Texas Tech football: Red Raiders hope added size leads to more physicality

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 11: Jett Duffey #7 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders hands off the ball to Tre King #24 against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 11, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 11: Jett Duffey #7 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders hands off the ball to Tre King #24 against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 11, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

In recent weeks, we have seen photos of the offseason gains made by numerous Texas Tech football players in the weight room and the new coaching staff is banking on the team’s increased size leading to a more physical brand of football.

Though many Texas Tech football fans under the age of 50 might not recall, there was a time when this program was built on toughness and physicality.  In the 1990s, Spike Dykes’ teams took pride in being tougher and simply meaner than their opponents, which often gave more glamorous programs fits.

But since the turn of the century, Red Raider football has resembled an inflatable bounce house at a child’s birthday party; tons of fun but little in the way of resistance or physical integrity.

Now, Matt Wells is in charge and he intends to bring a hard-nosed edge back to West Texas so that the football team once again resembles the attitude and personality of the people that call the high plains home.  And the first step in that process is simple, yet important; get bigger and stronger across the board.

"“We’re going to be physical,” Wells told Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. “We’re going to be thick, square, fundamentally sound, and we’re going to stop the run.”"

New Texas Tech strength and conditioning coach David Scholz has been active on social media since arriving posting tons of videos of what his team has been doing in the offseason conditioning program.  And recently, we have seen some dramatic side-by-side shots showing the progress his players have made in the last six months.

Defensive tackle Noah Jones made one of the most noticeable improvements after putting on 50 pounds.  That will be key if he is going to provide some depth along the interior of the offensive line behind senior nose tackle Broderick Washington.  Playing last year at just 260 pounds, the junior from Oklahoma is now big enough to do battle in the trenches against Big 12 offensive linemen and could be a key reserve for the Tech defense in 2019.

Another defensive player that might be a first-time contributor this year is sophomore linebacker Xavier Benson, who has put on 20 pounds since January.  At just 200 pounds last year, the Texarkana native was not ready to contribute.  But this year, he will get a look at outside LB where he could use his athleticism to bring pressure off the edge in new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson’s aggressive 3-3-5 scheme.

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Speaking of outside linebackers, grad transfer Evan Rambo has already added twelve pounds in only five weeks in Scholz’s program.  Riddled with injuries while weighing 215 pounds at Cal, Rambo might benefit from the extra strength and bring an added element of athleticism and explosiveness to the edge rusher position.

On the other side of the ball, tight end Donta Thompson has made tremendous gains.  Up from 215 to 246 pounds, the senior may now finally have the strength needed to be an effective tight end after playing a hybrid H-back/receiver position in his career.  Thompson will be expected to add depth behind JUCO signee Travis Koontz, who figures to have a huge role in new OC David Yost’s offense this fall.

Also on that side of the ball, sophomore running back Ta’Zhawn Henry is up 20 pounds after spending his true freshman season at just 170-pounds.  The 5-foot-7 Houston native plans to see a much heavier workload this year as Tech is expected to have a far more balanced offense under Yost.

Henry is the leading returning rusher at the RB position for the Red Raiders, but he had just 341 yards last year.   Hopefully, his extra size will be what helps him take his game to the next level.

"“Best strength staff I’ve had,” said Washington when speaking to Inside the Red Raiders at Big 12 Media Day.  “It’s just [Scholz’s] plan and the way he does things is really amazing, honestly.  Everything he does, it translates to football and helps us be a better athlete.“We eat cleaner now.  Guys are gaining weight finally and that’s been a problem for us…We’ve always been smaller than guys but walking around media day, we look bigger than OU, we look bigger than TCU, we look bigger than those guys now.  So now it’s not a size difference no more.  You can’t say ‘Oh they lost because they’re smaller’ or something like that.  Coach Scholz has a great plan and it works”"

Appearing to have made tremendous gains himself this offseason, Washington (who played at 305 pounds last year) could be one of the best defensive tackles in the Big 12 thanks to his new strength.  A leader on and off the field, Washington will be one of the most important players of Matt Wells’ first season because he sets the tone for his team.  When Washington bought in, so to did his teammates and that could lead to greater success this year.

"“This is a physical game that we play, Tech AD Kirby Hocutt told Dodd.  “And you’ve got to, regardless of what your offensive identity is, be able to run the ball and stop the run on defense. You do that by being a tough football team. That aligns with Matt Wells.”"

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What hasn’t aligned with Texas Tech in far too long is an essential element of the game, physicality.  Though the game has changed since the days of Spike Dykes and the Swarm defense, at its core, football will always be about imposing your will on your opponent and now the Red Raiders are confident that they are more equipped to do just that.