What We’ve Learned From the First Two Texas Tech Spring Football Games
The Texas Tech football team has now had two spring games.
The defense opened the series with a win in Midland on April 25th. The defense won 50 - 34 based on a series of scoring that seemed to change as the scrimmage went along. The defense was led by junior Jah'Shawn Johnson and the secondary who made most of the tackles, according to the stat recap on texastech.com.
Offensively in Midland, Nic Shimonek was 20-28 for 196 yards and a touchdown in his QB1 debut for the Red Raiders. He's not Patrick Mahomes, but he can be successful in the Kingsbury system. The rest of the QBs on the roster got some snaps, but seemingly it was just for who will be Shimonnek's back-up.
Payne Sullins ended the scrimmage with 115 yards through the air after completing 10 out of 13 passes. McLane Carter, making his Red Raider debut, was 7-13 overall for 70 yards, while true freshman Xavier Martin finished 4-7 for 48 yards. Martin also added a 15-yard scamper on his opening drive.
Dylan Cantrell added five receptions for 47 yards and a six-yard touchdown from Payne Sullins.
The defense also had four sacks that contributed to their point total.
The Midland Scrimmage featured very little action and will offer no lasting impact on the Texas Tech football team.
The atmosphere in Midland is always good, but it's a small stadium and crowd compared to what these guys will compete in during the regular season. So the crowd and live action doesn't really help more than any normal practice session.
The second spring contest was in Frisco, Texas at the Dallas Cowboys practice facility. This game, while not huge compared to Midland in size, was much more important for the team to get used to playing in a live environment. The crowd was electric and the facility being enclosed only made the noise more of an impact as it clearly rattled the offensive line, which had multiple false starts.
The offense would tally the victory in Frisco - and I'm not saying it was rigged to set up a rubber match showdown in Lubbock for their final spring showing of the season. The final score was 49-31, though at some points it felt like an episode of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" You know, the show 'where everything is made up and the points don't matter.'
Shimonek looked strong again as the judicious arm that spreads the ball as he chooses. He totaled 273 yards and three touchdowns on 26-33 passing. Keke Coutee, Tony Brown and Derrick Willies were the recipients of the touchdown love.
As I said earlier, the offensive line had its struggles in Frisco. The running game was non-existent, with quarterback runs being the most prolific ground game for the Red Raiders. Paul Stawarz has moved into the center position from left guard, allowing true freshman Jack Anderson to play the open guard position. Anderson often looked over-matched, but held his own during the time he spent on the field.
A true freshman, no matter how talented, on a Big 12 line is generally trouble.
From the throw counts and playtime, it seems that transfer McLane Carter has started to cement himself as the second QB, and Payne Sullins will be relegated to 3rd string. Xavier Martin, who had a 47-yard touchdown to De'Quan Bowman, will likely be red-shirted.
All of the QB shuffling will begin again if, and when, Jett Duffey re-enrolls in the fall following his suspension.
The defense totaled three more sacks, and defensive tackle Nick McCann got a pick-six on a tipped screen pass from Payne Sullins. The defensive line tipped several passes at the line of scrimmage. Lonzell Gilmore, a defensive end, was very active and notched four tackles and a sack on the stat sheet.
It's incredibly hard to judge a team during a Red and Black scrimmage, but I think there are still a few things we have learned in the first two spring games.
The offensive line still has a ways to go. The offensive line in the first two games has been lackluster. Granted, there is some turnover from last year and a brand new coach. Growing pains are expected.
The second thing I think we have learned is that Nic Shimonek is a capable Big 12 starter. Obviously, going against the NCAA's reigning worst defense is a plus for him, but we can't cheat accuracy and good decisions -- and he's had both of those this spring.
The running game hasn't existed. I'm sure it's been a conscious decision from Kliff Kingsbury to not spend a lot of time and effort on the running game in the spring showcases, which are meant to be entertainment for boosters and recruits. But if last year is any indication, the running game is vital to the success of Kliff Kingsbury and his team.