I’m just going to preemptively call “no homo” for the remainder of this article. Texas Tech Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury is a handsome man. So much so, that he has been dubbed the “Ryan Gosling” of college football. However, recently Kingsbury has stated that he does not want to be known as a sex symbol, but rather as a football coach. Here’s the thing Kliff, your team has put up some “sexy” passing numbers over the past few years, but the win column has not been as impressive.
Patrick Mahomes and Davis Webb are still battling for the quarterback job, or at least from everything I have read as an outside observer that appears to be the case. Many people feel that Mahomes will win the job. In his 185 pass attempts last season, Mahomes impressed with a 56.8% completion percentage, but more impressively with 16 touchdowns and a mere four interceptions. Webb was slightly better in the completions percentage department at 61.2%, but he did throw 13 interceptions to go with his 24 touchdowns. He also passed the ball almost twice as much as Mahomes did last season too though.
Whoever ends up starting at quarterback should have a very solid pass blocking offensive line ahead of them, especially the left side. All-BigXII left tackle Le’Raven Clark is back, as is left guard Alfredo Morales and center Jared Kaster. These three have a combined 87 career starts between them, and Clark is considered one of the top draft prospects in the conference. The right side is less acclaimed, but guard Braylen Brown has twelve career starts even if sophomore Poet Thomas will be starting his first game at right tackle in the season opener.
Running back shouldn’t be a concern for the Red Raiders either with 1,100-yard rusher DeAndre Washington returning. Washington can do it all too, as he also had 328 receiving yards in 2014. One thing he needs to work on is punching the ball into the end zone in the red zone. Some of this has to do with playcalling, but still there’s no reason why a guy putting up the yardage he’s putting up on the ground should have only two touchdowns all season. Justin Stockton provided solid relief work for Washington last season rushing for almost 400 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman.
Jakeem Grant should be in for a big year as both a receiver and a return man for Kingsbury’s squad. Grant narrowly missed 1,000 yards receiving last year, but topped it when taking all-purpose yards into consideration. He ought to be able to top that mark in receiving yards alone this year. Four other receivers topped 300 yards receiving last season and one of them, Devin Lauderdale, was just shy of 600. Lauderdale and the other three (Reginald Davis, Ian Sadler, and Dylan Cantrell) should all get plenty of opportunities to match and even improve upon there numbers from last year in this up-tempo, air raid attack.
Say what you want about hurry-up offenses and their effect on their own defense by proxy of putting them back on the field too quickly, but this Texas Tech defense would not have been good no matter how long the offense had the ball last season. The Red Raiders were a bottom five team in rushing and total defense, and barely cracked the top-100 in pass defense. That has to improve or all of those passing yards and points the offense puts up will just go down as empty stats.
Senior Pete Robertson was legitimately good last season, and one of the only pieces of this defense that could claim to be so. His pass rush alone is probably a big reason why the pass defense ended up being much better than the run defense. He racked up 13 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss by himself last season, and also forced two fumbles. He’ll be joined up front by the same three who predominantly joined him in 2014 (at least from a production standpoint): Keland McElrath, Rika Levi and Branden Jackson. Jackson had 9.5 tackles for loss, but the group combined only had 13.5 total tackles for loss and a mere four sacks. These three need to step up this season or Robertson will be facing a bevy of double teams week-in and week-out.
Ohio State transfer Mike Mitchell is a source of hope for this Texas Tech linebacking corps. The former 5-star recruit should line up at “Will” linebacker for the Red Raiders unless he’s beat out by Kris Williams, which I don’t really see happening, but I’m also not in practice every day. Micah Awe is the only experienced piece of this group returning though. He had 58.5 tackles, a sack and three pass break-ups at “Mike” linebacker last year.
The Red Raiders have several options in the secondary, all of whom should be fine. Keenon Ward, J.J. Gaines, and Tevin Madison all had 50+ tackles last season, and combined for four interceptions and seventeen pass breakups. Ward and Gaines play safety, and Madison is a corner. Ward and/or Gaines should start at safety, and Madison is competing for a starting job with Justis Nelson. Nelson had no interceptions last season, but broke up 16 passes by himself. Nigel Bethel II should start at the other corner spot after breaking up six passes in nine games as a freshman last year.
Texas Tech should improve some this season, but they are still a step behind the upper-middle tier of the conference. Plus, that trip to Arkansas might be a tougher game than when they played the Razorbacks last season, and last season’s game did not go well for the Red Raiders. They gave up nearly fifty points and got beat by three touchdowns. After Arkansas, they get TCU and Baylor in back-to-back weeks which might turn out to be a rough three game stretch. The middle of the schedule is reasonably manageable, but the last five games get tough, yet again with both Oklahoma schools, West Virginia, Kansas State and Texas all in a row to close the season. The Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas games are all on the road as well.