August 6, 2006

Red Raiders eager to begin fall camp

Summary: With anticipation of the 2006 season a month away, the players seem to be just as eager as the fans. The word "excited" was being heard all around the Football Training Facility as 78 scholarship athletes and 27 walk-ons checked-in for the first day of fall training camp.

CHECK-IN FINALLY HERE

With anticipation of the 2006 season a month away, the players seem to be just as eager as the fans. The word "excited" was being heard all around the Football Training Facility as all 85 scholarship athletes and walk-ons checked-in for the first day of fall training camp.

"I'm ready, it's been a long summer waiting to put the pads on again," says Junior Wide Receiver Danny Amendola. "I'm real excited."

There were several tables throughout the facility where players went to each one to take care of different departments. There were areas marked "Financial Aid", "Media", "Athletic Trainers", "Compliance", "Academics", and "Checks".

The check-in was being held at the FTF for the first time. The process seemed to go faster than years past as well.

"It went good, it was a lot quicker and easier this year, that is a good sign," says third year Defensive Lineman Jake Ratliff.

As the players finished checking in at their respective tables, each would stop at the door and realize that the long grueling two weeks had just begun. The players had to return to the facility at 4:30pm to begin their first Fall workout as a team.

Practice begins tomorrow evening at 6:30pm.


OUT WITH THE OLD, IN THE WITH THE NEW

As the upperclassman finished making their rounds to the different tables at check-in, they eventually made their way to the locker room. When leaving, there hands were not empty handing.

Each returning player walked out of the football facility this afternoon with a giant trash bag filled with their old Nike apparel.

"It's mostly tights, pants, cleats, shirts, warm-ups, stuff like that," explained Redshirt Freshman Wide Receiver Chris Cunigan.

Since Tech changed over sponsorships from Nike to Under Armour last spring, the team will now garner their brand new Under Armour athletic wear.

"I think we've gotten most of the new stuff," says Junior Wide Receiver Danny Amendola while wearing his new Under Armour shorts and shirt. "The practice jersey looks like game jerseys. It's just really sweet. I'm really excited about it."

Amendola adds that he has not seen the jerseys yet, just pictures. But that they pass the team's approval and everyone is looking forward to the unveiling.


OF COURSE, THE QUARTERBACK BATTLE

When talking about Texas Tech football, all eyes are always on the quarterback position. With Coach Leach waiting till fall camp gets well underway to declare a clear starting quarterback, speculation is still circling the two gunslingers that are awaiting their opportunities. Do the players themselves ever get tired of the buzz?

"It gets asked a lot, but that's to expected, I guess," replies Sophomore Quarterback Graham Harrell. "This coach likes to build it up probably more than it probably should be built up over the year, but that's just part of it. The media likes to get in on it and just ask about it and like you said, it's part of coming to this school and part of being the quarterback. It's a fun situation to be in."

Harrell says that over this summer he feels that he has gotten stronger and tougher. The 6-foot-2 Ennis signal caller feels very confident going into camp.

"You have to feel like more than ever that you're the man. I've been here longer than anyone. I've had a lot of reps from the beginning; I'm coming in healthy for the first time in a while. Last year I was coming in after a broken ankle. So this is an exciting time. You come in very confident and excited to get going."

Harrell is not the only quarterback that is excited about his opportunities over the next two weeks. Redshirt Freshman Chris Todd didn't come to Lubbock all the way from Elizabethtown, Kentucky to not get the starting nod.

"You don't come to college to sit on the bench. That's not what I came to do."

With the level of competition understood, Todd adds that he feels better going into this season than he did last.

"Now I know what to expect a little more and am more prepared coming in. I'm still excited and just like last year, ready to get going. We still have to go through two-a-days, so I still have some stuff to do and some competing to do. So we'll see where we're at once the season starts."

SWITCHING TO THE OUTSIDE (Jake Ratliff)
There have been several happenings over the recent weeks that have forced Defensive Coordinator Lyle Setencich to switch around some of the positions on his defense.

Because of qualifying issues, second year defensive ends McKinner Dixon and Rashad Hunt did not report this afternoon. With these gaps in the depth chart, junior linebacker Keyunta Dawson was asked to move back to his original position at the end.

This still left a void of who would be accompany Keyunta on the opposite side of the line: enter sophomore Jake Ratliff.

Ratliff played the end position all through high school but since has played tackle for the Red Raiders. How does Ratliff feel about the transition back to his old spot?

"I'm glad!," answers Ratliff. "It fits me. I was kind of light at defensive tackle and now I think I'm just right for defensive end. I think I could probably gain a little more weight now!"

Ratliff also understands the urgency and need for him to be a factor on the defensive line this year.

"We're kind of short at defensive line, but I think we'll be fine. It's time for me to step up."

Senior defensive line leader Chris Hudler acts as if it it really isn't that big of a deal.

"You can't let it change your thinking," explains Hudler. "If the guys are doing what they're supposed to do, they should know what they're supposed to be doing. We moved some guys around and moved Jake out to d-end and stuff like that but they should be able to pick up wherever they left off at the other position."

"It's pretty easy," Ratliff agrees. "You just run different stunts and have different assignments, but it's not hard to pick up. Moving from defensive tackle to defensive end, I'll see stuff a lot quicker. Everything happens a lot quicker inside and it kind of slows down on the outside. So I'll definitely see stuff quicker."

Something that Tech fans should be happy to hear, Ratliff is not afraid to ask questions to his fellow line mates. In fact, it sounds as if he knows exactly who to talk to when looking for advice.

"I've been talking to Keyunta a bunch ever since I heard that I was moving. He's been giving me some pointers."

Ratliff says that even though he has an opportunity to make more of an immediate impact on this season than he has in the past, his mentality going into this year is not any different. He's just ready to get on the field.

"This is real exciting. I'm real excited for this season. It should be a lot of fun."



LEADING THE DEFENSIVE LINE

There's no doubt that fifth year senior defensive lineman Chris Hudler has put in his time. Now that he is entering his final collegiate season, with the most experience on the Texas Tech defensive front, Hudler is being looked at as the leader of the line.

"You know I'm one of the older guys and I know how things work," adds the seasoned veteran. "There's a few us like Seth (Nitschmann), Dek (Bake) and Ken (Scott), we're pretty much the leaders of the d-line. We tell people what to expect and everything."

We asked Hudler what the fans should expect from this upcoming season.

"I feel that we should do nothing less of the same as last year, if not better. There's no reason why we shouldn't improve over last year's record. I'm looking for bigger and better things."

While Hudler is looking for nothing short of a Big XII Championship ring, he also carries a little bit of a bitter sweet feeling.

"It's kind of mixed emotions. Yeah, it's the last time. You get kind of tired coming up here and having to do this but once again, this is my last season, so I know it's the end."

How do his emotions going into his final season differ from the past?

"I'm more excited this time. I know we have a chance to do something real good this year. I'm just looking forward to getting out there and practicing."

HEY, CATCH THIS! (receivers depth)

Texas Tech is entering the upcoming season with more talk and speculation at the wide receiver positions than ever before, and deservedly so. The number one passing offense in the country is going to have all returning upper-classman starting at the four wide out positions.

"That's a great feeling," smiles QB Graham Harrell. "That's a great situation for a quarterback to be in. To be a quarterback in this system is exciting and fun to play in but when you have those kinds of receivers to go along with the system, you know you can't ask for anything more. We get to throw it a lot to great receivers and we probably have the best receiving core in the nation. The thing about it is that we have depth there too, we have two deep at every position that can play. So it's going to be an exciting season."

Junior H-Wide Reciever Danny Amendola is coming into this season with a healthy set of already speedy legs and even he has to acknowledge his fellow teammates.

"You just don't find guys like Joel, Jarrett, and Rojo at any other school but Tech. There's a lot of confidence, definitely. Just get the ball next to them and they're going to catch it."

"They help out tremendously," adds QB Chris Todd. "Anytime you have somebody where you can just kind of get the ball off and let them do stuff, it just makes your job so much easier. It's definitely a great asset having those guys here."



RED RAIDER REACTS TO OU AND BOMAR'S INCIDENT

Last week, OU shook the college football world by kicking off to of their players, including sophomore Rhett Bomar, for breaking NCAA regulations.

After hearing the news, friend and Tech Quarterback Graham Harrell was very surprised.

"You know, I felt bad for him," says Harrell. "I would like to call and talk to him, I just haven't done it yet because of the situation."

Bomar and Harrell were two of the top quarterbacks in their recruiting class three years ago. They knew each other well through all-star games and other events.

"I felt bad for him; it's a tough situation to be in. I'm sure he didn't initiate this and say 'hey, pay me money'. I'm sure that however much money he was getting paid and getting illegally, he probably didn't initiate it. You know a college player is in that spot and someone else initiates it, that's a tough situation to say no to. Especially when we don't get a lot of money or anything, probably whatever money your parents give you and then money from the school because of the scholarship. So being that situation, I feel bad for him because it was a tough situation to be in and it's unfortunate that it had to end with him getting off the team."

Harrell added that more than anything, he feels sorry for Bomar and hopes that he finds a place to be successful at for the remainder of his collegiate career.

DEPTH AT CORNERS

This year at the corner position there will be a new regular starter on the right side. After the Red Raiders saw Khalid Nazirruddin leave last year, it was obvious who was ready to step up.

Junior Cornerback Chris Parker feels that this is his time now.

"I'm just ready for it to start. It's finally my chance to get something going, so I'm just ready to get on the field."

Parker should feel comfortable knowing that across the field from him is experienced Senior CB Antonio Huffman. Parker says that he mostly feels established and familiar with the position but if he ever does have a question, he has no problem looking to Huffman.

With Huffman and Parker at the helm, look for two young stars to make an impact this season as well.

"We have a lot of young players that's coming in with a lot of young talent. We have a lot of depth right now at the corner back position. Marcus Bunton and Brent Nickerson - I feel like those two are going to contribute a lot this year.

GARCIA GETS THE CALL

The strong safety position was supposed to be a battle going into this year's fall workouts. Although because of an incident at a club last weekend involving Sophomore Anthony Hines getting stabbed, Junior Joe Garcia is going to get the starting position.

"When I found that out, it hurt man," says Garcia. "He's one of my buddies. When he came here on his official visit, he stayed with me. We're not going to miss him because he's going to be back. Other than that, we're going to work hard and feel that void and hopefully somebody will be there to fill that void for him."

That "somebody" will be Garcia this season, as he feels that he needs to thrive on this opportunity.

"Yeah, I got to. I'm the oldest of the safeties and hopefully everyone can look up to me and know that I can pick them up. I have been waiting three years and now I have this one chance. So I'm not going to miss out on it."

Garcia is nothing but anxious to be in that starting position in September.

"This is what you play for. I like it. Last season for the first two games I had to step up big when Meeks went down so I'm ready whenever they call me. I'm ready. Just go out there and do my best. I just want to play and give it all my heart and soul, put it together and go out there and have fun."

As for Hines, Garcia adds, "He's doing pretty good, he's doing real good."


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