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February 17, 2011

Texas Tech looks to build momentum

The transition from coach Mike Leach to Tommy Tuberville produced some predictable ups and downs for Texas Tech in 2010, but the Red Raiders managed to finish strong with a three-game winning streak.

Next, they start building on that momentum in what should be an important -- perhaps pivotal -- spring practice. Among the main issues the Red Raiders must address are working with a new quarterback, changing the defensive scheme and rebuilding the defensive line.

Significant progress is needed in those areas for the Red Raiders to continue an upward trend into the fall, a trend they hope will make them legitimate contenders in the revamped Big 12.

Here's a look at the Red Raiders headed into spring drills.

Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville has a lot of work to do this spring.
Coach: Tommy Tuberville
Last season: 8-5 overall, 3-5 in the Big 12 South.
Spring dates: Feb. 18-March 26.
(minimum seven starts last season)
Offense (6): G Lonnie Edwards, G Deveric Gallington, C Justin Keown, T Mickey Okafor, WR Tramain Swindall, T LaAdrian Waddle.
Defense (4): S Cody Davis, S Brett Dewhurst, CB D.J. Johnson, E Donald Langley.
Special teams None.
Positions of strength

The offensive line returns intact. The Red Raiders were good up front last season, giving up 21 sacks and paving the way for two running backs to rush for more than 600 yards. But they can get better. Four safeties and three cornerbacks who started at least once return.

Help is needed

Tech must bolster its defensive line. Reliable Colby Whitlock has completed his eligibility and leaves a void at tackle. Last season, injuries and suspensions took a toll up front and left Tech vulnerable against the run and with a mediocre pass rush. The Red Raiders have to get stronger there. E Scott Smith showed promise, but he was suspended most of last season and will be out the first month of this season. Sophomore Es Kerry Hyder and Aundrey Barr aim to come back strong from injuries. The Red Raiders are counting on inexperienced underclassmen to emerge.

Three guys to watch

DE Aundrey Barr: He impressed in practice and was ready to take over as the Red Raiders' main pass rusher after Smith was suspended. But Barr sustained a season-ending knee injury in practice the week before he was to get into the starting lineup.

DT Pearlie Graves: He made steady progress as a redshirt freshman and was in the starting lineup by season's end and finished with 14 tackles and two sacks. He needs to make further improvement and take over Whitlock's role as a consistent presence inside.

WR Marcus Kennard: A four-star junior college transfer, Kennard needs to help replace the production of departed Lyle Leong. Kennard has the ability. He averaged 19.8 yards on 45 receptions at Barton County (Kan.) CC.

The pressure is on

QB Seth Doege: Stories of Doege's ability have been oft-repeated as he has worked to come back from high school injuries, then waited behind Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield for his turn at quarterback. His time finally has come. Now, Doege -- who will be a junior this fall -- has to hold off highly regarded youngsters Jacob Karam, Scotty Young and Michael Brewer.

The buzz

Doege's play this spring will go a long way toward determining whether the Red Raiders are set at quarterback or if there is a full-blown quarterback competition in store. That position typically draws the most attention, but rebuilding the defense may be an even bigger issue. The Red Raiders will have a lot of competition for starting jobs on that side as they settle into the 4-2-5 scheme of new coordinator Chad Glasgow, who had been safeties coach at TCU.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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