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March 20, 2013

Kingsbury talks spring ball

We've seen Kliff Kingsbury as the face of the Texas Tech football program for three full months now. We're getting ready to see Kingsbury the head football coach for the very first time live and in person.

It all starts Friday with the Red Raiders first of 15 spring practices. And it's been a long time coming as a Tommy Tuberville led spring would be nearing the spring game by now.

This is an exciting time for Tech, but it's also a challenging time to be a part of the new coaching staff as they finally get to explore what the old staff left them on the field. Depth at certain positions is an issue, the staff has to install a new offense and defense into practice and Kingsbury is hoping to break old habits and issues that have plagued the Red Raiders the past few years.

"No. 1, we just want to evaluate the talent," Kingsbury told RedRaiderSports.com's Chris Level and co-host Brian Hanni of the Lubbock radio show "Tech Talk" on Double T 104.3 FM. "We want to get them used to our coaching styles. And we want to clean out some things that kind of just were glaring at you from last year. That being last in the Big 12 with penalties and last in the Big 12 in turnovers.

"To win eight games last season with those two statistics is pretty remarkable. We're really going to harp on that the entire spring."

The offensive line is a red flag unit from a depth standpoint. At least until five newcomers join the team this summer. The starting offensive line in spring ball should be fine, but there's not much support behind the front five.

"That's a big concern," the head coach said. "We're going to have to get real creative with the rotations to get two bodies of lines out there. We had a meeting about that today. But we'll find a way and people will step up. They always do."

Kingsbury and company look to be in a great position with the selection of quarterbacks on the opposite hand.

The truth is the job is rising sophomore Michael Brewer's to lose considering he backed up Seth Doege last season and seems to have some similarities to Johnny Manziel who led Kingsbury's offense to a Cotton Bowl victory while Manziel himself won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman.

Kingsbury isn't ready to give the suspense away yet though in order to give everyone a fair chance to win the quarterback position on the field.

"We'll rotate pretty evenly, especially the first week," the head coach said. "The first three of four guys will get equal reps and we'll go from there. We won't mess with it for too long. We'll get a couple of guys and start pushing more reps to them, but everyone will get a fair shot to see what they can do and see who comes out on top."

There are a lot of things to like about the depth below Brewer. Kingsbury said Clayton Nicholas probably has the strongest arm and Davis Webb's work ethic has not diminished since arriving on campus in January as a Rivals.com three-star recruit.

Brant Costilla also factors in as a legitimate contender for the primary backup position so it should be a fun race to watch.

"I think, No. 1, is intelligence," Kingsbury said when asked what he's looking for in his quarterback having already coached Manziel and NFLer Case Keenum at Houston. "How do they pick up the system and how do they process things? Two, for me, is having the ability to extend the play. Turning a bad play into a good one by using their feet to extend the play and finding people open downfield or taking off like Johnny used to. And just being a leader I think is huge because the team has to gravitate to him and he needs to have that aura around him that, 'Every game we go into the team believes we're going to win when I'm behind the center.'"

The sheer numbers at safety are low which is concerning though on a better note the defensive line could complete its turnaround from a major problem area in 2010 and 2011 into a strength of the team in 2013.

"I think our defensive line, just walking them work in the offseason, it's a good group," Kingsbury said. "There are some older guys who have played a bunch and they're good leaders. I'm excited to watch them lead our team."

It's not just Xs and Os for the head coach though. He's been on a tour of goodwill that most brand new coaches go on when joining a new program since he accepted the job back in December and his latest stop included throwing out the first pitch of Wednesday's 8-7 thrilling baseball win against No. 20 Arizona State.

"I got probably 70 practice throws in last night underneath the bleachers and then when I walked out and people started cheering I was like, 'I can't screw this up,'" Kingsbury said. "I was just fortunate to get it across the plate. The warm up throws were a little dicey so I went with the changeup."

That tour of goodwill is coming up to a hiatus though as it really is all football all the time from Friday to the annual spring game April 20.

"We're all thrilled," Kingsbury said. "I think it's been an intense process and all these coaches want to get out on the field with their players and start building those relationships. We've certainly gotten to know them, but you find out so much more once you get them onto the field. We're all excited around here and can't wait to get it started."

To listen to Kingsbury's full interview on Double T 104.3 FM, click here.


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