiders averaged a paltry 3.1 yards per carry, which is unacceptable considering no one ever focused on the run.
Outlook: The running game can't be along for the ride again. Tech might have thrown the ball more than ever last year, but that was partly because the backs didn't generate any consistent production. It'll be up to the threesome of Crawford, Batch and Woods to rotate and be effective on the ground and do more for the passing game when they get a chance.
Rating: 6

Receivers

Projected Starters
:
Sophomore Michael Crabtree was a superstar recruit for the Red Raiders three years ago, but he had to sit out a year with academic problems and wasn't able to kick off his career until last year. He was worth the wait. The Biletnikoff winner as the nation's best receiver led the country with 134 catches for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns showing off tremendous speed in a 6-3, 208-pound frame. With great hands and next-level talent, the spotlight will be on as he's expected to be even better this season with all the talent on the rest of the offense to take away some of the pressure. The key will consistency. After starting off the season with 78 catches for 1,244 yards and 17 touchdowns in seven games, he scored just five times over the final six games. However, he stepped up when he had to with 21 catches for 349 yards and three touchdowns in back-to-back games against Texas and Oklahoma. He's not just part of a system; he's the real deal.

The new star of the show will likely be junior Edward Britton as he steps into the outside X position. A reserve last year, he still made 48 catches for 631 yards and four touchdowns, finishing fourth on the team, while averaging 25.4 yards on kickoff returns. The former running back was a star, national star-caliber sprinter in high school, but he has to show off better hands.

At the inside H position will once against by senior Eric Morris, a speedy route runner and good third down target who was third on the team with 75 catches for 767 yards and nine touchdowns. Steady throughout the year, he blow up in the loss to Colorado catching ten passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. He might not be explosive, but he always finds a way to get open.

At the Y replacing Danny Amendola and his 109 catches will be sophomore Detron Lewis after catching ten passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns. While he caught a touchdown pass in the win against Virginia, he did his most damage in garbage time with two scores against Northwestern State. At 6-0 and 198 pounds, he's a physical, precise route runner.

Projected Top Reserves: Battling with Detron Lewis for the starting spot at the Y will be sophomore Lyle Leong after making 15 catches for 174 yards and a touchdown. While he can also move to the Z and play behind Michael Crabtree, which he did last year, he'll make more of an impact in a rotation with Lewis. With his hands and athleticism, he'll likely end up being more effective the more he plays on the outside.

Junior Todd Walker missed all of last year hurt recovering from a pelvis injury and now appears to be back to normal. Growing into a key target at the end of 2006, he'll now be back in the rotation playing behind Crabtree at the Z. Before the injury he was the team's fastest player running a 4.34 40, and while he might have lost a little off his fastball, he can still move.

When the offense needs a combination of tight end and fullback, 6-1, 222-pound junior Ryan Hale will step in. The former linebacker was used as a blocking back in the Gator Bowl win over Virginia and made seven stops on the season. His job will be to protect Graham Harrell and to open a few holes for the ground game.
 
Watch Out For ... Edward Britton. Texas Tech always plugs in players who produce. If the offense can replace Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani last year, if can get a big year out of Britton to help replace the lost production of Amendola.
Strength: Crabtree. By himself he caught passes for more yards than five teams and his 22 touchdown grabs were more than 74 teams were able to produce.
Weakness: Veteran depth. For all the throwing Texas Tech does, it likes to focus mainly on a few receivers to keep the attack moving. The machine won't break down if Crabtree gets hurt, but there will be problems.
Outlook: Led by Crabtree, the show will once again be impressive. Morris is a nice target who's ready for a bigger role and Lewis should fill in for Amendola without a problem, but the real key will be Britton. While he's not Crabtree, he's expected to use his speed to be more of a gamebreaker.
Rating: 8.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
:
Senior left guard Louis Vasquez was the only returning starter to last year's line and did a great job of being a key veteran to work around while everyone else got their feet wet. A monster at 6-6 and 335 pounds, he's extremely quick for his size with the feet to play tackle if needed. At the very least, he'll get some practice reps on the outside just in case. He has next-level potential with his size, athleticism and pass protection ability; he didn't allow a sack last year.

Next to Vasquez at left tackle will be 6-7, 320-pound redshirt freshman Mickey Okafor, the only new starter to the front five. This is Rylan Reed's spot, but he's coming off a bad leg injury and might need part of the season to recover. Okafor fits the Tech mold of a huge, strong blocker who has surprising athleticism. While his run blocking is a question mark, that's not a big issue in this offense. He's a pass blocker.

Junior Shawn Byrnes has never been able to stay healthy, but when he's right, he's a good centerpiece for the solid line. At 6-4 and 303 pounds he's the biggest option in the middle, but he'll have to fight to keep the starting job. Incredibly strong, at the very least he'll be a key backup.

The right side is set with junior Brandon Carter back at right guard and junior Marlon Winn at tackle. The 6-6, 329-pound Winn took over the starting job early last year and proved he could handle the workload using his long frame to become a top pass protector. He'll have to battle to keep the job with some good options behind him, but he has the potential to be a fixture for the next two years.

The mohawked Carter is a 6-6, 356-pound mauler who earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors. While decent on the move, he's a strong force for the running game, when the offense actually runs it. He's not Louis Vasquez, but he's growing into an all-star caliber performer on his own and could be the star of the line next year.

Projected Top Reserves: How fast can Rylan Reed get healthy? The former tight end filled out his frame and turned into a next-level caliber tackle. The 6-7, 314-pounder stopped Virginia's Chris Long cold in the Gator Bowl win, but he suffered a broken ankle and might not be ready until midseason. The senior's return would make an already good line great.

While Shawn Byrnes should be the main man at center, junior Stephen Hamby is getting every chance to win the job. The versatile 6.3, 287-pounder is also one of the top backups at both guard spots and will be used at all three interior spots at times.

Senior Jake Johnson was the starter last year before going down with a knee injury. While he might have lost his job to Marlon Winn on the right side, he's expected to be back at some point this year to add even more size to the outside. A massive 6-7 and 353 pounds, the former JUCO transfer has the size to go along with his ridiculous strength. He defines the term pancake blocker.
 
Watch Out For ... Okafor. It's not being too dramatic to suggest that Okafor could be the most important new player in the Big 12 this season. If the massive redshirt freshman can protect Graham Harrell's blindside on a consistent basis, all is fine. If he struggles and Reed isn't 100% after returning from his broken ankle, than star guard Vasquez might have to move to the outside.
Strength: Pass protection. The Red Raiders threw the ball 763 times last year and the line only gave up 18 sacks. That means Tech QBs were sacked a mere 0.02% of the time.
Weakness: Run blocking ... but that's by design. This is a massive line that's built to protect the passer, but can the Red Raiders run the ball when they absolutely have to? They never try to run it on a steady basis, and were last in the nation with just 59 rushing yards per game, but it's always a question for the one-dimensional group.
Outlook: Expected to be a problem going into last season, the O line quickly became a strength and now should be dominant. First-year O line coach Matt Moore will put several players in several spots for versatility and to provide options for different combinations, but there might not be too much tinkering with this veteran crew. The scary part is that this year should build towards an even strong 2009 with only one starter, all-star guard Vasquez, leaving. For what the Red Raiders do, this group will be phenomenal.
Rating: 8