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2020 Season

Big 12 Season Preview: Texas Tech Eyes Progress In Wells’s Second Season

The Red Raiders could be better in 2020, but they’ll have some obstacles to overcome.

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As college football continues to try and ramp up athletic activity for the upcoming season, we turn to looking more closely at what to expect from each Big 12 team come fall. As the summer rolls along, we’ll preview the entire conference, providing an overview of the offense, defense, and special teams. Included as well is a projected depth chart, with returning starters in bold.

The first year of head coach Matt Wells at Texas Tech did not exactly go off without a hitch. After sputtering through their September schedule, the Red Raiders beat a Top 25 Oklahoma State with backup quarterback Jett Duffey taking over for an injured Alan Bowman. It seemed like the team would catch some momentum, but they fell short of sealing the deal in five of their next six games, where Texas Tech lost those contests by an average of 4.2 points per game.

As a result, the Red Raiders went 2-7 in conference play for the third time in the 2010s, and missed out on going to a bowl game. After a full season now under the belts, Matt Wells and his staff now move forward with stars long the offensive line departed and star linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who went in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft. Texas Tech has enough coming back this season to be optimistic about improvement, but in their second season, there’s a fair bit of pressure on this coaching staff to show signs of positivity.

Projected 2020 Texas Tech

Depth Chart

OFFENSEDEFENSE
LTZach Adams (Sr.)DEEli Howard (Sr.)
LGWeston Wright (So.)NTJaylon Hutchings (So.)
CDawson Deaton (Jr.)DTNick McCann (Sr.)
RGJack Anderson (Sr.)RDRRiko Jeffers (Sr.)
RTCasey Verhulst (Jr.)LBBrayden Stringer (Sr.)
QBAlan Bowman (Jr.)LBXavier Benson (So.)
RBSaRodorick Thompson (So.)SPRAdam Beck (Jr.)
TETravis Koontz (Sr.)CBZech McPhearson (Sr.)
WRErik Ezukanma (So.)SThomas Leggett (Sr.)
WRDalton Rigdon (Jr.)SAdrian Frye (Jr.)
WRT.J. Vasher (Sr.)CBDaMarcus Fields (Jr.)

Texas Tech Offensive Outlook

Probably the most uncertainty surrounding the offense comes at quarterback for the Red Raiders. The coaching staff will have a presumed starter in junior Alan Bowman as practices begin, but Bowman, who’s yet to finish a season, has struggled with injuries throughout his collegiate career. Experience elsewhere on the roster is harder to come by, as no other remaining quarterback threw a pass for the Red Raiders last year. Redshirt freshman Maverick McIvor could possibly push for that starting job.

The running back position looks to have some pieces despite depth concerns. Redshirt sophomore SaRodorick Thompson returns at running back after putting up 765 yards on the ground in 2019. He’s likely a starter, but he may get competition from Alabama grad transfer Chadarius Townsend, who was recently added to the roster.

Last year was the first time since 2014 that Texas Tech went without a 1,000 yard wide receiver, but as last year’s youth turns to experience, that has a good chance of changing. Texas Tech returns three starters at wideout, and five of six from the two deep. If senior T.J. Vasher can stay healthy, he’ll have a chance to showcase the NFL-level talent he’s displayed in the past. Also back is sophomore Erik Ezukanma, who led the team with 664 yards receiving last season. Tight end is a question mark, but the Red Raiders did sign College of San Mateo standout Jason Lloyd, who will compete with Travis Koontz, last year’s backup, for the starting spot.

Offensive line was hit somewhat hard by departures and injury, as center Dawson Deaton is the only returner who started all 12 games last season. Jack Anderson was a All-Big 12 First Team in 2018, but injuries plagued his junior year. As a potential 2020 star along the offensive lineman, the offensive staff at Texas Tech will definitely rely on Anderson and hope he can stave off injury.

Texas Tech Defensive Outlook

Texas Tech’s front six should be improved this season, with four starters back. One their key returnees includes senior Eli Howard, who led the team with five sacks in 2019. Jaylon Hutchings was a force at nose tackle last year, so big things should be expected of him as a sophomore. A third spot will have to be filled along the offensive line, but upperclassman Nick McCann is a strong candidate there.

Xavier Benson and Riko Jeffers are both back to start at the linebacker and “Raider” positions, respectively. Both had strong campaigns last season, but another linebacker spot will need to be filled. A candidate may come from the corps of graduate transfers that the Red Raiders signed in the off-season, but Brayden Stringer, who is already on the roster, could emerge as the starter.

Two spots in the back five will need new faces. Returning corners Zech McPhearson and DaMarcus Fields will provide strong defense against opposing air attacks, while veteran Adrian Frye comes back at safety. Adam Beck is a name to look at to fill in at the “Spur” position, while Thomas Leggett could step in to the starting role at safety.

Texas Tech Special Teams Outlook

Texas Tech will have plenty of depth in their special teams in Matt Wells’s second season, as practically every specialist on the depth chart returns. For a team that made 90.9 percent of their fields last year, the kicking game should be a strength for the Red Raiders in 2020. The team had a strong showing in terms of kickoff return as well, so they could very well use that as another springboard to success in the fall.

Final Thoughts

For the 2020 Red Raiders, health is probably going to be a bigger concern than it is for a lot of other teams. That’s especially true for the offense, which should be improved next season with so much coming back in the wide receiver corps, but there are definitely concerns about where both the ceiling and floor stand on that side of the ball.

Defensively, Texas Tech has some returning athletes that can help the unit overall get out of the basement of the Big 12. It sounds like the “same old song and dance” to say that the Red Raiders need to get better on defense, but even incremental improvements would likely pay off in terms of wins and losses.

Bowl eligibility is a realistic goal for Texas Tech in the second season under Matt Wells, and that kind of progress would definitely feel welcome for a team that’s stayed home for two offseasons in a row. If Alan Bowman can show he’s ready to helm the offense for a whole season, and if Keith Patterson’s defense can take a few steps forward, the Red Raiders will be well-positioned to improve this year.

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