Spring football is drawing to a close throughout the Big 12, and teams have started gaining more clarity as to what their 2019 squads are going to look like. As they head into summer workouts, we’ll get into some of the possible issues and potential surprises in store for them.
The Red Raiders are starting over with new head coach Matt Wells after last year’s 5-7 mark led to the firing of former Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. After starting practices in early March, Texas Tech wrapped up their fifteen practice sessions with a spring game in Frisco this last weekend.
Wells has been working to establish a new culture of toughness and discipline for the Red Raiders, hoping that it will lead to the same kind of improvement that the Texas Tech basketball team has seen the last couple of years. Instilling a baseline set of values can often lead to eventual on-the-field results, but is Matt Wells set up to have success right now?
Here we get into some tentative impressions of the 2019 Red Raiders, providing a projection of offensive and defensive starters for the upcoming season (returning starters in bold) as well as some post-spring observations about Texas Tech football.
|PROJECTED 2019 STARTERS|
|WR||T.J. Vasher (Jr.)||DE||Nelson Mbanasor (So.)|
|WR||Seth Collins (Sr.)||NT||Broderick Washington (Jr.)|
|LT||Travis Bruffy (Sr.)||DE||Eli Howard (Jr.)|
|LG||Madison Akamnonu (Sr.)||OLB||Brayden Stringer (Sr.)|
|C||Bailey Smith (Sr.)||ILB||Jordyn Brooks (Sr.)|
|RG||Jack Anderson (Jr.)||ILB||Riko Jeffers (Jr.)|
|RT||Terence Steele (Sr.)||OLB||Christian Taylor (Sr.)|
|TE||Donta Thompson (Sr.)||CB||Adrian Frye (So.)|
|WR||KeSean Carter (So.)||S||Justus Parker (Sr.)|
|RB||Ta’Zhawn Henry (So.)||S||Thomas Leggett (Jr.)|
|QB||Alan Bowman (So.)||CB||Douglas Coleman III (Sr.)|
What’s The Offense Going To Look Like?
By most accounts, it’s the defense that’s stood out for the Red Raiders throughout spring practices. That’s good news, but what does it mean for David Yost and the offensive unit? Last year’s freshman phenom Alan Bowman looks to be back to full health from the collapsed lung suffered in 2018, but what’s he going to look like once he’s under the big lights?
Under the previous regime, offensive productivity was basically taken for granted year-in and year-out. Wells isn’t looking totally transition away from spread-based schemes, but there’s a legitimate question about how much these changes are going to affect on-the-field results.
Still, there’s experience on this side of the ball. Texas Tech has four seniors along the offensive line, and will have one of the most experienced groups of big uglies in the conference next season. And, importantly, quality play along the offensive line is an advantage for any offensive coordinator.
How Will Skill Positions Develop?
There’s also a noticeable lack of developed depth at skill positions. On the plus side, Ta’Zhawn Henry is the leading returning rusher, having run for 341 yards last season. If the suspended Da’Leon Ward doesn’t come back, though, that’s three of Texas Tech’s top five rushers gone.
There were some standouts in the spring game, particularly wide receiver Erik Ezukanma, but it will be tough to know how new faces on offense are progressing until live action in the fall. Before then, there seem to be a few unknowns as to who’s going to be picking up yards for the Red Raiders.
Defense Will Likely Be Improved
Throughout spring practices and in the spring game, the word going around has been that the defense is slightly ahead of the offense for this team. That’s not surprising, given that was the case basically every year for Matt Wells at Utah State.
With returning players like Broderick Washington, Eli Howard, and Jordyn Brooks working as foundational pieces of this new defensive scheme, the potential exists for the Red Raiders to be better there this fall. That would be an interesting change at Texas Tech, which has not been known for producing high end talent. If Wells’ staff can coach up the talent on hand, though, they could turn heads in 2019.
Wells Is Already Setting Expectations
In the midst of spring practices, Wells announced the suspension of four players – two of them starters – and it shouldn’t be a surprise if not all of them make it back on the team. The new head man in Lubbock is trying to set the foundation for this team, and establishing what is and isn’t acceptable seems to have been a part of that right out of the gate.
Instilling a culture of discipline and toughness has been a constant for Wells throughout his first few months in West Texas, and it’s clear that he’s looking to bring the same attitude he instilled in Logan, Utah. Doing that might mean sacrificing some immediate on-the-field results, but it’s no doubt a positive step for the long term future at Texas Tech.