Tech football notebook: Wilson's ascent highlights freshman offensive line class

HOUSTON — Preston Wilson started nine games at center this season for Oklahoma State, bringing his career starts total to 21. Preston might not be the last of the Wilsons to anchor a Big 12 offensive line.

This fall at Texas Tech, Sheridan Wilson has made quite an impression on offensive line coach Stephen Hamby. The Argyle graduate has yet to play in a Tech game, but late in the season he moved to No. 2 center on the depth chart, which is notable for a true freshman.

"He's surprised me more than anybody in a freshman class in a long time," Hamby said after the Red Raiders' Christmas Day practice for the Texas Bowl, "so it's very exciting to see what he's able to do."

Wilson's listed by Tech at 6-foot-5, 285 pounds. His future might not be in 2023. The Red Raiders just added transfer Rusty Staats, the starting center on back-to-back nine-win bowl champions at Western Kentucky. He'll be a sixth-year college player next season, and Tech coach Joey McGuire said Saturday that Staats will be the first option when spring practice starts with this year's starter, Dennis Wilburn, moving to right guard.

But when Wilson's time comes, the Red Raiders will have confidence in him.

"You don't see him do anything outside of working on football," Hamby said, "and he takes it takes it very, very seriously. Once we realized he could snap and he has a big enough body to train, it was an easy, easy input."

Jon Wilson, the brothers' father, was a four-year starter under Pat Dye at Auburn.

Both Wilson brothers came into their college programs at other line positions. Preston Wilson started a combined 12 games at left guard, right guard and right tackle the past two years at Oklahoma State before taking over at center this season. When Tech signed Sheridan Wilson last winter, McGuire said he was a tackle who could move inside to guard, but he didn't mention center.

Hamby said he's picked it up because "he's a football guy" and one who "eats, sleeps and breathes football."

Now Wilson is working on game prep with the first and second units. The other true freshmen offensive linemen, like most true freshmen offensive linemen, are on the scout team.

When Wilburn had to exit a practice to have medical staff attend to a cut, Hamby said, Wilson "came in and ran with the ones (first unit), and we don't see a whole big difference.

"So the future is super bright for him."

Behind the moves

Come spring, Tech plans to switch starting tackles Caleb Rogers and Monroe Mills, Rogers going from the left side to the right and Mills going from the right side to the left.

Hamby cited multiple reasons: Rogers started all 13 games last season at right tackle, and Mills has been consistent in his first season at Tech and spent time training at left tackle at Oklahoma State, his previous college stop.

"That's kind of the thought process," Hamby said. "Let's put Caleb back at his natural position over at right and move Monroe over to left.

"Plus, we have all right-handed quarterbacks, so we'll put the biggest anchor (Mills) out there. He's a hillbilly, but he's country strong now."

Learning curve

Two young linemen Hamby has praised highly, guard Jacoby Jackson and tackle Ty Buchanan, have gotten their first career starts this season — five for Jackson, one for Buchanan. Both are redshirt freshmen.

Hamby said the next steps for Jackson are gaining maturity and playing at a high level for longer stretches. To do that, he needs to put mistakes behind him.

"If he can get out of his own head," Hamby said, "he's going to be one of the best players that's ever come through here. But at that (age), you really don't know how to — like coach McGuire says, what's in between your ears — how to get rid of that. Once he gets rid of that, we're talking about a really, really good player."

Whereas Jackson is massive at 6-6 and in the neighborhood of 340 pounds, Hamby's been wowed by Buchanan's athletic ability and flexibility.

"When he actually uses his hands and locks you down, it's pretty impressive for a vegetarian," Hamby said, alluding to Buchanan's diet. "He still has freakish, freakish athleticism and once it all clicks it's going to be a problem for the rest of the nation, honestly."

Williams, Matthews return

Starting cornerback Rayshad Williams and backup linebacker Tyrique Matthews were in pads and full participants during the segments of Sunday's practice open to the media at Rice's indoor facility.

Williams, recovering from a strained groin muscle, and Matthews, recovering from a strained calf, are probable for the Red Raiders' Texas Bowl date Wednesday against Mississippi, McGuire said.

Both were running on the side and not in pads Saturday for the Red Raiders' first on-site practice in Houston.

Practice visitors

A number of high-school coaches attended Tech's Christmas Day workout. Among them, Tech associate head coach Kenny Perry noted, were Jon Kay, head coach of five-time state champion Galena Park North Shore, and a couple of coaches he knows from two-time state champion Argyle.

"Joey's done a good job of letting the whole state of Texas understand that we're a high-school-based program," Perry said, "and those guys are always welcome to come out. Seeing those guys out here on Christmas Day is pretty special."

College football

Who: Texas Tech vs. Mississippi

What: The Texas Bowl

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: NRG Stadium, Houston

Records: Texas Tech 7-5, Mississippi 8-4

Rankings (CFP/AP/coaches poll): Tech unranked in all. Mississippi unranked/receiving votes/receiving votes

Line: Mississippi by 3 1/2

This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Tech football notebook: Wilson's ascent highlights freshman O-line class