December 29, 2007

Tech doesn't plan on focusing on Long

The Texas Tech and Virginia football camps are alike in one regard: they are both agog over a player they will face in the 2008 Gator Bowl. For Virginia, that player is unanimous All American and Biletnikoff Award-winning freshman wide receiver Michael Crabtree. For Texas Tech it is defensive end Chris Long, a unanimous All American, future first round draft pick, and son of NFL Hall of Famer, Howie Long.

The team that more successfully contains the other team's All American may very well be the team that wins.

The Texas Tech coach most directly responsible for figuring out how to limit Long's impact on the game is first-year offensive line coach, Matt Moore. And his description of Long is enough to raise the hair on any Red Raider's neck.

"My impression is, you throw on his film and you watch his first seven or eight series, and you think, you know, he's a good player. But as you watch the game and the next game, and the next game you realize he plays every play with the same amount of intensity; he plays as hard as he can," Moore informs.

"He's technically very sound, plays with great pad level."

"He's got a great first step and, you know, just plays so hard."

"With all those things combined with a guy that can run and a guy that has great strength, I mean, he's always a presence on the field. Every snap he's near the ball. There's very few times he's not near the ball whether it's a throw or a run."

"He's just a really good ball player, real consistent ball player who plays hard every single snap."

Sounds like a player with no weakness, doesn't it? Sounds like a player who would force the opposition to account for him in the game plan or even compel the opponent to alter its scheme somewhat. Believe it or not, however, Mike Leach's Red Raiders have no intention of allowing Chris Long to dictate in the least how they operate.

"That's the thing about Leach, as long as he's been here-and I've only been here a year-but talking to him, they've never schemed around a person," Moore states. "They've never changed things from personnel."

"Now say he [Long] starts giving us trouble, then we'll adjust from there. But, you know, I feel confident in my guys up front. And they feel confident in themselves to go as hard as they can play. And there's gonna be some times when you lose and some times when you win. You just hope you win more than you lose."

Interestingly enough, it may be the very nature of the Red Raider offensive attack more than tactics which could negate Long somewhat. As great as he is, Long has never played in a game where he will be forced to rush the passer 85% percent of the snaps. There is no team in the ACC that chucks the ball around like Texas Tech, and there are few teams in the entire U.S. that employ such an outlandish system. That is what will confront Chris Long on New Year's Day, and there is no telling how he will respond.

"You know, what we're gonna try to do, we've seen him rush the passer on third-and-long in that conference where people don't throw it as much as we do," Moore relates. "We're gonna go out there and see if he can rush the passer 60 or 70 times, you know, against us."

Football observers tend to think that ground attacks wear down defenses. But an aerial system that forces linemen to pass rush almost every single play, and defensive backs to cover nearly every single down, may be just as debilitating. Long and his buddies better grab the track spikes and the oxygen masks. Chances are they will need them.

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