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1. Welcome back, fun
It's not like the Tommy Tuberville era was bad. Texas Tech went to (and won) two bowls in three years and went 21-17; those certainly aren't awful marks for a program that, for instance, went to two bowls and had just four winning seasons from 1979-92. And it's not like Mike Leach left the cupboard filled to the brim with breakthrough talent. You can do a lot worse than Tuberville did from 2010-12 at Tech, and he should do just fine now that he's left for Cincinnati.
That said ... the three years following Leach's departure from Lubbock just weren't very much fun for Texas Tech fans. A good portion of the fanbase thought Leach's dismissal was beyond unfair -- I shared that sentiment -- and despite some solid wins (41-38 over No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman in 2011, 49-14 over No. 5 West Virginia in 2012), every step forward was met with an equal step backwards (start 5-2 in 2011, finish 0-5; start 6-1 in 2012, finish 2-4), and for better or worse, Tuberville was just never completely accepted in West Texas. The bad feelings from the end of the Leach era never completely subsided.
Safe to say the new guy has already been accepted with open arms, and he hasn't even coached a game yet. When Tuberville left for Cincy, Tech replaced him with Kliff Kingsbury, former Red Raiders quarterback and, as of last year, star offensive coordinator for Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. Kingsbury played under Leach, studied under Dana Holgorsen and Kevin Sumlin, and comes back to Lubbock with all of the buzz and prowess you could hope for from a coach who won't turn 34 years old until right before the coming season starts.
And he's fun. Score-a-lot-of-points-and-slap-your-boss-on-the-ass fun. That can't hurt.
You never, ever know how an assistant will handle life with the big whistle around his neck, but one has to assume that Kingsbury will be given quite a bit of leeway in ways that Tuberville was not. This wasn't a "Yeah, we screwed up" hire -- this wasn't Auburn hiring Gus Malzahn -- but the fact that Tech managed to hire a hot, young assistant whose presence also mends some fences that had gone up between Tech fans and Tech administrators was certainly a best-of-all-worlds situation. Now we just have to see if he can coach.
2012 Schedule & Results
|Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 9-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 45|
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|1-Sep||Northwestern State||44-6||W||23.5 - 3.6||W|
|8-Sep||at Texas State||58-10||W||41.6 - 17.7||W|
|15-Sep||New Mexico||49-14||W||38.5 - 10.4||W|
|29-Sep||at Iowa State||24-13||W||26.1 - 14.3||W|
|6-Oct||Oklahoma||20-41||L||27.1 - 22.7||W|
|13-Oct||West Virginia||49-14||W||49.6 - 15.0||W|
|20-Oct||at TCU||56-53||W||39.3 - 34.5||W|
|27-Oct||at Kansas State||24-55||L||34.2 - 34.9||L|
|3-Nov||Texas||22-31||L||29.2 - 34.0||L|
|10-Nov||Kansas||41-34||W||31.2 - 32.0||L|
|17-Nov||at Oklahoma State||21-59||L||28.3 - 32.1||L|
|24-Nov||vs. Baylor||45-52||L||40.8 - 27.8||W|
|28-Dec||vs. Minnesota||34-31||W||40.7 - 31.0||W|
|Points Per Game||37.5||20||31.8||91|
|Adj. Points Per Game||34.6||22||23.8||27|
2. Lost it like a set of keys
It's easy to forget, but midway through the 2012 season, there was a different narrative brewing in Lubbock. Not only was Texas Tech good, the Texas Tech defense was doing really, really well. The Red Raiders allowed an average of 160 yards and 10 points per game against an admittedly cakey non-conference slate, but then allowed just 189 yards to Iowa State and a respectable 380 to Oklahoma. (Turnovers were deadly against OU, but the defense still held up for the most part.) And the masterpiece came on October 13, when a West Virginia team that had just put up a combined 1,267 yards and 118 points against Baylor and Texas, came to Lubbock and left with 14 points.
At 5-1, Tech surged to (an underrated, really) 18th in the polls, then moved to 15th following an overtime win over TCU. But then things changed.
Adj. Points Per Game (first 6 games): Texas Tech 34.4, Opponent 14.0 (plus-20.4)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 7 games): Texas Tech 34.8, Opponent 32.3 (plus-2.5)
The cracks began to show against TCU, when the Horned Frogs both rushed for 184 yards and passed for 332 yards against a previously impenetrable, if vanilla, pass defense. And then Kansas State gained 426 yards, leaning heavily on the run. And Texas gained 427 doing the same. And Kansas ran almost exclusively and gained 419 yards (it was really the Jayhawks' only good offensive performance over the second half of the season). And Oklahoma State gained 256 yards on the ground, Baylor gained 278, and even Minnesota gained 222 in the bowl game.
Word got out that Tech couldn't stop the run, the defense's conservative ways began to fail, and the Red Raiders faded down the stretch despite steady offensive play.
|Q1 Rk||22||1st Down Rk||36|
|Q2 Rk||21||2nd Down Rk||24|
|Q3 Rk||60||3rd Down Rk||13|
3. An easy fit
When Tuberville was hired, it felt like the most extreme departure possible from the Leach era. Tuberville led supremely run-heavy attacks at Auburn, and his attempt to adopt the spread in 2008 did not take. Merciful heavens, did it not take.
But he was not predisposed to hating the spread, and he was smart enough to figure out that you can draw spread offense talent to West Texas. He hired former Troy offensive coordinator Neal Brown, whose run-pass ratios were positively Leachian, more pass-heavy than what Kingsbury was posting at Texas A&M. (Granted, Kingsbury had Johnny Manziel at A&M; there is not a Manziel on this roster, so the run-heavy ways on passing downs will probably not follow Kingsbury from College Station to Lubbock.)
The result of Tuberville's offensive decisions: a relatively painless transition to Kingsbury Ball. Kingsbury hired former Tech quarterback Sonny Cumbie (the Red Raiders' receivers coach in 2012) and former Tech receiver Eric Morris (Leach's inside receivers coach at Washington State) as co-coordinators. Yeah, this really does have a band-getting-back-together feel to it. And while Kingsbury doesn't quite inherit a crew with the upside of last year's Aggies -- the offensive line is not one of the two or three best in the country, and while Michael Brewer showed potential last year, he's probably not going to come out of nowhere to win the Heisman -- it's got upside. Tech will move the ball and score points.
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Michael Brewer||6'1, 183||So.||*** (5.7)||34||48||375||70.8%||4||0||2||4.0%||7.2|
|Clayton Nicholas||6'3, 216||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Davis Webb||6'4, 194||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
|Kenny Williams||RB||5'9, 219||Jr.||**** (5.8)||143||824||5.8||5.0||5||+10.7|
|SaDale Foster||RB||5'7, 187||Sr.||** (5.3)||91||451||5.0||4.1||3||-0.6|
|DeAndre Washington (2011)||RB||5'8, 182||So.||*** (5.7)||77||366||4.8||N/A||3||N/A|
|Jakeem Grant||WR-H||5'6, 183||So.||*** (5.6)||8||19||2.4||7.7||0||-2.1|
|Michael Brewer||QB||6'1, 183||So.||*** (5.7)||7||36||5.1||2.7||0||+0.1|
|Quinton White||RB||5'7, 197||RSFr.||*** (5.6)|
|Tyler Middleton||RB||6'0, 180||Jr.||** (5.4)|
4. Running would be nice
On standard downs last year, Kingsbury's A&M offense basically split 50-50 between run and pass. The offenses he has been associated with have typically featured a prolific running back (or backs), which is probably good news for Kenny Williams, SaDale Foster, and returning sophomore DeAndre Washington.
But last year's Tech running backs were not very explosive -- Williams' per-carry average was lovely, but his 5.0 highlight yardage average suggests that the his line did him quite a few favors -- and the offensive line must replace three starters who had combined for about nine seasons' worth of starts (107). Last year's line was pretty good at creating opportunities, but Williams and Foster did not take full advantage of them, and now the line might regress.
No matter how exciting the offensive coaching staff is, a one-dimensional attack is still a one-dimensional attack. Be it because of running backs without clear upside or a potentially thin, young offensive line, there is reason to worry about Tech's running game.
|Eric Ward||WR||6'0, 204||Sr.||**** (5.8)||119||82||1053||68.9%||8.8||20.9%||65.5%||8.8||138.8|
|Jakeem Grant||WR||5'6, 183||So.||*** (5.6)||41||32||284||78.0%||6.9||7.2%||82.9%||8.0||37.4|
|Jace Amaro||TE||6'5, 257||Jr.||**** (5.9)||37||25||409||67.6%||11.1||6.5%||81.1%||11.1||53.9|
|Kenny Williams||RB||5'9, 219||Jr.||**** (5.8)||23||16||163||69.6%||7.1||4.0%||60.9%||7.1||21.5|
|Javon Bell||WR||6'0, 180||Sr.||*** (5.7)||22||17||269||77.3%||12.2||3.9%||63.6%||12.0||35.5|
|Bradley Marquez||WR||5'11, 201||Jr.||*** (5.7)||22||16||172||72.7%||7.8||3.9%||54.5%||7.5||22.7|
|Derreck Edwards||WR||6'11, 177||So.||**** (5.8)||10||6||58||60.0%||5.8||1.8%||50.0%||6.1||7.6|
|Reginald Davis||WR||6'0, 184||RSFr.||**** (5.8)|
|Dominique Wheeler||WR||6'1, 177||RSFr.||**** (5.8)|
|Devin Lauderdale||WR||5'11, 170||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|D.J. Polite-Bray||WR||6'1, 175||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
|Dylan Cantrell||WR||6'2, 202||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
5. You come to Lubbock to catch passes
There are 10 former four-star recruits listed in various units in this preview; six of them are part of the receiving corps. Possession receiver extraordinaire Eric Ward, tantalizing tight end Jace Amaro, and a series of unproven youngsters -- sophomore Derreck Edwards, redshirt freshmen Reginald Davis and Dominique Wheeler, incoming freshman Devin Lauderdale -- came to Texas Tech because of the West Texas spread.
Four of last year's top seven targets are gone, but it's hard to worry too much about this receiving corps, especially when you throw in high-efficiency options like Jakeem Grant, Javon Bell, and Bradley Marquez. This unit could use a few more big plays, but I don't fear a lack of overall explosiveness here nearly as much as I did with the running backs.
|LaAdrian Waddle||LT||40 career starts; 2012 1st All-Big 12|
|Deveric Gallington||C||38 career starts|
|Terry McDonald||RT||29 career starts|
|Le'Raven Clark||LT||6'5, 303||So.||*** (5.7)||13 career starts|
|Beau Carpenter||LG||6'6, 284||Jr.||*** (5.6)||10 career starts|
|Tony Morales||LG||6'3, 302||So.||**** (5.8)||4 career starts|
|Rashad Fortenberry||LT||6'5, 275||Sr.||*** (5.6)|
|James Polk||RG||6'6, 332||Jr.||*** (5.6)|
|Jared Kaster||C||6'3, 271||So.||*** (5.6)|
|Alfredo Morales||RG||6'3, 302||So.||*** (5.7)|
|Matt Wilson||LT||6'6, 268||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Trey Keenan||RT||6'6, 280||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Baylen Brown||OL||6'4, 280||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
|Joshua Outlaw||OL||6'4, 290||Fr.||*** (5.7)|
|Q1 Rk||27||1st Down Rk||40|
|Q2 Rk||61||2nd Down Rk||23|
|Q3 Rk||14||3rd Down Rk||46|
6. Run to win (on Tech)
Teams do run the ball in the Big 12, but teams ran the ball all the time on Tech last year, eight percent more than the national average on standard downs and nearly six percent more on passing downs. Texas rushed 39 times and passed 19 times. Kansas rushed 57 and threw 15. Oklahoma State rushed 42 and passed 22. Baylor rushed 57 and threw 37. Minnesota rushed 54 and passed 19. The Red Raiders' pass rush was rather mediocre, but the aggressive secondary was easily a strength, and offensive coordinators are not , as a whole, dumb. Opponents found life much more forgiving by simply handing the ball off and did a lot of it.
I asked Seth C from SB Nation's Viva the Matadors about the defense's issues in the second half of the season, and his eyeballs basically corroborated what these stats tell us.
As the season progressed, I think teams really took advantage of a very vanilla defense. Once Big 12 coordinators got going, they never looked back, sans Iowa St. Safeties could be exploited because they weren't all that fast, Cornelius Douglas was hurt/suspended, but he had only been a starter for the first 6 games. Linebackers that were pretty small and inexperienced doesn't play well in the Big 12, especially as teams are running more and more. Almost no consistent edge pass rush, etc.
In 2013, the script gets flipped a bit. The front seven returns almost everybody (for better or worse), and the secondary loses almost everybody.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Kerry Hyder||DE||6'2, 281||Sr.||*** (5.5)||13||49.0||6.9%||14||6||0||4||0||1|
|Dartwan Bush||DE||6'1, 256||Sr.||*** (5.6)||13||37.0||5.2%||12||6||0||0||0||0|
|Jackson Richards||DE||6'4, 248||Jr.||**** (5.8)||13||26.0||3.7%||3.5||0||0||2||0||0|
|Dennell Wesley||NT||6'1, 286||Sr.||*** (5.5)||12||17.0||2.4%||5.5||2||0||0||0||0|
|Donte Phillips||DT||6'2, 260||So.||** (5.4)||5||5.0||0.7%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Kindred Evans||DE||6'3, 228||So.||*** (5.6)||6||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Demetrius Alston||DE||6'4, 260||So.||** (5.4)|
|Andre Ross||DE||6'4, 230||Jr.||NR|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Sam Eguavoen||WILL||6'1, 220||Jr.||*** (5.6)||13||44.5||6.3%||1.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Will Smith||WILL||6'3, 224||Sr.||*** (5.5)||13||44.5||6.3%||1.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Blake Dees||MIKE||6'0, 215||Jr.||*** (5.5)||13||31.5||4.4%||2||0||0||0||0||0|
|Branden Jackson||BAN||6'4, 248||Sr.||*** (5.7)||13||18.0||2.5%||0||0||0||1||1||0|
|Pete Robertson||BAN||6'3, 220||So.||NR||12||18.0||2.5%||1.5||2||0||0||1||0|
|Terrance Bullitt||RAID||6'3, 221||Sr.||*** (5.6)||10||16.5||2.3%||2||1||0||2||0||0|
|Zach Winbush||LB||6'1, 219||Jr.||*** (5.5)||12||11.5||1.6%||1.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Micah Awe||MIKE||6'0, 205||So.||*** (5.5)||13||10.5||1.5%||0.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Chris Payne||RAID||5'10, 187||Sr.||*** (5.5)||9||3.0||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jacarthy Mack||LB||6'3, 205||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
7. There are a lot worse things in this world…
…than inheriting a front seven that is nearly completely intact from the previous season. An impressive 90 percent of last year's front-seven tackles returns. That's obviously great from an experience standpoint -- and to be sure, there are some exciting, experienced players here, like linemen Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush (combined: 26 tackles for loss) -- but experience alone doesn't cure all ills.
The defensive line was at least decent last year, ranking 48th in Adj. Line Yards and preventing opportunities for opposing runners. But when runners did get an opportunity, they made the Red Raiders pay. The linebacking corps, with two freshmen and a sophomore among its top five last year, was the weakness of the defense, neither making nor stopping many plays.
And now new defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt's flexible 3-4 will spend a lot of time putting more linebackers on the field. Players like Branden Jackson and former safety Terrance Bullitt will be put into aggressive positions on the field. Will the unit both improve and take advantage of its play-making opportunities?
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Bruce Jones||CB||5'7, 171||Sr.||*** (5.5)||13||29.0||4.1%||2||0||0||7||0||0|
|Tre' Porter||FS||6'0, 202||Sr.||**** (5.8)||11||26.0||3.7%||1||0||0||2||0||0|
|J.J. Gaines||SS||5'10, 180||So.||*** (5.6)||13||8.0||1.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Derrick Mays||CB||5'11, 175||Sr.||** (5.2)||11||7.0||1.0%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Olaoluwa Falemi||CB||5'9, 157||Sr.||*** (5.5)||12||6.5||0.9%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Summitt Hogue||S||5'11, 184||So.||NR||8||5.0||0.7%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Brandon Bagley||CB||5'10, 155||Jr.||NR||9||4.5||0.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Austin Stewart||SS||6'0, 206||Jr.||*** (5.6)||4||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jeremy Reynolds||CB||5'9, 175||So.||*** (5.5)||3||1.5||0.2%||0||0||1||0||0||0|
|Keenon Ward||FS||5'9, 189||RSFr.||*** (5.5)|
|La'Darius Newbold||CB||5'11, 190||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Dorian Crawford||DB||6'2, 200||Jr.||*** (5.5)|
|Martin Hill||DB||5'11, 185||Jr.||** (5.4)|
8. Not as much reason to fear the secondary
With five seniors and two juniors in its top seven, last year's secondary was seasoned and aggressive. Safeties Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson combined for 5.5 tackles for loss and 17 passes defensed. Corners Eugene Neboh, Bruce Jones, and Cornelius Douglas combined for six tackles for loss and 21 passes defensed. The Tech defense was strangely awful at forcing turnovers -- only two of those 21 passes defensed by corners were picked off, and defensive backs didn't force a single fumble -- but this was a solid unit. Was.
Now, only Jones and backup safety Tre' Porter return with any sort of experience. Players like J.J. Gaines and Derrick Mays evidently had strong springs, but playing in the Big 12 obviously puts a strain on your secondary. We'll see how this one holds up.
|Ryan Erxleben||6'1, 191||Sr.||40||41.7||2||15||8||57.5%|
|Kramer Fyfe||5'8, 159||Jr.||79||59.4||29||36.7%|
|Ryan Bustin||5'11, 172||Jr.||59-59||14-17||82.4%||3-7||42.9%|
|Sadale Foster||KR||5'7, 187||Sr.||18||21.8||0|
|Jakeem Grant||KR||5'6, 163||So.||6||39.5||2|
|Special Teams F/+||58|
|Field Goal Pct||63|
|Kick Returns Avg||36|
|Punt Returns Avg||37|
9. Safe to say, Jakeem Grant is the kick returner
No matter how much our eyeballs try to convince us otherwise, small end-of-season samples are not very reflective or predictive of how a unit or player will perform over the long haul. But go ahead and try to convince anybody who saw Jakeem Grant's exploits from the final two games of the season. First, he did this to Baylor. Then he did this to Minnesota. The waterbug receiver has ridiculous return potential, to say the least, and if Tech can plug some holes in kick/punt coverage, this should be a strong special teams unit overall. (Of course, "If Team can fix [random massive hole], they'll be a lot better" isn't exactly the strongest analysis in the world.)
2013 Schedule & Projection Factors
|7-Sep||Stephen F. Austin||NR|
|19-Oct||at West Virginia||41|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||36|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||39|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||-13 / -3.9|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||13 (5, 8)|
10. Prepare for a hot start
Tech no doubt made the feel-good hire of the offseason, bringing back the local hero to re-energize the program and fanbase. And with their early schedule, the Red Raiders should probably count on a lot more positive coverage early in the season. Of course, they could also count on more second-half struggles.
Of Tech's seven best projected opponents, only one pops up on the schedule before the middle of October. Road trips to SMU and Kansas aren't gimmies, but the Red Raiders will probably be favored in five of their first six games, and since they did win at TCU last year, one figures they have at least decent odds of beginning the season 6-0 even with question marks on the offensive line and throughout the defense. Things get much more difficult after that, but the rosy coverage could indeed last into October before things get iffy. The aforementioned question marks should assure nothing more than about seven wins or so overall, but the schedule will help the Red Raiders reach bowl eligibility.
The short-term and long-term are completely different animals. Short-term, the Kingsbury hire both made perfect sense and came with a lot of bonus points. Still only 33, Kingsbury had already proven just about as much as he possibly could as an offensive assistant. but that doesn't automatically make you a great head coach. Long-term, we have no idea what awaits or to what level Tech can expect to succeed. This program was brutally consistent and fun under Mike Leach, always winning seven games and rarely winning more than nine. Kingsbury could very well reattain that level of consistency; we'll have to wait and see whether he can deliver more than that.