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July 15, 2009

Over/Under: 1,165 yards for Tech's top WR

In this piece designed for stats-freaks, we will take a look at the running game, the receiving corps and the run defense. Will these units surpass their immediate predecessors in terms of statistical proficiency or not?

1.) 5.8 COMBINED YPC FOR BARON BATCH AND HARRISON JEFFERS

In 2008 Shannon Woods was Texas Tech's starting running back and Baron Batch was the top caddy. Batch turned out to be a pretty good understudy as he led the Red Raiders in rushing and averaged an astonishing 6.7 yards per carry. Batch's yards per carry average bumped up the tandem's YPC average to 5.8.

In 2009 Batch will assume the formal role of starter and redshirt freshman Harrison Jeffers will step in as the ace backup.

Batch suffered from turf toe most of last season, which makes his accomplishments of 2008 all the more impressive. If - and it is a considerable if given Batch's history of injury - Batch can maintain his health in 2009 then there's not much he cannot accomplish as a runner, even within the constraints of the Air Raid. A healthy Batch, as exemplified most of the previous spring, is an elemental force with the ball in his hands and will gash opposing defenses relentlessly.

Jeffers arrives with a great deal of hoopla and it appears to be deserved. During workouts dating to his arrival in August of 2008, Jeffers has wowed observers with his quickness, vision and broken-field speed. Jeffers sometimes goes down at the line of scrimmage, but also rips off scintillating runs of 50 or more yards on a regular basis. He will be a serious weapon in the Air Raid, and a deflator to defenses hoping to catch a break when Batch goes to the sideline for a blow.

In short, the talent at running back is clearly superior to a year ago. If the rebuilt offensive line can create some creases for Batch and Jeffers, Tech's running game will cook. And the projection here is that it will indeed exceed 5.8 yard per carry. Over.

2.) 1,165 YARDS FOR THE RED RAIDERS' LEADING RECEIVER

The immortal Michael Crabtree posted 1,165 receiving yards a year ago, which should tell you something about the impressiveness of that mark. Moreover, Crabtree had a certain Graham Harrell throwing the ball to him. That duo is gone, and now Tech's passing game is in the hands of Taylor Potts, Detron Lewis, Lyle Leong and Edward Britton. The aerial attack will flow - or not - based largely on the play of that quartet.

Suffice it to say that Potts will not blaze out of the gates like a polished Harrell. That's just not a reasonable expectation. Eventually, he will probably reach Harrell's level of play, but not immediately. And that will diminish the statistics of the receivers.

Likewise, this receiving outfit, more than any in recent memory, will be receiver by committee. There probably are no bona fide superstars in the unit right now, but there is a good deal of balance and depth. Those features may make the unit even more difficult to defend than last year's group, but they do not militate in favor of one receiver putting up crazy numbers. The projection here, therefore, is that Tech's leading receiver in 2009 will not surpass 1,165 receiving yards. Under.

3.) 140.38 RUSHING YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME

It was not so very long ago that the Texas Tech defense was known hither and yon as a sluice through which opposing running backs rampaged like snowmelt down the Colorado River. Since arriving on the scene as defensive coordinator, Ruffin McNeill has taken steps to eliminate that reputation. And mission largely accomplished.

Still, the Red Raider defense has not yet reached true powerhouse status against the run. It may take a giant step in that direction in 2009 thanks to a deep and experienced linebacker corps and a stout interior line.

The Red Raiders return all three starters at linebacker and the top backups at each spot as well. Middle linebacker Brian Duncan has received some preseason All-Big 12 notice, and his backup, Sam Fehoko, maybe every bit as good against the run.

Colby Whitlock is one of the best defensive tackles in the Big 12, and Richard Jones could prove to be one of the most underrated. With substitutes like Chris Perry, Myles Wade, Rajon Henley and probably Brandon Sesay on hand, attacking the middle of Tech's defense will not be a pleasant task. The expectation here is that not only will the defense improve upon 140.38 rushing yards per game allowed, it will obliterate that mark. Under.


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