Last year’s Big 12 football season ended over a month ago, but we’re already in the process of preparing for next year. Each team in the conference faces its own questions, and all ten squads will seek to answer those over the course of the next month or so as spring practices come and go.
Here, we’ll get into the issues faced by those teams, and examine the areas where they’ll hope to make progress throughout the fifteen practices allocated to each squad. Up next are the Texas Tech Red Raiders, who begin spring practices on March 3rd.
It’s a new era for college football in Lubbock, Texas. Life under Kliff Kingsbury was full of roller coaster seasons where the Red Raiders could be both electrifying and underwhelming.
Matt Wells comes in to potentially bring some stability to the South Plains. Wells comes from Utah State, where he’d propelled the Aggies to a 10-2 record in 2018 after having been the head guy since 2013. The biggest question is about what the Red Raiders will look like in 2019.
What kind of impact will Wells and his staff have in Year One? There’s some talent in Lubbock, but how much success can the new head coach have while he’s trying to shape the program in his own image?
PRACTICE BEGINS: SUN, March 3
SPRING GAME: SAT, April 13
LOCATION: AT&T Jones Stadium (Lubbock, TX)
A key to that effort will be molding the talent that’s already on campus. We’ve yet to see what kind of offense Texas Tech will have under a new coach, but the cupboard’s not bare for this staff.
Offensive coordinator David Yost inherits some veterans on his side of the ball, especially on the offensive line, where the Red Raiders return four of five offensive line starters. All of them are upperclassmen, so there’s experience up front.
The quarterback room for Texas Tech will be a bit of a mixed bag, but there are reasons to be optimistic. Quarterback Alan Bowman threw for over 2,600 yards in a phenomenal true freshman debut, but there are probably concerns about his durability.
Bowman suffering a collapsed lung mid-season arguably derailed the season for the Red Raiders, so developing depth will be key. Backups Jett Duffey and McLane Carter logged significant minutes under center last season, and there could end up being a legitimate quarterback competition.
The coaching staff has discussed wanting to run the ball more, and there’s some potential in the running back room. Junior Da’Leon Ward and sophomore Ta’Zhawn Henry are the likely leaders to emerge. Both have shown flashes of talent and together have logged over 250 carries.
Arguably the most prominent area of concern on the offense is at the skill positions. T.J. Vasher is a third year player who will be one of the best wideouts in the Big 12 in 2019, but outside of him there are plenty of unknowns.
Seth Collins and KeSean Carter both caught passes last season, and should be in the mix for starting spots. Outside of them, no receiver had more than 20 catches in 2018.
At tight end, senior Donta Thompson is a returning starter for the Red Raiders, although he only caught two passes last season. The coaching staff has said they want to use that position more, so it will be interesting to see who emerges there.
Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson mostly ran a three down lineman look at Utah State. If that’s what the staff decides to go with at Texas Tech, they’ll have a couple of players to work with in Eli Howard and Broderick Washington. A third defensive lineman spot would likely be up for grabs, though.
Finding four linebackers might be tough with a roster that utilized more of a nickel look last season. Still, linebackers Jordyn Brooks and Riko Jeffers led the team in tackles last fall, so they’ve probably got an inside track to starting spots.
Defensive backs Justus Parker, Douglas Coleman, and Adrien Frye are all major names back in the secondary. As a group, they could end up being the strength of the defense in 2019. The Red Raiders lack experience at safety, so that projects as a position to be worked through in spring.
Of course, none of last year’s spots on the two deep are guaranteed for the players coming in, which really makes this spring intriguing for the Red Raiders. With a brand new coaching staff comes a clean slate and new opportunities for many players who might not have impressed the previous regime.
Which players will step up in Lubbock over the next month and make a name for themselves? For right now, that’s a major unknown, but it will be exciting to see how things shake out for this roster under Wells.