WR Joel Filani

2005 Statistics

Coach: Mike Leach
48-28, 6 years
2005 Record: 9-3
at Nebraska WON 34-31
at Texas LOST 17-52
at Baylor WON 28-0
at Oklahoma State LOST 17-24
vs. Alabama LOST 10-13

2005 Final Rankings
AP-20, Coaches-19, BCS-15

2006 Outlook

While it may appear on the surface that Tech’s fortunes will live or die with the new quarterback, Leach has proven for three years that he can plug just about anyone in behind center and have success. However, unlike last year when Hodges had a chance to acclimate himself against I-AA foes instead of programs on this level, Harrell will be thrown into the fire, facing an upstart SMU program and then two tough road games against Mike Price’s quality UTEP squad and deceptively good TCU (coming off a three of its best four seasons in decades). The Red Raiders also have the misfortune of playing in some tough road atmospheres after having all but one of their tough games at home last season. Tech travels to A&M, Colorado, Iowa State and Oklahoma. Texas is at home, and that will tell all as to how far the team really will go.

Coming off the best season since the 1970s, Tech didn’t win its bowl game for the first time in three years, but seemingly succeeded in the fact they played in the Cotton Bowl, reserved for the Big 12’s No. 1 non-BCS team, and lost on a last-second field goal to Alabama 13-10.

Tech’s program has been on the rise for the past few seasons, led quietly by an improving defense which is always overshadowed by its record-setting offense. This season’s schedule presents more challenges than last season’s and a 9-3 regular season finish seems to be the best-case scenario for the Red Raiders, assuming they can take care of business in winnable non-conference games, which has proven to be a problem in the past.

Projected 2006 record: 10-2
WR Jarrett Hicks
QB - 4 DL - 3
RB - 2.5 LB - 4
WR - 5 DB - 3
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Graham Harrell, 55-37-0, 422 yds., 3 TD

Rushing: Shannon Woods, 24 att., 168 yds., 3 TD

Receiving: Robert Johnson, 67 rec., 951 yds., 4 TD

Scoring: Alex Trlica, 13-18 FG, 60-60 PAT, 99 pts.

Punting: Alex Reyes, 49 punts, 42.8 avg.

Kicking: Alex Trlica, 13-18 FG, 60-60 PAT, 99 pts.

Tackles: Fletcher Session, 81 tot., 43 solo

Sacks: Keyunta Dawson, 2.5 sacks

Interceptions: Chris Hudler, Paul Williams, Chris Parker, Antonio Huffman - 1 each

Kickoff Returns: Shannon Woods, 11 ret., 20.7 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Danny Amendola, 32 ret., 9.8 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Cody Hodges-QB, Taurean Henderson-RB, Bristol Olomua-WR, E.J. Whitley-OG, Bryan Kegans-OG
DEFENSE: Randall Cherry-DE, Brett Bischofberger-DE, John Saldi-SLB, Sylvester Brinkley-WLB, Khalid Naziruddin-CB, Vincent Meeks-SS, Dwayne Slay-FS, Greg Aycock-FS (left team), Marquis Johnson-WR (NFL)

Tech coach Mike Leach is firmly against naming a starter at the helm of his offense until the first week of the Fall, but all signs point toward redshirt sophomore and Texas prep legend Graham Harrell (2003 Gatorade Texas H.S. Player of the Year) to take over Tech’s high-octane passing offense. Since 2000, Tech’s quarterback has led the nation in passing, but no matter what happens, Leach will break the unwanted trend of starting a fifth-year senior. The past three seasons have seen three – B.J. Symons, Sonny Cumbie and Cody Hodges – lead the offense, and Leach has said on numerous occasions he can’t wait to buck the trend. This will be his shot with Harrell, redshirt freshman Chris Todd and possibly true freshman Taylor Potts, of Abilene, competing for the job, which should be Harrell’s to lose. Harrell completed 37-of-55 with no picks, 422 yards and three scores in mop-up duty last season. He showed tremendous poise for a freshman in the Cotton Bowl when Hodges left with a leg injury in the fourth quarter. He led Tech’s only scoring drive late in the game, but Hodges returned to finish it. He has prototypical size (6-2, 190) and might have the best arm of any quarterback Leach has coached at Tech. Early buzz from Lubbock says Potts might have something to say about that though.

Running Back
This is the most unproven link of the offensive chain. With four-year starter Taurean Henderson gone after becoming the NCAA’s all-time third leading scorer and the third back in NCAA history to rush for 3,000 yards and have 2,000 yards receiving in a career. Redshirt sophomore Shannon Woods will be the early favorite to start after earning all-Big 12 honorable mention as a kick returner. Woods is faster than Henderson, but it is doubtful he’ll be as versatile as Henderson, who was an excellent runner, receiver and blocker. The biggest dropoff here will likely be Woods’ adjustment to picking up blitzes. Taurance Rawls, who might be the team’s best athlete, will also figure into the equation as well as Midland true freshman Baron Batch (4.4 in the 40). This team passes to set up the runs, so there will be production here due to the potency of the aerial assault.

This is the unquestioned strength of the Red Raiders’ offense this season. Every starter returns to the Air Raid offense, including two all-Big 12 first-team selections in Joel Filani and Jarrett Hicks and second-team selection Robert Johnson, who moved from quarterback prior to the 2005 season to earn Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors. While Leach used to have great success with small, unheralded receivers such as Wes Welker and Nehemiah Glover, Tech is finally starting to get NFL-size receivers, which could be scary. Johnson is the shortest of the three (6-2) but also the fastest. Danny Amendola rounds out the starting rotation of receivers (inside “H” Back), hoping to show the promise he flashed as a freshman two years ago, when he led the conference in punt returning.

Tight End
Leach doesn’t use a true tight end. Rylan Reed, a 6-7 sophomore, will try to fill in the void. Reed caught just two balls last year but should be able to get open down the middle of the field with his size alone.

Offensive Line
After suffering some growing pains last season, Tech loses just one starter on the line, albeit, the best in Whitley. The line will be anchored by the right side, consisting of RG Manny Ramirez and RT Gabe Hall (6-4, 285), a converted tight end who may lack bulk but has great agility. The key will be protecting the quarterback’s blind side, no matter who it is, which will be left up to LT Glenn January and likely Louis Vasquez. The center position is the most likely change - last year’s starter Brandon Jones had some problems running the line at times. Sophomore Josh Aleman has been hearing he will “start soon” since the middle of last season. One thing’s for certain, Tech has its usual line made up of mammoths with great footwork and pass blocking skills.

The only hope for opponents is that Harrell will stumble out of the gates and crumble under the pressure of playing major-conference college football, but that’s not likely. Harrell has been touted to be the “next big thing” in Lubbock ever since he set foot on campus two years ago. Fans have been salivating over the possibility of having another quarterback who can grow in Leach’s system (Kliff Kingsbury was last guy to start three years before giving way to the fifth-year senior train). The only thing Tech loses with Harrell is mobility. The biggest strength for the Red Raiders is unquestionably at wide receiver. Filani, Hicks and Johnson should all have monster seasons and are tough matchups for many teams due to their size and speed. The biggest question mark would seem to be behind center, but in Lubbock, it’s been proven that anyone can play quarterback, even the “7-Eleven clerk from behind the counter,” as Leach put it. That question mark lies at the running back position, not because of a lack of talent in Woods and Rawls, but because of all Tech loses in Henderson. The experience gained by Filani and Johnson last season should help ease the transition for whoever starts at running back.


OG Manuel Ramirez


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Graham Harrell-So (6-3, 197) Chris Todd-Fr (6-3, 201)
RB Shannon Woods-So (5-11, 197) Kobey Lewis-Fr (5-6, 167)
WR Jarrett Hicks-Sr (6-3, 208) Todd Walker-So (6-1, 178)
WR Robert Johnson-Sr (6-1, 218) Grant Walker-Jr (6-1, 187)
WR Joel Filani-Sr (6-3, 214) Catron Houston-So (5-11, 183)
H Danny Amendola-Jr (5-11, 175) L.A. Reed-So (6-2, 203)
OT Glenn January-Sr (6-7, 287) Marlon Winn-Fr (6-6, 309)
OG Louis Vasquez-So (6-6, 335) Ofa Mohetau-Jr (6-3, 340)
C Brandon Jones-Sr (6-3, 309) Shawn Byrnes-Fr (6-3, 318)
OG Manuel Ramirez-Sr (6-4, 328) Brandon Carter-Fr (6-6, 351)
OT Gabe Hall-Sr (6-4, 293) Andrew Johnson-Fr (6-4, 300)
K Alex Trlica-Jr (6-0, 172) ..



Defensive Line
This unit has been the weakness of a steadily-improving defensive unit, which finished ranked 26th in total defense, but 67th against the run. That number should improve this year with a number of returners and backups who had valuable experience making headway. The biggest surprise last year was the lack of a pass rush by first-year starter Keyunta Dawson, who two years ago led the team in sacks as a pass-rush specialist. Look for Dawson to make a switch to LB this spring however. He finished with just 2.5 sacks last year, but has incredible speed and talent. The tackle position is the most experienced on the line with returning starters Chris Hudler and Ken Scott, who should be better based solely off having another year under their belts. Seth Nitschmann also returns from a season-ending injury at end, which was his at the beginning of 2005. This is a well-sized, athletic crew that has the potential to keep up with anyone in the conference.

This will be the strength of a defense that has been secondary-heavy over the past couple of seasons. The Red Raiders get back MLB Brock Stratton, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Tech’s conference opener last year against Kansas. Stratton reminds many of former Tech great Zach Thomas with his undeniable nose for the ball despite his size. Stratton is also an extremely smart player, who’s a 25-year-old junior who took two years off for a church mission. He earned Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors before suffering the injury last season. Stratton’s return will allow Fletcher Session to return to his original position of outside linebacker. Session, a senior, was the team’s second-leading tackler last season after replacing Stratton in the middle, but his speed is more conducive to playing the outside, likely on the weakside. A handful of players will vie for the other outside starting position, including two freshman signees, Julius Howard and Blake Collier, a svelte cover-type from Justin Northwest.

Defensive Back
This is the most questionable unit on the defense, solely because of its inexperience. The secondary has been the team’s strength the past two seasons, finishing in the top 15 in the nation in pass defense both years, but it only returns one starter, left cornerback Antonio Huffman, who is the team’s best cover corner. Huffman will lead a group of talent, but inexperienced players who will attempt to fill the void left by all-Big 12 second-teamer Vincent Meeks (SS) and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Dwayne Slay (FS). Replacing Naziruddin will be junior Chris Parker, whose season was highlighted by his interception against Texas last year to stop an early scoring drive as the game was still within Tech’s reach. Parker is a bonafide playmaker who should excel in Tech’s scheme, which allows corners to be aggressive. The safety positions are the biggest question, but Joe Garcia should be a viable replacement for Meeks in the same mold as Slay, a fearsome hitter. Anthony Hines and Greg Aycock should compete to replace Slay at free safety, with the edge going to Hines because of his size (6-1, 223). Sophomore Darcel McBath will push Parker for a starting corner job, but will likely be the nickel guy.

Fourth-year defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich has improved his units at every stop, most notably California and Arizona State, and has done the same at Tech. The squad ranked dead last (117th) in his first season and improved to 26th last season. Setencich’s trademark is his aggressive, off-kilter blitzing schemes, which he might have to curtail some this year with the inexperienced secondary, which in the past could make up for a mistake. That’s not to say this year’s squad won’t be able, but it is a question mark with the unit’s inexperience. The linebackers will be the strength and Tech will welcome Stratton’s return, who’s a genuine ball hawk. Each year over the past three, Tech’s defense has actually won a couple of games (more each year), and has slowed potent offenses (with the exception of Texas) to fewer points in their efforts. The defense’s success came to a head in last year’s Cotton Bowl against Alabama, which possessed the nation’s No. 2 defense. The game was billed as Tech’s offense against Bama’s defense, which some Tech defenders took personally. The game showcased a trademark defensive slugfest, ending on a game-winning field goal as time expired to give the Tide a 13-10 win.


DE Keyunta Dawson


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE McKinner Dixon-So (6-3, 265) Jared Williams-So (6-5, 252)
NT Chris Hudler-Sr (6-3, 289) Dek Bake-Sr (6-5, 268)
DT Ken Scott-Sr (6-2, 327) ..
DE Seth Nitschmann-Sr (6-4, 246) Tyler Yenzer-Jr (6-4, 235)
SLB Keyunta Dawson-Sr (6-2, 248) Kellen Tillman-Jr (6-1, 237)
MLB Brock Stratton-Jr (5-11, 225) Paul Williams-Jr (6-1, 221)
WLB Fletcher Session-Sr (6-0, 232) Brent Slaughter-Sr (6-1, 209)
CB Antonio Huffman-Sr (5-11, 179) Marcus Bunton-So (5-8, 187)
CB Chris Parker-Jr (5-11, 177) Brent Nickerson-Fr (6-0, 171)
SS Joe Garcia-Jr (6-2, 206) Anthony Hines-So (6-1, 236)
FS Darcel McBath-So (6-1, 193) Lance Fuller-So (6-0, 217)
P Alex Reyes-Sr (6-1, 226) ..




Alex Trlica’s career was rejuvenated last year, as he was a perfect on his 60! PATs and went 13-of-18 on his field goals, including 6-of-8 from 30-39 yards and 3-of-6 from 40-49, when his previous career high had been 34 yards. He hit a 47-yarder in 2005 and is a solid option.

Ever since Alex Reyes has been at Tech, punting has been one a ‘golden child’. Reyes has one problem – qualifying for the Ray Guy Award with the lack of time he gets due to Tech’s potent offense. He’s still one of the nation’s best after averaging 42.8 yards per, including a long of 71 yards and over a third of his efforts either being fair caught or dropping inside the 20. Net results need help.

Return Game
Danny Amendola hopes return to his freshman form, which saw him earn Big 12 first-team punt returner. Last season, he averaged nearly three yards below his 2004 average. The kick returner position is wide open, but will likely be led by Woods and Amendola.