December 12, 2008

Red Raiders get back on the practice field

PICKIN' COTTON

As the dust settled on the 2008 college football regular season, it was apparent that the 7th ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders would be headed not to a prestigious BCS bowl game, but rather the Cotton Bowl. If the Tech fan base was any indication, the players and coaches were probably mightily disappointed in their bowl selection.

However, inside receivers coach Lincoln Riley said that the players are embracing their berth in the Cotton Bowl, the school's fourth.

"They're excited," said Riley. "We weren't around them when we actually found out what it was going to be. But we knew whatever bowl we went to it was going to be a good one. When you're 11-1 you're going to go to a good bowl. They came out and bounced around today and I know they'll be excited to play Ole Miss."

Due to a BCS rule, no more than two teams from a single conference can play in a BCS bowl game and the Red Raiders came home empty handed after Oklahoma advanced to the national title game and Texas backed into the Fiesta Bowl.

"We can't control [the rankings,]" explained Riley. "We win 11 games in the toughest conference in America and we had a great season. We can't control the computers or what poll people say or any of that. We just control what we can and they told us we're going to play Ole Miss next, so we'll go get ready and go play Ole Miss."


THE FUTURE

One of the most overlooked advantages of a team making a bowl game is the extra practices a team receives. Teams not going bowling do not have the luxury of these extra reps and therefore have less time to work with their players.

Mike Leach and his coaching staff use the extra time to develop the younger players on the roster who redshirted, played on scout team, or saw limited playing time during the regular season. Riley says the coaching staff cherishes the opportunity to coach up these rarely used players.

"We split 'em up, bring the varsity guys in for a little bit. The majority of the reps are for [the younger guys.] These guys have been going scout team for the entire year, so now you have a chance offensively and defensively to see 'em [within the system.] It's a chance for us coaches to sit back and evaluate these guys and see how much they've picked up over the year. And like we told them today, it's a great opportunity for them. A chance for them to break out and say 'I shouldn't have been redshirted this year' or 'I should've played this year and why I should play next year.' It's a huge opportunity for those guys and the tempo was good out there, so it's a good chance for them to show us what they can do."


SWITCHING IT UP

Not only do the extra repetitions before the bowl game give the coaches a chance to develop players at a certain position, but they also allow players to get a chance to show their stuff at a different position.

"[We'll change up players' positions] a little. Not too much, nothing crazy. If we wanted to work a guy at another position, we may give him a few reps over there since we have so many at this time."

Before the Gator Bowl last season, the coaching staff changed two players' positions and the moves paid huge dividends as both Ryan Hale (linebacker to H-back) and L.A. Reed (wide receiver to defensive backs) made an impact in several games this season.

One player who appears to be primed for a position change in the future is redshirt freshman receiver Tramain Swindall. The 6-foot-3, 175 pound receiver currently backs up sophomore Detron Lewis at the Y-receiver position. Riley said that Swindall will stay put for now.

"I don't know, that's way down the line. At the Cotton Bowl [Tramain]'s going to be playing at Y. We'll evaluate everything further, that's a long way away to be thinking about right now. So we're just trying to get him ready to play Y at the Cotton Bowl."


BACK TO THE PRESENT

While the development of young players is a focus during bowl practices, no one loses sight of the original goal- beating Ole Miss.

The coaches hit the road to recruit the Sunday after the win over Baylor and had not been back to Lubbock until yesterday. While Riley has not been able to get an in-depth look at the Rebels, he says he has heard a lot of good things about Houston Nutt's Squad.

"Just got in off the road last night and had practice today, so we'll start in the morning and get our heavy game planning next week," explained Riley. "I've heard from other people that they have a really good defensive front. I'm looking forward to seeing them on film. And when you have the wins that they've had over LSU and Florida, they're obviously pretty good. So I'm excited to watch them and start preparing for them."

Texas Tech will face off against Ole Miss at the Cotton Bowl on January 2nd at 2 p.m. on Fox.

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