April 4, 2006

Spring Practice #8 Notebook

With their first scrimmage of the vernal season behind them, the Texas Tech football team took the intramural fields on Monday afternoon for their eighth of fifteen practices. Though the offense largely got the better of their black-shirted counterparts on Saturday, the woefully under-manned defense stepped-up and dominated Monday's team (simulated scrimmage) period. A visibly displeased head coach Mike Leach dressed down the offense and made them do a considerable number of up-downs. While the woes on offense (read about them here) were certainly the biggest story of the day, there were plenty of other things going on.

Johnny on the Spot

Did any one single player have more to do with the outcome of Texas Tech's 2005 than Danny Amendola? It came down to two plays in the fourth quarters of the Nebraska and Oklahoma games in which the Red Raiders were trying to erase a deficit.

In the final minutes of the game in Lincoln, with Tech trailing, Cody Hodges was intercepted by Le Kevin Smith with 1:11 left. Instead of falling down to secure possession for Nebraska, and effectively win the game for the Huskers, Smith tried to run the ball back. He didn't get very far before Tech offensive lineman Bryan Kegans pried the ball loose; Johnny on the Spot, Amendola, recovered the loose ball and the Red Raiders went on register their first-ever victory in Lincoln.

Six weeks later, in Tech's home finale against Oklahoma, Amendola again played the role of Johnny on the Spot. Trailing late in the game and faced with a 4th and 3, Hodges dropped back and threw to the sophomore receiver. The ball was tipped at the line but Amendola came down with it and, by a smidge, converted the fourth down.

Not many knew until this spring that Amendola was playing with two injured knees throughout most of last season.

"It's fun being able to watch him run fast now because he was full speed for about three games last year and then, when we started conference [play] against Kansas he had a bad knee and just never told anybody about it," said Texas Tech inside receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. "He's just tough. He would go in there and get a little rehab and stuff and he was about three-quarter speed. It healed three weeks later but then he broke up his other knee. He was playing on two bum knees all year and watching him he just didn't have that giddy-up that he has right now during spring practice."

This spring, Amendola has looked considerably quicker than he did last season. He has regained his position as primary punt-returner and is in a position battle with L.A. Reed for the starting nod at H-receiver.

Injuries all over the place

Injuries are to be expected in a game as violent and physically demanding as football, so it shouldn't come as a surprise anyone that there are some Red Raiders sitting out on the sidelines. What is somewhat unusual, however, is the number of those with injuries; 15 scholarship players dressed for Monday's practice but did not participate. Eric Morris (rolled ankle) and Clarence Ward (hip flexor strain) began practice in pads but shed them midway through practice due to minor injuries,

Up to this point most of the injuries have been limited to the defensive side of the ball. Seth Nitschmann, Ken Scott, Chad Hill, Joe Garcia, Chris Parker, Marcus Bunton, Dek Bake, Brent Slaughter, Brock Stratton and Fletcher Session were all held out of contact on Monday afternoon.

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