Texas Tech Soccer added a 12-year-old senior champion and an all-American first team to the defensive line Saturday, the second day of prep practice.
There’s a catch: The much-decorated Gabriel Oladipo made those distinctions with the Red Raiders track and field team. But when he exhausted his eligibility in his primary sport in June, Oldibo decided to try football.
It doesn’t look like Tech is hurting someone to play a defensive role with Jaylon Hutchings, Tony Bradford and Philip Blidi as the main returnees. But Oladipo is 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, bench press 440 pounds and squat 875. He spent five college seasons honing his foot and blasting.
“You’re talking about a really strong, really athletic, huge human being,” said tech coach Joey McGuire. “This just adds another person, regardless of (their role). Whether it’s a goal block, field goal or the number of shots he gets in the game, at any time you can add big people who can really run. …”
Oladipo has not played football since high school at Fort Bend Hightower. He was also a pitcher in baseball.
He earned an NCAA waiver to play on Friday, dressed up on Saturday and spent some solo time with alumni assistant coach Kirby Innes.
Since moving to Tech from Texas A&M prior to the 2020 indoor season, Oladipo has been the runner-up in the power throw and then the champion each of the past two years in the Big 12 indoor championship. He placed 12th and 3rd, respectively, in the event for the past two years in the NCAA Championships, which is good for team 2 and then team 1 place in America. Outdoors, he won the Big 12 title in discus in 2021 and has been the first 12-man team in discus, shooting and hammer throw in each of the past two years.
McGuire said Oldepo expressed interest in the spring to join the football team when he finished his track season. It was a matter of obtaining a waiver; Being already a technical athlete simplified the process.
McGuire said Oladipo’s conditioning wouldn’t be a problem “because it’s in good shape.”
“He’s an athlete,” McGuire said. “He’s a Division I athlete.” “With him, it would just be technical. He has the best technician in the game in (defensive line coach for technology) Zarnell Fitch. I think he’s an elite coach. He’s a great teacher, so it’s good for him to be in that room with someone like that to make him go.”
In addition to Hutchings, Bradford and Blade, the other key players in the Red Raiders’ grouping in defensive intervention are new transfers Miles Cole of Louisiana Monroe and Vidal Scott of Arkansas State.
■ With Oladipo joining the defensive line, third-year Larry Moore returned to the offensive line and changed his jerseys from No. 94 to No. 78. Moore spent his first two seasons as a defensive lineman before training as a defensive line during spring training.
■ McGuire recently expected newcomer Cole Spencer to start in the left guard, but January’s move from Western Kentucky has yet to begin on the field as he continues rehab after knee surgery that kept him out of spring training.
Spencer continues to spend most of his time under the guidance of senior athletic trainer Drew Krueger. McGuire said he will be reassessed in two weeks to see if he can progress to individual workouts. This makes his presence at the start of the season questionable, Maguire admitted, given that he would need to make full contact and representatives on offense to prepare.
Tech coaches expected Spencer to be an immediate start: He started 44 games in WKU, including the entire 2021 season with the same offensive coordinator (Zach Kettle) and offensive line coach (Stephen Hamby) he now has at Tech. Pro Football Focus awarded him the highest pass blocking score from any offensive linebacker at last season’s US Conference.
McGuire said the circumstances are no surprise. Krueger told him how long it would take to rehab Spencer, and they knew he wouldn’t be ready to start pre-season practice.
With Spencer unavailable, returning right keeper Weston Wright switched to left keeper, Landon Peterson secured first-team action in the right guard.
■ Marquez “Maddy” Waters has been ill since the team’s local media day on Thursday. He’s the star of the first team, and he’s a safety player/outside quarterback/corner hole, so Wyoming’s transfer Keyon Blankenbaker is the first string during Waters’ exit.
Weak side back Derek Lewis, Tavares “BJ” Elston and Salameh Jet Whitfield also worked there on Saturday. McGuire said Lewis will return as full-back, but wants to give Elston a longer look at Starr. McGuire believes a true 5-10, 200-pound freshman can handle increased pass coverage, and being a leaner player, the position switch gets him out of the box.
“We’re going to keep him there, and I think it’s going to end up being a good move, because you’ve got two old guys (Waters and Blankenbaker) in that place,” McGuire said. “So you’re always looking forward as a coach…Moody has much better (covering) skills, but both are. Too explosive.”
■ Among the players who caught McGuire’s eye during Friday’s first practice session was new linebacker Senseri Massi – so much so that McGuire sent a text message on Saturday morning to new Mesquite coach DeMarcus Harris. McGuire said he was impressed with how well Massey made 6-5, 330 pounds.
Harris was the defensive coordinator at Cedar Hill, where Massey was a senior last season and where McGuire was head coach from 2003 through 2016.
■ Saturday was McGuire’s 51st birthday. At the end of the morning practice, he climbed over a submerged tank, allowing players and family members to throw toward the goal. Maguire was dropped in the water twice.
“(wife) Debbie went up there and pressed the button, because she missed,” McGuire said. “But it was TK who hit the target and kicked me out, (receiver) Tyler King.”
Since his early August birthday always falls at the start of pre-season practice, McGuire was asked about his favorite experience from past birthdays spent around his team.
He said, “Honestly, it’s probably this one, just as much as I don’t know if I’ve been in an immersion tank. Dealing, but I don’t know if I’ve ever gone to an immersion tank on my birthday, so that was fun.” “
Many current and former technical coaches have birthdays in early August. Gerald Myers turns 86 on Friday, Sonny Combi turns 41 on Monday, Cliff Kingsbury turns 43 on Tuesday and Matt Wells turns 49 on Wednesday.