Texas Tech's Jace Amaro has the size to play tight end and the agility and speed of a wide receiver.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Dana Holgorsen knows enough about Jace Amaro to be concerned about him today when West Virginia faces Texas Tech at Mountaineer Field.But he didn't - at least early in the week - know everything about the Red Raiders' tight end."A lot,'' Holgorsen said when asked what concerned him most about Amaro. "He's big, fast, strong, blocks well, runs well, catches well. He's pretty good. What year is he? Hopefully he's gone next year.''Holgorsen was then informed that the 6-foot-5, 260-pounder was only a junior."Yeah, he should come out,'' Holgorsen said. "Clearly he should come out after his junior year.''If he does, Amaro clearly has a future in the NFL. He has the size to play tight end and the speed and agility of a wide receiver. He figures to have a long and productive professional career."We saw it up close and personal last year,'' Holgorsen said. "He's a guy that can do a lot of different things. He creates a tremendous amount of mismatches, not just for us but everybody they have played since then while he's been healthy.''Indeed, health has been Amaro's only issue, and it traces back to last year's game against West Virginia when the Mountaineers knocked him out of the game in Lubbock with a knee injury. But that wasn't until after he'd caught five passes for 156 yards."I don't know how you stop him. You try to double cover him, but then it opens up for some of their other pretty good skill guys as well,'' Holgorsen said. "He poses a lot of problems and they've done a good job at utilizing him to get first downs and open up things for some other people.''
The injury against West Virginia still bothers Amaro, not because of anything the Mountaineers did but because it all but ended his season. He missed the last six games and returned only for a bowl game."The first doctor told me I was going to be out for two weeks. I was pretty pissed about that,'' Amaro recalled. "The next guy said four, the next guy said six and the last one told me three months. So it was kind of a thing where I didn't want to talk to anybody for a while. It was really frustrating.''nn
The question hadn't even been finished yet, but as soon as Holgorsen heard the key words in it - third-down conversions - he had a descriptor at the ready."Atrocious,'' Holgorsen said.
Indeed, of all the problems West Virginia has had on offense this season, one statistic perhaps boils it down better than any other. The Mountaineers rank No. 111 in the country in converting third downs into first downs.
Granted, the myriad issues surrounding WVU's offensive futility are the reasons for that third-down ineptitude, but the stat itself is perhaps the bottom line."With an average offense and a lot of inexperience at key positions, it's tough to get first downs on second-and-5, let alone third-and-5,'' Holgorsen said. "It's all part of the process and gaining experience and knowledge on what we're asking them to do.''Things might not get any easier against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are 11th in the country in third-down conversion defense.But while third downs are certainly a problem, Holgorsen is far more concerned with the offense as a whole. Until the Mountaineers are able to master that, third downs will continue to be hard."When you're having problems on first-and-10, it's a lot harder on third-and-10,'' Holgorsen said. "You've just got to get good at making routine plays and execution on what the play is and try to put the ball in play and get positive yards. The more success you have doing that, you would be surprised that many routine plays turn into bigger plays. You make a guy miss here or there and get first downs on second-and-5 instead of having to deal with third-and-4.''nn
West Virginia has already played Oklahoma State and Baylor after those teams had a bye week. Next week the Mountaineers face a Kansas State team that's off this weekend.This week WVU plays one of its two games with more rest than its opponent (the other is Iowa State).Advantage Mountaineers? Kliff Kingsbury doesn't necessarily think so."I've never been a big proponent of bye weeks besides to get healthy,'' said the Texas Tech coach, whose team had an off week three weeks ago. "I think when you get rolling it's good to keep that going, keep the routine and keep practice going. I don't think that will play either way.''Tech has certainly been rolling. The Red Raiders haven't lost since an overtime decision to Baylor last Nov. 24. Only Ohio State (18), Alabama (10), Baylor (9), Louisville and Oregon (8 each) have longer streaks than Tech's seven straight wins.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.