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2015 Fierce 40 Previews: #39 Texas Tech

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 7, 2015

This article originally appeared on RotoBaller, our new partner

#39 Texas Tech Red Raiders

 

2014 Recap:
The second year under Kliff Kingsbury was not nearly as successful, as Texas Tech dropped from 8-5 to 4-8 with only wins against Kansas and Iowa State within the Big 12. The obvious low point was giving up 82 points at TCU in a game where TCU probably could have scored 100 points if they really tried.


Coaching:
Kliff Kingsbury is perhaps the most storied quarterback in the history of the Texas Tech program. The excitement that came with his first successful season as head coach waned last year, so it will be interesting to see how Kingsbury and the program responds. I am taking a safe “somewhere in the middle” approach. Texas Tech played a little over their heads in 2013 but they weren’t as bad as their record would indicate last season. There are no big coaching turnovers this season but the real question here is how the defense will respond under David Gibbs. Gibbs came to Texas Tech on the heels of a complete turnaround of the defense with the University of Houston. Last season did not go well as the Red Raiders ranked 123rd in scoring defense giving up 41.3 PPG. Another season like this could lead to big changes on the defensive side of the football.
 


Offense


Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Davis Webb was the starter going into last season but a shoulder injury shut down his season prematurely and there are still questions about his health. Though the injury occurred to his non-throwing (left) shoulder it was a serious separation and the team seemed to perform better with freshman Patrick Mahomes once he took over. The key was the amount of turnovers as Mahomes threw just 4 interceptions to 13 for Webb. In fairness Webb threw 160 more passes but touchdown pass production was 24 for Webb and 16 for Mahomes, so the numbers definitely add up in favor of Mahomes. I would say Mahomes has the advantage, as mobility is another aspect to his game that works in his favor. Kingsbury has yet to come out and announce a full time starter and we could see a platoon type situation to start the season.

The interesting aspect of the offense centers around the running game and what we are accustomed to seeing from the Red Raiders. Texas Tech has long been known as a high-scoring potent offense with efficient quarterback play and a nice mixture of talented tall receivers mixed in with some smaller possession type guys. DeAndre Washington seems to dispel that theory as in 2014 he became the first Red Raider to top 1,000 yards rushing in 16 seasons. With Washington back for his senior season and a strong offensive line, this looks like a departure from the historical offensive look and feel. If something should happen to Washington there should be no fear for Texas Tech as there are a number of capable running backs behind him on the depth chart. Sophomore Justin Stockton only carried the ball 48 times in 2014 but 4 were for touchdowns (more than Washington who had only 2) and he averaged 8.2 yards a carry gaining nearly 400 yards in a limited role. Kingsbury could be playing into the strengths of Texas Tech and with a stout offensive line this could be a banner season for the running back corps.

Best Draft Prospect: DeAndre Washington RB UFA



Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Again, it’s just foreign to find a Texas Tech team without some sort of individual standout talent at the wide receiver position. The offense has long been seen as “gimmicky” and one that is not what would be considered “pro style”, but the individual talent at wide receiver was hard to ignore (Michael Crabtree, Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, etc). Texas Tech struggled at the position a season ago and things don’t look to be any better for 2015. Jakeem Grant is the lone returning starter and although he posted a 67-938-7 line, he dropped passes and inconsistency seemed to be the norm. I stressed the lack of height previously as Grant stands 5’7” and fellow starters for this season Devin Lauderdale, Ian Sadler and Reginald Davis all measuring in at 5’10”, 5’11”, and 5’11”. Texas Tech will as usually play with a number of four receiver sets as they lack a traditional tight end in their offense. I can say with confidence that with a stronger running game I did see a noticeable improvement in the blocking from the starting wide receivers, so all is not lost.


Best Draft Prospect: N/A.
 


Offensive Line:

Four starters return along the line of scrimmage with left tackle Le’Raven Clark among the best in the country and a player that would have gone no lower than the 3rd round had he declared for the 2015 Draft. Clark is currently graded as a 2nd Round prospect but he has the ability to wind up in Round 1. Clark led a unit that allowed only 13 sacks a season ago and that number becomes even more impressive when you think about how many times the Red Raiders throw the football. The other tackle position will be manned by redshirt freshman Justin Murphy, the lone player that is not a returning starter along the line. Alfredo Morales at left guard was one of the most improved lineman in the country a season ago and he may wind up hearing his name called in 2016. Fellow senior center Jared Kester is no slouch himself. This is a tough but mobile unit that averages only 306 pounds among the starters with Clark being the heaviest and he plays around a svelte 315. This may not be the best offensive line in the Big 12 but they are in the upper echelon and are one of the most underrated units in the entire NCAA.

Best Draft Prospect: Le’Raven Clark OT 2nd Round 2016.
 


Defense

Defensive Line:

The defensive line is led by Pete Robertson who was the playmaker for the defensive unit a season ago. Robertson led the team in tackles (81), tackles for loss (14.5), sacks (12), quarterback hurries (7), and forced fumbles (3). I have Robertson listed as a draft prospect but as an outside linebacker with his 235 pound frame as he currently carries a 6th round grade for 2016. One thing Texas Tech has is size in the middle as the defensive tackles go 340 and 310 pounds respectively. The play in the middle has been spotty and that paired with some spotty linebacker play contributed to Texas Tech being ranked 121st against the run and giving up nearly 260 yards per game on the ground. With numbers like that Texas Tech is going to have to get into some major shootouts and put up 40 points per game offensively to compete. Texas Tech was flagged 112 times last season and most of these flags were on the defensive side of the ball. The Red Raiders need to be disciplined and ensure they bring along some players on the bench to gain valuable experience to make sure team depth is not an issue.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A.

 


Linebackers:

Sam Equavoen did not have the greatest stats when you looked at the sheet at the end of a game but he played a huge role on defense and along with Robertson, he was the leader for this team, so his presence will be missed. The Red Raiders lost all three starting linebackers from a season ago but this group does have game experience and is not a huge detriment to the team. Micah Awe looks like a player that is ready to turn in a huge season and the undersized senior has fantastic lateral speed. The linebackers may drop back into coverage a little more than usual to help a secondary which was the clear Achilles heel a season ago due to overall talent and lack of game experience. Kris Williams and Sam Atoe should play the majority of snaps around Awe. With Atoe seeing the field more, Texas Tech may have to worry about finding another special teams ace as this is where Atoe seemed to contribute the most of the last two campaigns. Texas Tech has plenty of athletes and bodies to plug in at linebacker and many of these players are capable of playing multiple positions. What Texas Tech lacks is a huge playmaker at the position.

Best Draft Prospect: Pete Robertson LB 6th Round 2016.
 


Secondary:

You would be hard pressed to find a secondary that gave up more big plays then Texas Tech a season ago. The pass defense gave up fewer yards overall than the running game but this is a little deceiving as teams ran so effectively against the Red Raiders that they didn’t need to light it up through the air. Nigel Bethel II took his lumps as a starting corner as a freshman and he should take those experiences and start to carve out a nice career in the secondary. Justis Nelson has shown flashes of big play potential but also plenty of mental lapses and bad angles when in pursuit. Keenon Ward is a strong safety that seems to go unnoticed and he seemed out of his element last season having to help the young corners so much, that it wound up affecting his overall level of play. Ward has nowhere to go but up and I think the junior will find himself on some draft radars for 2017 in the late rounds if he puts the type of season together that I believe he is capable of. Ward is one of those “jack-of-all trade” players who doesn’t excel in a particular area but also has no glaring weaknesses, he is a versatile component that will be instrumental for the continued development of the young secondary. This team gave up 6,161 yards last season and only Iowa State gave up more plays of 30 yards or more within the conference. Texas Tech will improve in 2015 but how much is the ultimate question.

Best Draft Prospect: Keenon Ward S UFA 2017.
 


Special Teams:

Texas Tech had some of the best coverage statistics in the conference and again it will be interesting to see how much they use Sam Atoe on special teams. Taylor Symmank is an experienced punter who will likely also serve as the placekicker for the team unless someone else steps up heading into the season. Jakeem Grant has scored a pair of touchdowns in his career in the return game but it looks like backup running back Justin Stockton may be the choice for kickoffs and punts as he is just so elusive in the open field. If Texas Tech can keep just a few games closer, special teams may put them over the hump and win them a game or two.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A
 


Schedule:

Texas Tech has to get off to a better start than they did a season ago when they won their first two games but only by a combined 11 points over Central Arkansas and UTEP. The key will be running the football and controlling the game with their offensive line play. Texas Tech had the ball for 26 minutes on average last season, while opponents had it close to 34. Those numbers need to invert themselves for Texas Tech to compete and the Red Raiders are built for this to happen. Controlling the ball and creating turnovers on defense will make them competitive and bowl eligible. Texas Tech cannot expect to go on the road against teams like Arkansas Oklahoma and West Virginia and expect to steal a victory or two if they finish -13 in TO ratio once again (113th in the nation a season ago). TCU and Baylor in back-to-back weeks will be brutal but Texas Tech seems to be good for one upset a year and having games late at home against the likes of Oklahoma State and Kansas State should ensure Texas Tech lands back in the bowl picture.
 


Draft Outlook:

Le’Raven Clark has a chance to be a first round draft pick and he is obviously the gem from a draft standpoint. But look for Pete Robertson and even the shifty runner Justin Stockton to get some attention if their propensity for electrifying plays can continue. Kliff Kingsbury is starting to take some recruits away from schools like Oklahoma and Texas so incoming players are buying into the direction of this football program.

 

See this article athttp://www.rotoballer.com/2015-ncaa-college-football-cfb-rankings-texas-tech-red-raiders-39/266913