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April 5, 2011

Busy open to 2011 for Tech

If the rest of 2011 is as eventful for the Texas Tech athletic department as the first two months have been, the Red Raider athletic brass may have to open up a branch department in Muleshoe. I've followed Tech athletics since September of 1978 and cannot recall a period of activity similar to what we've seen so far in 2011.

The catalyst for all the hubbub actually occurred in December, 2010 when Tommy Tuberville dismissed defensive coordinator James Willis. This action set the wheels in motion for a short but intense defensive coordinator search smack dab in the middle of recruiting season. Names such as Phil Bennett, Rocky Long and current Tech defensive line coach Sam McElroy surfaced in connection with the search, but TCU defensive backs coach Chad Glasgow was the successful candidate.

Interestingly enough, it was none other than McElroy who encouraged Tuberville to look Glasgow's way. Rarely if ever will you see an individual so selflessly put the success of an organization ahead of personal gain as did McElroy. This act speaks volumes about McElroy's character.

Fortunately for Tech's football program, the disruption occasioned by Willis' dismissal and the hiring of Glasgow did little harm to Red Raider recruiting efforts. Defensive tackle Jon Lewis was a significant defection, but Tuberville and his staff still managed to hold the class almost completely together.

Rivals rated Tech'a crop No. 20 in the nation, which surely makes it one of the best in school history. And if early efforts by 2011 signees Ronnie Daniels, Blake Dees, Marcus Kennard and Derek Edwards are any indication, this class may actually be underrated. That quartet has certainly whetted appetites to see what the likes of Leon Mackey, Jace Amaro, Jakeem Grant and Tony Morales can do.

We will have to wait until August to see what the remainder of Tech's 2011 recruiting class brings to the table, but we got our first glimpse of the team in spring practice. The Red Raiders, and those of us who cover them, were blessed with glorious weather during the frequently tempestuous months of February and March.

What we saw, aside from some impressive showings from newcomers, was a firebrand of a defensive coordinator who regards perfection as a shortcoming. Chad Glasgow was a human bullhorn, constantly berating players for minute errors in positioning, and encouraging them to be enthusiastic at all times. The defense showed signs of life, but it is still far too early to predict a miracle turnaround for this unit in the fall.

The offensive side of the ball, enjoying far more continuity than the defense, had a rather smooth spring. Quarterback Seth Doege performed basically as expected, and his competition perhaps a little better than expected. Running back is absolutely choked with talent, and the veteran offensive line was roughly as good as advertised. The receivers should probably be rated a pleasant surprise. Dropped passes were at acceptable levels, and the outside receivers in particular, looked stout. All in all the 2011 spring camp would have to be regarded as a solid success for all three sides of the ball.

But football was not the only source of athletic fireworks on the Tech campus. Kirby Hocutt came from the University of Miami to replace longtime Athletic Director Gerald Myers, and the hire was universally lauded except for in Coral Gables, Florida where bitterness and disbelief that Hocutt would abandon "The U" for Texas Tech, were the watchwords. At any rate, the Tech athletic department now has a vibrant young Athletic Director who is broadly regarded as a rising superstar in his field.

And speaking of superstars, that is what Tech landed by tapping Billy Clyde Gillispie to replace Pat Knight as head basketball coach. Gillispie, whose most recent was with basketball juggernaut University of Kentucky, is a native West Texan who enjoyed incredible success at UTEP and Texas A&M. He turned those hapless programs around tout suite and expects to do the same in Lubbock. Football season hasn't even begun and folks in the Hub City are already looking forward to hoops. It's been over a decade since that sort of excitement has surrounded Red Raider basketball.

So that's the lot for the first quarter of 2011. If the rest of the year is equally exciting, the local pharmacies had better stock up on glycerin pills.


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