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Garcia pushing for starting spot

As a high school free safety, Joey Garcia was known for his bone-crushing hits, leaving a trail of woozy players in his wake.

In his freshman year at Texas Tech, about the hardest thing the former Clovis standout has hit is the books — so far. His grade-point average for the fall semester was a 3.4 while on the field he has yet to make his mark after being redshirted.

He hopes to change that this spring as he battles for a starting spot in the Red Raiders secondary. As a redshirt, Garcia practiced with the team in the fall but did not suit up for games.

As painful as it was sitting in the stands on game day, Garcia said the move was for the best. Not only does he keep his freshman year of eligibility, but it also allowed him to get used to the speed and complexity of college football.

“Just getting used to the speed of the game was the hardest part,” said Garcia, an all-state free safety who was instrumental in Clovis’ 2001 state-title run. “There are so many defenses and so many coverages to learn. But I love it.”

New Red Raiders safeties coach Carlos Mainord said Garcia had probably his best practice Monday. Tech will practice two more weeks, capped off April 17 by the annual Red-and-Black scrimmage.

“The biggest thing is he has good range back there,” said Mainord, who spent 10 years coaching in the NFL. “When he learns to read the quarterback, and learns to read the routes, he’ll only get better.”

Mainord said the Red Raiders use their safeties a lot in run support, where Garcia’s size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) is a plus.

“He’s a real physical player,” Mainord said.

With one of last year’s starters graduating and the other nursing a hamstring injury, Garcia is one of several players pushing for a starting job. Garcia is listed as a free safety, but in Tech’s defense, the safeties are virtually interchangeable.

Mainord would not comment on Garcia’s chances of gaining a starting spot. He said spring drills are used to evaluate progress and depth.

“Right now we’re rotating all our people in there,” Mainord said. “He’s getting as many reps as anybody else.”

Garcia, who also excelled in basketball and track at CHS, said he’s confident he can hold his own at the college level.

“There’s a sign in the Clovis locker room that says, ‘Respect your opponent but never fear them,’” Garcia said. “And that’s how I play.”