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Texas Tech's air raid is firing again. Now for some better luck and much better defense

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The Red Raiders were as bad as you thought last year, but Kliff Kingsbury has his chance to start delivering actual results.

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Hello, reset button

As tends to be the case, Tech's fantastic bowl performance raised expectations higher than trends suggest they should be, and that could backfire if the Red Raiders finish 6-6 or 7-5.

I don't see it, though. I don't think the defense improves until 2015, and while I like the offense, I don't necessarily like it to improve without Jace Amaro. I see Tech once again as a top-50-but-not-much-better squad, one likely to start 5-2, then struggle to find Win No. 6. (If it doesn't come against Texas at home or at Iowa State, it might not come.)

-- 2014 Texas Tech guide

I thought I was tapping the brakes when talking about Texas Tech last year, but I evidently wasn't doing it enough.

Kliff Kingsbury's team had razed Arizona State in the 2013 Holiday Bowl; the win cranked up the hype enough that, despite losing five games in a row to finish the regular season, the Red Raiders received enough votes to start the year 38th in the AP poll.

This wasn't a runaway hype train, but the vibes were positive. Kingsbury was recruiting well, the offense was ready to take a step forward after scuffling along with freshman quarterbacks, and the defense ... well, the defense probably wasn't going to be worse. All aboard the Kliff Express.

A year later, the Kliff Express has a few more empty seats. The defense collapsed, allowing 34 or more points in eight of 10 games against power conference teams (and 82! against TCU). The offense was fine but fell into some ill-timed funks, and after surviving Central Arkansas and UTEP, the Red Raiders beat only Kansas and Iowa State after September 6.

It wasn't even a particularly good 4-8. Despite awful turnovers luck, Tech went 3-2 in one-possession games; you could say that the Red Raiders were as close to 1-11 as 6-6.

What many assumed would be Tech's return to league-average play -- Tech hasn't been above average within the Big 12 since Mike Leach left -- was a disaster. The Red Raiders missed a bowl for the second time since 1999, blue-chip quarterback Jarrett Stidham decommitted and ended up signing with Baylor, and a year after he had the world wrapped around his finger, Kingsbury is starting over.

Indeed, since the Leach/Adam James controversy of 2009, Texas Tech has been a Big 12 also-ran. The Red Raiders took a step forward in Tommy Tuberville's third and final season (2012) but found their nadir again with a Leach disciple calling the shots.

Since ranking 27th in Def. S&P+ in Leach's final season, Tech hasn't cracked the top 70 in that category, even with the otherwise defensively sound Tuberville. And after winning at least nine games in three of Leach's final four seasons, the Red Raiders haven't topped eight since.

Right before the 2014 season, Kingsbury signed a contract extension that made him one of the nation's most well-paid coaches. This seemed like a risk at the time because of inexperience, but his trajectory seemed clear enough that few questioned the move too loudly.

Now, entering his third year, Kingsbury faces increasing pressure. His contract makes him unfirable, but he has plenty to prove. Can (another) new defensive coordinator figure out the right buttons to push? Can an offense that returns virtually everybody pick up the difference? And after 12 losses in 14 conference games, can the Red Raiders at least hold their own?

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 4-8 | Adj. Record: 5-7 | Final F/+ Rk: 82
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
30-Aug Central Arkansas N/A 42-35 W 59% 5.0 95%
6-Sep at UTEP 90 30-26 W 77% 17.5 87%
13-Sep Arkansas 9 28-49 L 40% -6.1 5%
25-Sep at Oklahoma State 75 35-45 L 29% -13.3 10%
4-Oct at Kansas State 26 13-45 L 24% -16.2 1%
11-Oct West Virginia 40 34-37 L 67% 10.1 64%
18-Oct Kansas 99 34-21 W 55% 2.7 75%
25-Oct at TCU 6 27-82 L 47% -1.8 2%
1-Nov Texas 53 13-34 L 20% -19.7 1%
15-Nov Oklahoma 19 30-42 L 44% -3.5 7%
22-Nov at Iowa State 92 34-31 W 50% 0.0 73%
29-Nov vs. Baylor 10 46-48 L 85% 24.0 60%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 36.3 23 36.3 114
Points Per Game 30.5 56 41.3 126

2. Is 3 games a trend?

Despite the decent close-game record, luck wasn't on Tech's side. From a statistical standpoint, the Red Raiders did enough to beat UCA and UTEP by far more than 11 combined points -- they outgained these two by a combined 341 yards but recovered zero of three fumbles against UTEP and threw a couple of early picks against Central Arkansas. They prevailed and went on to produce a win expectancy over 50 percent in four conference games. So perhaps saying they were closer to 1-11 than 6-6 is a faulty way of looking at things.

Still, the bad performances were nightmarish. While the Red Raiders played at the 59th percentile or higher (~top 50) four times, they were in the 29th percentile or lower three times. In the three games that I thought would decide the season (Arkansas, OSU, KSU), they were outscored by 63 points and allowed 6.7 yards per play. They allowed 82 points to TCU, then played even worse the next week against Texas.

If there's hope to be found, it's that the Red Raiders improved in each of their final three games.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 9 games): 46% (Tech yards per play: 6.2)
  • Average Percentile Performance (last 3 games): 60% (Tech yards per play: 7.8)

Granted, a lot of this late "surge" took place because of the offense. After struggling against TCU and Texas, freshman quarterback Patrick Mahomes, in for the injured Davis Webb, thrived. In the final three games, he completed 57 percent of his passes at 16.5 yards per completion (unheard of for the typically efficiency-first air raid offense) with 14 touchdowns to two interceptions. The defense, meanwhile, still allowed 7 yards per play to OU and Iowa State before buckling down against Baylor (5.7).

That the offense returns most key contributors is an excellent sign, but the late-season improvement didn't really give much hope that the defense was going to improve enough to matter.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.96 17 IsoPPP+ 119.1 30
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 43.5% 50 Succ. Rt. + 112.0 31
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 30.1 73 Def. FP+ 100.0 65
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.7 41 Redzone S&P+ 101.0 62
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 26.8 ACTUAL 28 +1.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 10 29 30 30
RUSHING 82 49 38 64
PASSING 5 27 28 27
Standard Downs 49 43 51
Passing Downs 9 18 6
Q1 Rk 32 1st Down Rk 23
Q2 Rk 22 2nd Down Rk 72
Q3 Rk 35 3rd Down Rk 7
Q4 Rk 41

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Davis Webb 6'5, 226 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8672 211 345 2539 24 13 61.2% 4 1.1% 7.2
Patrick Mahomes 6'3, 219 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8807 105 185 1547 16 4 56.8% 9 4.6% 7.7
Vincent Testaverde
15 26 116 0 1 57.7% 0 0.0% 4.5
Nic Shimonek
(Iowa)
6'3, 241 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8175

3. A pretty good backup, one way or another

Mahomes was incredible down the stretch, especially considering he was a true freshman. He got hurt against Texas, and Vincent Testaverde finished the game. But he returned the next week and took no prisoners.

That left Tech with either great quarterback depth or an awkward quarterback battle, depending on your perspective. In 2013, Kingsbury had three solid quarterbacks but lost both Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Michael Brewer (Virginia Tech) to transfer. Webb, the most successful of the three despite freshman status, remained and played perfectly well over the first half of the season. He made mistakes, sure -- against Arkansas, OSU, and KSU, as the defense proved it had no hope of making stops, he threw eight interceptions trying to force the issue -- but he still finished with 2,539 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, and a 138.4 passer rating.

And then Mahomes outplayed him in the final three games.

Mahomes had limited availability in the spring because of baseball commitments, and Webb was still recovering from shoulder surgery, so not much was decided. We assume Mahomes will win the battle because he's younger and produced better averages, but both quarterbacks have cases.

  • Completion Rate: Webb 61%, Mahomes 57%
  • Yards Per Completion: Mahomes 14.7, Webb 12.0
  • TD Rate: Mahomes 9%, Webb 7%
  • INT Rate: Webb 4%, Mahomes 2%
  • Sack Rate: Mahomes 5%, Webb 1%

Webb was the more efficient, with a higher completion rate and far lower sack rate; in 717 career pass attempts, Webb has been sacked only 11 times. That's mind-boggling. But in the process of getting the ball out of his hands as soon as humanly possible, he does force the issue and throws some picks.

Mahomes waits for his receivers to get downfield, which leads to both bigger completions and more sacks. That he threw only four interceptions while averaging nearly 15 yards per completion was rare, but he did get sacked more frequently.

Efficiency is a big part of any offense, especially the air raid, so maybe Webb's still got a solid shot. He produced at least a 136 passer rating in five of seven games, and a lot of his mistakes against Arkansas, OSU, and KSU were due to the pressure the horrendous Tech defense put on the offense to keep up.

But the biggest key for Kingsbury might be not losing the backup to transfer. That he has had three different freshman quarterbacks putting up big numbers in two seasons is impressive, but at some point you'd like to keep a guy long enough to develop him.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
DeAndre Washington RB 5'8, 192 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8876 188 1103 2 5.9 4.9 46.3% 1 1
Justin Stockton RB 5'10, 193 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8672 48 396 4 8.3 13.0 39.6% 1 1
Patrick Mahomes QB 6'3, 219 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8807 37 158 0 4.3 3.0 37.8% 3 2
Quinton White RB 5'7, 208 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8413 29 121 0 4.2 2.5 41.4% 1 0
Davis Webb QB 6'5, 226 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8672 13 59 1 4.5 4.3 38.5% 5 3
Kenny Williams RB
11 78 1 7.1 8.9 45.5% 1 1
Jakeem Grant WR 5'7, 170 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8363 5 35 0 7.0 4.3 60.0% 2 2
Demarcus Felton RB 5'7, 193 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8463
Corey Dauphine RB 5'11, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9134







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Jakeem Grant WR 5'7, 170 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8363 110 67 938 60.9% 20.7% 61.8% 8.5 120 8.4 133.0
Bradley Marquez WR
102 65 821 63.7% 19.2% 58.8% 8.0 34 8.1 116.4
Reginald Davis WR 6'0, 184 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9274 48 29 318 60.4% 9.0% 64.6% 6.6 -37 6.7 45.0
DeAndre Washington RB 5'8, 192 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8876 45 30 328 66.7% 8.5% 64.4% 7.3 -32 7.2 46.5
Devin Lauderdale WR 5'10, 180 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8852 43 31 589 72.1% 8.1% 53.5% 13.7 222 13.6 83.5
Ian Sadler WR 5'11, 200 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8748 42 23 336 54.8% 7.9% 47.6% 8.0 49 7.9 47.6
Dylan Cantrell WR 6'3, 213 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8717 40 20 312 50.0% 7.5% 75.0% 7.8 57 6.8 44.2
D.J. Polite-Bray DB
22 11 92 50.0% 4.1% 59.1% 4.2 -48 4.1 13.0
Cameron Batson WR 5'9, 170 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8449 17 9 41 52.9% 3.2% 70.6% 2.4 -72 2.3 5.8
Justin Stockton RB 5'10, 193 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8672 14 12 76 85.7% 2.6% 85.7% 5.4 -62 6.3 10.8
Jordan Davis WR
13 8 97 61.5% 2.4% 46.2% 7.5 -1 7.9 13.7
Quinton White RB 5'7, 208 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8413 13 10 82 76.9% 2.4% 23.1% 6.3 -35 6.0 11.6
Brad Pearson WR 6'2, 213 Sr. NR NR 7 6 38 85.7% 1.3% 85.7% 5.4 -31 5.3 5.4
Jakari Dillard WR 6'4, 195 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8545
J.F. Thomas WR 6'4, 180 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9217
Tony Brown WR 6'1, 187 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8763
Keke Coutee WR 5'10, 170 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8672
Jonathan Giles WR 5'11, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8322

4. Plenty of dangerous pieces

Whoever ends up playing behind center will have all the weapons he could want.

First, last year's top three running backs all return; senior DeAndre Washington was wonderfully efficient, taking advantage of big line splits and defensive preoccupation to grind out at least five yards in nearly half of his carries. He isn't explosive, but he can leave the big gains to sophomore Justin Stockton, who did most of his damage early (12.4 yards per carry against UCA and UTEP, then 6.6 the rest of the year) but showed dramatic big-play capability.

Meanwhile, six of last year's top seven wide receivers return. Renowned kick returner Jakeem Grant produced solid numbers as a No. 1 target, Reginald Davis provided a decent efficiency option, and former four-star prospect Devin Lauderdale made big plays. [Update: Davis could miss time early in the season as a result of a marijuana possession charge he received in May.]  Lauderdale was a large part of Mahomes' late success, catching 11 passes for 263 yards and four touchdowns in the last three games.

These three, plus sophomores Ian Sadler and Cameron Batson, a new batch of exciting freshmen (including four-star J.F. Thomas), and the running backs will give Mahomes or Webb too many weapons for defenses to handle. If the quarterback makes the proper reads, he will almost certainly find an exciting receiver to target.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 113.4 3.07 4.15 43.5% 68.8% 20.2% 244.8 2.0% 3.1%
Rank 22 45 5 23 54 77 2 9 5
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Le'Raven Clark LT 6'6, 307 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9059 38 2014 1st All-Big 12
Jared Kaster C 6'3, 287 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8970 25
Reshod Fortenberry RT
25
Alfredo Morales LG 6'4, 316 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8559 24
Baylen Brown RG 6'5, 312 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8609 12
James Polk LG
10
Tony Morales C 6'3, 290 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8985 4
Dominique Robertson OL
1
Trey Keenan RG
0
Poet Thomas RT 6'6, 330 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8282 0
Robert Castaneda RG 6'4, 301 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8307
Justin Murphy RT 6'7, 270 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8160
Emeka Okafor (Houston) LG 6'5, 320 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000
Paul Stawarz LT 6'5, 295 Jr. NR NR
Conner Dyer OL 6'5, 265 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9034
Madison Akamnonu OL 6'6, 270 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8989

5. Few worries up front

Even with Mahomes, Tech's sack rates were excellent. The Red Raider line has long been a strength, particularly in pass protection -- wide splits, big bodies, and a quick-passing style have been a lovely combination -- and it's hard to imagine that changing much with the return of all-conference tackle Le'Raven Clark and four others with starting experience.

The starting right tackle could be untested, be it sophomore Poet Thomas or redshirt freshman Justin Murphy. But until proven otherwise, the Tech line gets the benefit of the doubt, especially with the addition of Houston transfer Emeka Okafor and two four-star freshmen (per the 247Sports Composite), Conner Dyer and Madison Akamnonu.

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.88 82 IsoPPP+ 86.6 109
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 46.6% 116 Succ. Rt. + 92.4 100
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 26.6 125 Off. FP+ 94.9 122
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.2 127 Redzone S&P+ 98.6 69
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 22.7 ACTUAL 15.0 -7.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 125 109 104 109
RUSHING 124 116 119 106
PASSING 98 75 45 102
Standard Downs 106 99 103
Passing Downs 103 97 101
Q1 Rk 33 1st Down Rk 117
Q2 Rk 113 2nd Down Rk 103
Q3 Rk 121 3rd Down Rk 125
Q4 Rk 126

6. Death, taxes, Bo Ryan, and a new Texas Tech defense

4-3, 3-4, 4-2-5, 4-3, 3-4. Perhaps the only surprise is that, in the last five years, Tech hasn't given the 3-3-5 a significant look. The Red Raiders have tried everything else.

It's now David Gibbs' turn to make something of a defense that has been mediocre for a while but was awful last fall.

Eliminating drama might be a decent first step. Last year, coordinator Matt Wallerstedt resigned after a poor start and was eventually accused of coming to work under the influence and giving away Tech's signs to opponentsHe naturally denied the signal allegations, but there's no question that the Tech D had to deal with ineptitude on the field and awkwardness off of it.

Assuming Gibbs' tenure is free of drama, it will be interesting to see what he's able to accomplish. Gibbs' Houston defenses were unabashed ball hawks, doing everything they could to induce quarterback mistakes.

Fostering interceptions became a function of Gibbs' chess-match scheme. Just as hurry-up offenses run a base set of plays over and over from different formations, Houston's defense would run the same calls from multiple looks. This flexibility is due in part to UH's rush end position, a linebacker who plays as a standing defensive end regardless of a 3-4, 4-3 or nickel look.

Gibbs estimates that a college quarterback can be fooled by coverages into throwing a potential interception at least once every six passing plays. Gibbs has a theory that tempo/spread offenses sacrifice two tenets of old-school logic:

1. Maximizing the skill players with the best hands. Spread teams often rotate skill players during a drive.

2. The lack of attention given to turnovers in hurry-up practice schedules.

We know the Kingsbury offense is going to produce points and short possessions. One can see what he might like in Gibbs, whose defenses move just as quickly and place a premium on breaking serve. He's willing to give up yards and points if his guys are also able to create (and take advantage of) mistakes.

If he succeeds, he could succeed quickly. If he fails, he will fail miserably.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 85.6 3.35 4.06 44.7% 72.1% 13.4% 100.6 4.2% 8.7%
Rank 120 118 125 121 96 122 65 78 42
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Pete Robertson BANDIT 6'3, 243 Sr. NR NR 12 65.0 8.4% 15.5 13.0 0 3 2 0
Keland McElrath DT 6'4, 307 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8344 11 37.5 4.8% 2.5 0.5 0 0 1 0
Branden Jackson DE 6'4, 272 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8951 12 34.5 4.5% 9.5 3.0 0 2 1 0
Rika Levi NT 6'2, 330 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8416 11 16.0 2.1% 1.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Marcus Smith DT 6'3, 316 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7926 10 14.0 1.8% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jackson Richards NT
10 13.0 1.7% 2.0 1.0 0 0 2 0
Andre Ross BANDIT 6'2, 234 Sr. NR 0.9000 8 7.5 1.0% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Gary Moore DE 6'5, 220 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8772 11 6.0 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Demetrius Alston DT 6'3, 274 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8035 6 6.0 0.8% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Thorpe DT
6 3.0 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kris Williams BANDIT 6'1, 230 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8348 7 2.5 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Donte Phillips DT 6'2, 280 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8186 5 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Josh Outlaw DT 6'4, 309 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8748
Zach Barnes DE 6'3, 232 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8252
Breiden Fehoko DT 6'3, 293 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9744








7. Simply dreadful against the run

Perhaps the most important player will be rush end Pete Robertson. Robertson's a motor guy; he wasn't much in run defense, but he pursued well, and he wreaked havoc in the pass rush. Pressure will be key in forcing quarterback mistakes, and Robertson is one of the most proven pass rushers in the conference.

Of course, harassing the passer only matters if you can force your opponent to throw. Tech's pass defense was pretty efficient, but the Red Raiders had one of the worst run defenses in America. They ranked 119th in Rushing S&P+ and 120th in Adj. Line Yards. They had almost no presence in the backfield, and opposing runners were able to gain five or more yards on 45 percent of their carries. Opponents ran 67 percent of the time on standard downs (7 percent above the national average) and 34 percent of the time on passing downs (1 percent above); they knew they had nothing to fear by keeping it on the ground, and while good rushing teams like Arkansas and TCU had plenty of success on the ground, so did lesser attacks like UTEP and Iowa State.

That virtually everybody from last year's front four returns is a good thing, but sometimes you need some new blood. Perhaps younger players like sophomore tackles Demetrius Alston and Josh Outlaw or four-star freshman Breiden Fehoko can bring a bit more hope to the run D.

Of course, keeping your starting rotation on the field could help. Of the eight players who averaged at least 0.9 tackles per game, only two played in all 12 games. For that matter, only two of four linebackers and three of 12 defensive backs did the same. Tech wasn't quite as wrecked by injury as a team like Iowa State was, but it was close. Injuries can create depth in the future tense, so perhaps there's reason for optimism there ... however slight.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Sam Eguavoen MIKE
10 60.5 7.8% 5.5 2.0 1 2 1 1
Micah Awe MIKE 6'0, 221 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8454 12 58.5 7.5% 3.0 1.0 0 3 0 0
V.J. Fehoko WILL
12 50.5 6.5% 3.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Malik Jenkins WILL 6'1, 220 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8144 8 8.0 1.0% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Sam Atoe SAM 5'11, 231 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7993 12 8.0 1.0% 1.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Kahlee Woods LB 6'1, 234 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8324 7 5.5 0.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jacarthy Mack SAM 6'2, 196 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8394
Dakota Allen MIKE 6'2, 235 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8520
Mike Mitchell (Ohio State) WILL 6'3, 226 So. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9726
D'Vonta Hinton LB 5'10, 210 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8389








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Keenon Ward FS 5'9, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8640 10 60.0 7.7% 1.5 0 1 6 1 0
Tevin Madison CB 5'10, 163 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8291 12 51.0 6.6% 3 0 1 7 0 0
J.J. Gaines SS 6'0, 180 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8494 10 50.0 6.5% 2.5 0 2 4 1 0
Austin Stewart RAID
12 45.5 5.9% 3 0 0 1 0 0
Justis Nelson CB 6'2, 177 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8222 11 39.5 5.1% 2.5 1 0 16 0 0
Nigel Bethel II CB 5'9, 188 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8807 9 35.5 4.6% 1.5 0 0 6 0 0
Kenny Williams RAID
12 18.0 2.3% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Derrick Dixon S 5'9, 194 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8587 11 18.0 2.3% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Jalen Barnes SS 6'0, 191 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8188 10 15.0 1.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Josh Keys S
5 11.0 1.4% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Dorian Crawford DB
6 5.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jah'Shawn Johnson CB 5'10, 179 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8395 4 4.5 0.6% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Thierry Nguema CB 5'10, 175 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7917 12 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
D.J. Polite-Bray CB 6'0, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8007
Tevin Madison CB 5'10, 163 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8291
Payton Hendrix S 6'2, 203 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8866
Paul Banks CB 6'1, 175 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8007
Jamile Johnson CB 6'0, 205 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8769

8. Hope in the secondary

Between Robertson's pass rushing prowess, Gibbs' exciting tactics, and a naturally aggressive secondary, Tech's pass defense is loaded with potential.

Corners Tevin Madison, Justis Nelson, and Nigel Bethel II combined for seven tackles for loss and 30 passes defensed despite being underclassmen. [Update: Bethel was suspended for the first three games of the season after punching Tech women's basketball player Amber Battle during an offseason pickup basketball game.] Safeties Kenon Ward and J.J. Gaines had their moments, as well. This secondary is deep and far more experienced than it was a year ago. And the upside will only improve if younger players like redshirt freshman Payton Hendrix or freshman Jamile Johnson force their way onto the field.

Gibbs tactics could quickly pay off, and Tech could force far more turnovers if opponents have to pass. That's an "if" the size of West Texas.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Taylor Symmank 6'3, 194 Sr. 54 42.6 5 24 17 75.9%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Kramer Fyfe 47 60.9 21 1 44.7%
Taylor Symmank 6'3, 194 Sr. 22 60.5 10 0 45.5%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Ryan Bustin 42-44 9-11 81.8% 1-3 33.3%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Jakeem Grant KR 5'7, 170 Sr. 23 22.4 0
Justin Stockton KR 5'10, 193 So. 16 16.2 0
Cameron Batson PR 5'9, 170 So. 17 3.8 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 84
Field Goal Efficiency 56
Punt Return Efficiency 111
Kick Return Efficiency 108
Punt Efficiency 18
Kickoff Efficiency 78
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 103

9. Where'd the return game go?

Special teams are a small-sample enterprise, complete with randomness and misleading stats. We know Jakeem Grant has absurd potential as a kick return man; he proved that with two touchdowns in six returns back in 2012. But he has averaged barely 22 yards per return over the last two years, and neither he nor Justin Stockton got any sort of consistent run blocking last year.

Returns were an extreme weakness for an otherwise decent unit. Punter Taylor Symmank was able to boot high and long, and he should remain a strength, but with a new place-kicker, the return game will need to improve.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk
5-Sep Sam Houston State NR
12-Sep UTEP 99
19-Sep at Arkansas 12
26-Sep TCU 18
3-Oct vs. Baylor 14
10-Oct Iowa State 86
17-Oct at Kansas 95
24-Oct at Oklahoma 10
31-Oct Oklahoma State 43
7-Nov at West Virginia 40
14-Nov Kansas State 33
26-Nov at Texas 36
Five-Year F/+ Rk -1.2% (59)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 47 / 41
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -13 / -4.1
2014 TO Luck/Game -3.7
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 18 (9, 9)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 4.8 (-0.8)

10. Opportunities early

The first seven games are pretty extreme: four opponents projected 86th or worse, three projected 18th or better.

This provides a world of opportunity and peril. Lose to any of Sam Houston, UTEP, Iowa State, or Kansas, and bowl eligibility is almost certainly out the window. Beat either Arkansas, TCU, or Baylor, and you will be about 5-2 and a pretty big story heading into late October.

You can see whatever you want. An optimist will point to a potential top-20 offense. Plus, said optimist could point to new life on defense and a potentially excellent pass defense.

A pessimist would simply have to point out that the run defense was so embarrassing that Tech went 4-8 despite a good offense and decent pass defense.

I'm leaning toward the optimist's point of view. Tech had poor injuries luck and turnovers luck, and while there's nothing saying luck will shift, the Red Raiders have extra depth because of the injuries and should force plenty of takeaway opportunities in Gibbs' system.

If nothing else changes but turnover margin, Tech could be bowling again. If actual quality improves as well, Tech will be bowling again.