Texas Tech Red Raiders

Texas Tech’s DC David Gibbs plans to use Justis Nelson at CB

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Defensive back Justis Nelson experienced a breakthrough season as a sophomore. Nelson was named an honorable mention to the All-Big 12 team and a First-Team Academic All-Big 12 performer. However, he didn’t find a permanent home in the Red Raiders secondary.

Nelson played both safety and cornerback last season. But where will new defensive coordinator David Gibbs use this fall?

“We’re going to start him at corner and teach him the corner techniques, because at least the first two days — maybe more than that — we’re just going to be in base defense with three linebackers and teach him to play corner,” Gibbs told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Don Williams.

Nelson, who came to Lubbock as a three-star athlete, began his career at safety before switching to cornerback. Due to depth issues, he returned to safety. While the Red Raiders staff expects him to be a starting cornerback, Nelson will likely play some safety during the upcoming season.

“There are going to be times when he’s going to have to play safety, which I’ve done it (with starting cornerbacks),” Gibbs said. “I’ve had my starting corner in base be a safety in nickel and be the nickel in nickel.

“If he has the ability to go play safety and he’s better than my third safety, then I’ll move him to safety and bring those other corners in the game and let them play.”

Nelson’s length at 6’2″ and 179 pounds makes him an ideal cornerback, and he’s already shown the ability to close on the ball to make a play. The Mesquite, Texas, native led the team with 16 pass breakups, which was the school’s highest total since 2002.

However, his new coach hopes Nelson can turn those broken up passes into interceptions during his junior campaign.

“Justis could have had eight freakin’ interceptions last year,” Gibbs said. “He (then-defensive coordinator Mike Smith) put him in the right position. He could have. He didn’t. He’s got to catch those balls. If he catches those balls, it’s a whole different game.”

Whether or not Nelson makes those catches or not, he is still one of the team’s best defenders. The flexibility he provides in the secondary gives Gibbs plenty of options as he instills a new scheme to improve upon last year’s 95th-ranked pass defense.

Texas Tech cancels spring game, caters schedule to QB Patrick Mahomes

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The spring game is an annual tradition in college football.

However, Kliff Kingsbury and his Texas Tech Red Raiders were forced to change up their spring schedule due to a couple of factors.

First, the Red Raiders won’t hold a spring game this year, according to the team’s official site.

“Due to the replacement of seating inside Jones AT&T Stadium, the annual Spring Game has been cancelled and there will be no other open practice opportunities for fans in Lubbock,” the statement read.

Also, the team will accommodate its projected starter at quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who is also a member of the baseball team.

“Individual practices dates will be determined on a week-by-week basis in order to accommodate sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ baseball schedule, the school announced. “Mahomes will pitch and play in the outfield for the preseason No. 5 Texas Tech Baseball team this spring.”

Mahomes started the final four games of the 2014 campaign, and the freshman’s performance was impressive. The two-sport star passed for 1,428 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions during that stretch.

Four-star QB recruit decommits from Texas Tech

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Jarrett Stidham (Stephenville, Texas/Stephenville) is one the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks. He’s rated as the fourth-best prospect among his position group and the ninth-best recruit in the talent-rich state of Texas by Rivals.com. Until Saturday, Stidham was verbally committed to the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Stidham apparently changed his mind and decided to revoke his verbal commitment.

“I want to say thank you to Texas Tech University for giving me the opportunity to play football and get a degree from there, but I have officially decided to decommit for various reasons,” Stidham tweeted, via Wreckem247.com. “Thank you to everyone that has been involved.”

It’s a surprising decision since Stidham originally committed to Texas Tech over a year ago.

With his options now open, the four-star quarterback will ponder the 21 offers he currently owns and which school is best for him.

The Baylor Bears are considered the early front-runners to secure a commitment from Stidham. First, Baylor head coach Art Briles was once the head coach at Stephenville High School.

There is also a question of playing time.

“A source close to the situation says Stidham’s decommitment revolves around whether he’d redshirt his freshman year or play immediately,” Wreckem247.com’s Daniel Paulling reported.

At Texas Tech, Stidham would have had stiff competition from freshman Patrick Mahomes and sophomore Davis Webb. Whereas Baylor’s quarterback situation will be wide open once Bryce Petty exhausts his eligibility after this season.

Stidham also holds offers from the Alabama Crimson Tide, Florida Gators, Michigan Wolverines and Oregon Ducks. Each of those programs present an opportunity to potentially play sooner rather than later as well.

(Picture courtesy of Rivals.com)

After Texas Tech dismissal, former three-star safety expects to transfer

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A month ago, the Texas Tech Red Raiders lost a key contributor to their secondary when junior safety Josh Keys was kicked out of the program.

Keys, who was a three-star recruit from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, finally discussed the reason behind his dismissal with WreckEm247.com.

The safety was eventually removed from the program after a second failed drug test.

“I don’t like the way it happened,” Keys told WreckEm247.com’s Daniel Paulling. “I want to learn from my mistakes.”

Prior to the dismissal, Keys registered 14 tackles in five games while serving as the team’s primary backup at both safety positions.

The junior defensive back wants to start over again with another program. He’s currently taking classes at Texas Tech and expects to transfer during the spring semester.

“I’m still looking around; see what’s out there for me,” Keys said.

Keys originally chose to play at Texas Tech over offers from the Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, Baylor Bears, Georgia Bulldogs, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Ole Miss Rebels and Tennessee Volunteers. The safety held 20 total offers.

Whether or not those programs that were previously interested in Keys will remain so after his issues at Texas Tech isn’t known. However, it may be in Keys’ best interests to transfer to an FCS program in order to avoid the one-year transfer rule between FBS programs.

Although, his dismissal from Texas Tech’s program could allow him to be eligible next season based on the “run-off rule”, which allows an athlete to be immediately eligible if they’re still in good academic standing and the previous school files paperwork which confirms the athlete isn’t invited back to the program.

Texas Tech ‘very close’ to adding home-and-home series against SEC opponent

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The track record for the Texas Tech Red Raiders hasn’t exactly been sterling the past two years under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The Red Raiders are 11-11 over that time. Yet, the program decided it wanted to make its future schedule even more difficult.

According to The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal‘s Don Williams, Texas Tech is in the midst of scheduling a home-and-home series with an SEC opponent.

“We’ve just got to get one adjustment made to another non-conference opponent, and then we can move forward,” Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt  told Williams. “We are highly optimistic that we will be able to secure a home-and-home non-conference (series) with an SEC school in the imminent future.

“Actually, we made a call yesterday trying to get that finalized. We’re very close.”

The Red Raiders already scheduled the Arkansas Razorbacks for this year and next season. Hocutt told Williams that the series won’t be against the Texas A&M Aggies or the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

By process of elimination, that leaves Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn Tigers, LSU Tigers and Ole Miss Rebels among the teams in the SEC West still available. Another possibility is rekindling an old Big 12 rivalry with the Missouri Tigers, who play in the SEC East. Missouri just completed an agreement to play the West Virginia Mountaineers during the 2016 and 2019 seasons.

Texas Tech has one open date available for a non-conference game in the 2016 schedule. The program has done very little to schedule opponents beyond the 2017 campaign. This could be the first step for Kingsbury’s squad to beef up its schedule.