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January 24, 2011

Season In Review: Wide Receiver

Prior to the 2010 season most observers projected the Texas Tech Red Raiders to finish 8-5 or thereabouts and that's exactly what happened. The Red Raiders achieved this mark despite a rather rocky start and some fairly miserable moments during the first half of the season. Over the next couple of weeks, RedRaiderSports.com, via a review of each position, will see how Tech rallied to eight wins. Today we continue with a look at the receivers.

Texas Tech's receiving corps was corpse-like at times in 2010, but not in the team's TicketCity Bowl win over Northwestern. Drops, which had plagued this unit like the Black Death, were rare in this contest although a borderline catchable ball was tipped into the arms of a Wildcat defensive back for Tech's lone interception of the afternoon. More to the point, however, Lyle Leong capped off a stellar senior season by catching 10 balls for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Detron Lewis also had a solid outing with eight grabs for 49 yards, while Alex Torres showed signs of regaining his old form, latching onto 3 aerials for 42 yards. Additionally, Austin Zouzalik had possibly his best game of the season, catching 5 passes for 50 yards and executing a double-pass play that resulted in a touchdown run for Taylor Potts. Cornelius Douglas also chipped in with four catches for 29 yards in his best performance as a Red Raider, while oft-forgotten Tramain Swindall had three snags for 31 yards and a touchdown.
The Red Raider offense was generally inadequate against a good, but in hindsight, overrated Texas defense. And the lack of productivity from the receivers suggests that they bought into the fearsome reputation the Longhorn secondary brought to Lubbock back in September. In short, this group had their worst numbers of the season, combining for 19 receptions and 146 receiving yards with only one touchdown catch. Detron Lewis led the way with 42 yards on six receptions, while Jacoby Franks, who would later suffer a season-ending injury, pitched in with three grabs for 39 yards. His 19-yard reception was Tech's longest pass play of the evening.
Lyle Leong caught so many fades for touchdowns that they all sort of run together. Great plays by Cornelius Douglas, on the other hand, kind of stick out. One in particular was a wide receiver screen that went for 13 yards in the TicketCity Bowl. Granted, that's pretty modest yardage, but Douglas showed tremendous balance, strength and determination as he fought through half of the Northwestern defense to get those 13 yards. Douglas, who played better as the season went along, could be a player to watch in 2011. He made 20 receptions as a sophomore for 215 yards and a touchdown, with eight of those catches and 90 of the yards coming in the Red Raiders' final three games.
With any luck, 2011 will hold a whole lot of health for the Texas Tech receivers. Alex Torres, who was expected to be the group's bellcow in 2010, suffered a back injury in fall workouts and never fully recovered. Austin Zouzalik also struggled with injuries, and Jacoby Franks played less than half of the season before being felled. If the 2011 group can stay healthy, it can be good. That said, Lyle Leong's red zone productivity will be hard to replace, as will Detron Lewis' yardage after the catch.

But Zouzalik, Torres, Franks and Tramain Swindall comprise an experienced core, and they are not without ability. Eric Ward and the aforementioned Douglas showed signs of developing late in the season, and redshirt freshman Shawn Corker should contribute quickly. But what this unit really lacks is a receiver who can separate from cornerbacks on the fly pattern and threaten defenses deep. With any luck, fleet true freshman Jakeem Grant will provide that much needed downfield spark.

Another development to watch will be the new tight end position. Rutgers transfer Tony Trahan and incoming frosh phenom Jace Amaro could give the Tech offense a dimension that has not been seen in the Hub City since the 20th century.

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