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August 5, 2011

Tech looks bigger, faster, better

A recurring theme came up while talking to Texas Tech football players this summer. Ranked seventh out of 10 Big 12 teams, the Red Raiders believe they are going to surprise people this season.

They took the first step toward doing so Friday as the the team's players came by the football building to report for fall camp, and all the Red Raiders seemed to be in great shape.

"The first time I came down here I thought I was in shape," true freshman defensive end Branden Jackson said. "I didn't lift as much as I should have but I ran so I thought I'd show up in shape. The first workout, I threw up twice. The next workout I threw up three more times and I knew I better do something and get used to (the workouts). They're a lot harder, a lot more intense than back home and I'm still getting the hang of it."

Jackson does know that he's in the best shape of his life. In fact, 'the best shape of my life,' was thrown out several times Friday.

Strength and conditioning coach Joe Walker had four months and change with the returnees on the Red Raider roster and two months with the summer newcomers. The results were noticeable.

Strong safety Terrance Bullitt strolled into the building and could have been confused for a linebacker. Running back Eric Stephens is clearly in the best shape he's ever been as a football player.

The results were similar across the board.

But it wasn't only the returnees that impressed. Tech has more than a few new guys who look college-ready out of the box.

Junior college transfer and defensive end Leon Mackey is the real deal, physically.

"What you see is what you get," Tuberville said, fittingly in the weight room. "He's going to make us all look good getting off the bus. He's come here all summer and every time I've worked out on the treadmill or just walked through the weight room he's in here working on doing something to get better.

"It's crunch time for him. He's spent two years in junior college and have an easier life if he has two good years."

Defensive tackle Donald Langley also appeared to have had some serious results this offseason.

There were freshmen specimens, too.

Tight end Jace Amaro already has a professional-level frame. He just needs to fill out over the next few years.

Running backs Kenny Williams and DeAndre Washington looked to be in better shape than Stephens did as a freshman.

The list went on and on.

Running back Aaron Crawford might best personify sentiments of the 2011 squad.

A senior now, Crawford is a guy that's had a frustrating career since coming on the scene the back half of his freshman year. Since that point he's been plagued with one injury after another.

For the first time in a long time, Crawford is feeling good. He looked good, too.

"I've been anxious," Crawford said. "I've been anxious to prove myself again and prove that this team can win all our games. Just getting in that mentality that we're back on track like we're supposed to be.

"This is the best I've felt in a very long time. I know that I battled through pain and stuff and tried to be tough and go through things but now I'm fully healthy and this is the best that I've felt in a long, long time."

But maybe even more encouraging than the size of the Tech athletes was their mindset. They appear to have found the leadership they were missing last season.

"Your team is built in the offseason and usually when the coaches are not around," Tuberville said. "If coaches have to be around to get your team motivated, you don't have good chemistry or work ethic. My understanding through our strength coaches and the leaders of the team, the guys that have been out there every day is that we've had great participation."


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