Texas Tech finds itself in the midst of another spring cycle with Kliff Kingsbury at the helm. The Red Raiders qualified for a bowl game in 2017, can they build on that success in 2018. A lot depends on how well they can reload and rebuild.
Kliff has fifteen practices to set his team up to compete with the big boys of the Big 12, something Tech hasn't been able to do in a long time. So what do the Red Raiders need to get done.
Kliff's Last Stand (Again)
Stop us if you've heard this before, Kliff Kingsbury is on the hot seat. Technically he's on an eight-win mission. Seven if they're the right wins at the right time. The cloud of Kliff's ouster has been hanging over the program for two or three years now. As much as they'll say it isn't a factor, it is. Coaches livelihoods depend on it, player's ability to play in a system depends on it, dare we say the future of Tech football depends on it.
Tech is going through spring drills with the shadow of Kliff's future hanging over the program. Again.
The Next Tech Quarterback
Death, Taxes and a Tech quarterback throwing for4,000 yards. Nic Shimonek carried on the tradition with over 3,900 yards, 33 touchdowns, and just ten picks. The system just breeds prolific passers.
Tech will turn to one of two passers in 2018, McLane Carter and Jett Duffey will battle it out this spring and into fall camp to run the offense and throw for a bundle of yards next fall.
Carter started the Texas game last season and didn't exactly quiet the masses, Shimonek replaced him in the second half, famously telling Kingsbury, if you want to win, put me in. Similar to what Arnold Schwarzenegger told Sarah Conner in Terminator.
Duffey isn't without his issues. The university opened up a Title IX investigation into his behavior and dismissed him from the University for a time last spring. He's back on campus and played last fall against Eastern Washington.
If you're looking for a game breaker, Duffey's your guy, but he's yet to prove anything on the field. He can run from the pocket and has a cannon arm. Carter might be the safer bet; he transferred to Tech from Tyler J.C. last spring, so he's at least seen a bit more college action.
This marks the first time Kingsbury's been forced to make this type of quarterback decision. He's either had an established starter or a clear quarterback in waiting like Shimonek. Carter and Duffey aren't at all similar, so they'll each require a different approach to take advantage of their skills.
Don't laugh but Texas Tech played better defense in 2017, almost serviceable. It's taken David Gibbs a few years, but he's got the Red Raider D heading in the right direction. They could make an even more significant impact this season with almost their entire two-deep back.
Gibbs must be giddy at the thought of his weapons. He'll have one of the most experienced secondaries in college football, two legitimate blue-chips at linebacker and depth at defensive end. Inside Mychealon Thomas is gone but Broderick Washington is back, and Rice grad transfer Preston Gordon will work into the rotation as well. He won't be on campus til summer. Also back is big Joseph Wallace who redshirted in 2017 after playing significant snaps as a true freshman in 2016.
Gibbs knows he can't waste this accumulation of talent. He also has to know that defense might be the difference in whether he and the rest of coaching staff are back in 2019.
Rather than evaluating talent and finding fits, as he was doing in 2017's spring practices, Gibbs can get creative, introduce nuance to the scheme and get ahead of the curve over the next few weeks.
Like Tech quarterbacks, Tech receivers are always there, always catching. The names change, the production doesn't. But this year Tech's receivers were particularly hard hit by graduation and early draft entrants.
Back is 6-6 matchup nightmare T.J. Vasher who caught 29 passes last season. He gives Tech a rangy, physical option, but the Red Raiders need more hands.
Antoine Wesley is built like an NBA two guard, at 6-5, 185. He caught ten balls last season, the only other Tech receiver with double-digit catches returning. There is hope in youth, but until these players compete in prime time hope won't do it.
Tech received good news with word that the NCAA granted J'Deion High a sixth year of eligibility. High contributed more on special teams last season but gives Tech another body with experience. JoJo Robinson came to Tech via Independence J.C. after a brief run at Arkansas, and Quan Shorts moves up the food chain after playing outside sparingly in 2017.
We could list all the names, but they're all in a puppy pile for playing time. Kingsbury has to come out of spring drills with some knowledge of who they can count on at receiver next season. A bunch of new guys will catch balls from a new quarterback. Given Tech's track record we're sure it'll work out.