April 16, 2008

Hale makes the transition from LB to FB

If, as appears to be the case, an improved short-yardage running game is one goal for the 2008 Texas Tech offense, then Ryan Hale could be one of the team's key players. The converted linebacker is Tech's first-team BH receiver, which is the Air Raid equivalent of a fullback. As such, he will certainly be the lead blocker for Tech's tailbacks in many a critical short-yardage situation during the upcoming season.

The transition from one position to another in the game of football is never easy. And the move from defense to offense must be exponentially more difficult. That said, Hale has gotten a leg up on the situation by actually making the move during last year's Gator Bowl preparations.

"Starting off it [the transition] was pretty tough," Hale admits. "I got a lot of work because I came over here during the bowl season and got to rep it over and over again, and got a lot of work in. I'm just now starting to get everything down."

Hale certainly seems to be well on the road to mastering the blocking aspect of the position. On those occasions where he has been given the opportunity to line up in an "I" formation, Hale routinely blotted out linebackers who were once his partners. And perhaps Hale has been such a thorn in the side of the linebackers precisely because he once was one.

"It [facing his old mates] is fun. It's always fun. I mean, it's kind of like a competitive thing. They like to get the best of me and I like to get the best of them, coming from over there. I enjoy it a lot. It's a competitive thing pretty much."

One of the biggest questions surround Hale and the fullback position is how much it will actually be used in games. Traditionally, the BH receiver sees the field only sparingly. Even in short-yardage situations, Mike Leach and his quarterbacks usually feel more comfortable throwing the ball than running it. The extent to which BH becomes a more regular feature in the offense may depend upon how well Hale masters the position and how effective he is.

"We're really just working on things right now and seeing how things work out, putting some things in and seeing how things come and if they look good. And hopefully everything works out well and we will use it more than we have in the past. Short-yardage situations and stuff."

Hale adds, however, that there have been no significant schematic alterations to the running game, nor many new plays.

"It's really the same things we've always done except we're running it with me right now and trying to get everything in. Hopefully we'll do those things more than we have in the past."

One of the mantras that Mike Leach and his staff have successfully implanted in the minds of the players is the necessity that each player to do his own job, and not worry about what anybody else is doing. To some degree, this homogenizes individual identities and fosters assimilation to the team concept. And in Hale's case, this means that his role on the team is synonymous with doing his job.

"I'm really out there to help motivate stuff. I'm out there to get my blocks and stuff, of course. I'm on a few special teams. Really I'm out there to do my job just like everybody else. As long as we all do our jobs then everything should come together."

For the Red Raiders to meet sky-high pre-season expectations, "everything" most certainly will have to "come together." And that means, among other things, handling the publicity and the hype that come with being a top-15 or even top-10 ball-club. Hale, for one, is fully aware of the hype that is building, he welcomes it, and is convinced that the Red Raiders will deal with it effectively.

"Really, it shouldn't be a distraction," Hale states. "I mean, of course it's gonna be welcome. We're finally getting noticed and we enjoy that, but we just don't know, we've gotta go about our business, just business as usual. We can't let that stuff get to our head and become a distraction. If we allow it to, it could become a distraction, but everybody's doing a good job of handling it right now, and I think we're gonna stay level-headed and come out in the season and meet those expectations."

And if the Red Raiders live up to the hype, you can be sure that Ryan Hale made a few key blocks when the chips were down. No player who plays so few plays will be so important.

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