Making His Mark|
Blake Dees says the jump-start he got in the spring put him in a prime position for fall camp.
August 23, 2011
by Britton Drown
Blake Dees does all he can to shrug off the questions. They've been fired his way twice now in training camp, and each time he puts forth quite the effort to remain humble.
He smiles, and in a professional manner that would make any public relations professional grin from ear-to-ear, responds by reminding the group of reporters that training camp is still very much in session, and that every spot on the practice field is up for grabs.
"We are all competing for the No. 1 spot," he says--fighting off a grin of his own.
Only, he has competed perhaps better than any freshman on the defensive side of the ball throughout the first two weeks of training camp--and it certainly hasn't gone unnoticed.
His impressive training camp performance has earned Dees a regular spot practicing with the first-team defense. Now the 6-foot-1, 224 pound product of Spanish Fort, Ala. has a chance to become the first true-freshman to start at linebacker for Texas Tech since the 2003 season.
The last Red Raider in his position was Brock Straton, who started the 2003 season opener against SMU. Straton went on to become the Big 12 Coaches Co-Defensive Player of the Year that season.
Oh yes, he is just a freshman, but Dees certainly hasn't played like someone who turns just 19-years-old this week.
Dees has continued to raise eyebrows from coaches and teammates alike, eventually earning him a starting spot in the team's intra-squad scrimmages.
"I am just trying to play with confidence and make all the calls that I need to," Dees said Tuesday after practice. "That is really helping me get there by making the calls and knowing what I need to do."
That confidence stems from the fact that Dees was able to come into the program in the spring and workout with the team well before the start of training camp.
That timing, it turns out, paid off. First-year defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow, who joined the program in January, was in the process of installing the new 4-2-5 defense, and the eager freshman linebacker from Alabama was right there to soak it all in.
"I'm definitely sure that being out here in the spring helped me to run with the defense a lot more," Dees said "I had more of an inside-scoop with how the defense worked, and what I needed to prepare myself for."
He was certainly prepared as training camp arrived in early August.
"[The] spring was a big help with him," Tuberville said. "We knew where he was at and he kind of learned a little bit about the basics."
Now, with the final days of fall camp winding down, and the final scrimmage of camp scheduled for Wednesday evening, Dees and the Texas Tech defense are in the process of polishing the new defense. It's a system that as camp progressed, received praise from the entire defensive unit.
It took just four days to install during camp, and thus the majority of practice time was devoted to learning and perfecting specific plays and schemes.
"We are growing as a defense and I am learning the playbook a lot more," Dees said. "The whole defense is. We are doing so much better. There is more intensity than anything."
Dees hopes to be a part of that defense when the Red Raiders take the field for their season opener on Sept. 3--even if he is just a freshman.
"I wasn't expecting to play," Dees said. "I was just always coming out here and doing my best, and if they think my best is to be on a division one first-team [defense], then that's what it's going to be."