Receiver depth key in Texas Tech rise

It was an all-too-familiar feeling for Texas Tech, despite earning a big win over West Virginia.

A big hit sent Jace Amaro to the sidelines with a rib injury. A fractured foot ended Javon Bell's season. A knee injury did the same to Bradley Marquez.

Just like last season, the Red Raiders were forced to deal with injuries. It had been a mostly healthy year, something coach Tommy Tuberville had been unfamiliar with in his first two seasons in Lubbock.

This time, though, the Red Raiders easily adjusted in the wake of these injuries. How? Depth.

"We went out and took some junior-college players the last couple of years. We added more speed," Tuberville said. "It was ironic last week, the old hands that have been around here, Alex Torres and Austin Zouzalik, had not played as much this year as they had in the past, just because of the depth, but they really stood out last week, made a lot of plays."

With three injuries to the receiving corps, quarterback Seth Doege needed help. Torres and Zouzalik provided it, combining for 10 catches, 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the final one coming in triple overtime by Torres to clinch the 56-53 victory over TCU, Tech's second win over a top-25 team in two weeks.

"They’ve shown me that I can have trust in them. They compete every Saturday and they want the ball in their hands and want to make big plays," Doege said of his new receivers. "That’s the best quality of this whole corps. They’re very unselfish, but they all want to compete and they all want to do what it takes to win football games."

Eight different Red Raiders have at least 100 yards receiving and 13 catches this year. Fourteen receivers have at least five catches.

The rest of the team is relatively injury-free, but when the bug bit the receivers, they were prepared.

"Outside of the '08 group, I think it has to be one of the best I’ve been around, because of the depth. There’s so many guys that can come in and make plays on Saturday," said Doege, who redshirted that 2008 season as a freshman. "It does remind me of the '08 group that had (two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Michael) Crabtree and Eric Morris and even before that when they had Crabtree and Morris and (Danny) Amendola. There was a lot of big-time players that are still playing.

"I don’t know if we have a Crabtree here, but we have a lot of solid guys that can make a lot of plays."

Maybe the Red Raiders don't have a Crabtree, but it likely has the Big 12's best tight end in Amaro, who may return this week after suffering the rib injury against West Virginia. The 6-foot-5, 257-pounder leads the team with 394 receiving yards, despite missing last week's game.

"That guy’s a beast. There’s no other way to explain how he plays," Doege said. "In the blocking game he makes DBs and linebackers look like rag dolls when he puts his hands on ‘em. Then when he catches the ball, he’s hard to bring down. He’s hard to cover because he’s so big."

A year ago, this might not have been the case for the Red Raiders. Injuries to just about every unit knocked the Red Raiders down to 5-7 and out of the postseason. Tech has already surpassed its win total from a year ago, and this time, it was ready to handle the injury issues.

"It pays off the most when you have times like this and have a few guys go down and then the next guy steps up and you don’t lose any production," said Doege, who leads the nation with 28 touchdown passes.

Added Tuberville: "Whenever you throw 28 touchdown passes in seven games, something’s going right with your receivers and quarterbacks."