The 2021 football season is officially underway, with spring football practices opening over the next few weeks in the Big 12. In a year where most spring practices are starting later than normal, the Red Raiders will become only the second Big 12 member to do so when they take the field next Monday.
Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells had a rough inaugural season Lubbock, and Texas Tech went into 2020 hoping for more success in Year Two. The Red Raiders came close to upsetting a couple of Top 25 squads, but ultimately struggled to a 3-6 Big 12 record. That was an improvement over their 2-7 mark the year before, but still below expectations.
Wells has a couple of reasons to be optimistic about next season. One is that he’ll have plenty of experience on hand, with multiple “super seniors” combing back on his defense. In addition, after averaging 29.1 points per game in 2020, Matt Wells made a change at offensive coordinator, hiring Sonny Cumbie over from TCU to revamp the offense. Cumbie, a former Texas Tech quarterback, will surely be a welcomed addition to the staff. Still the question remains as to whether the Red Raiders can take enough steps forward to cool what is becoming a very hot seat for their head coach.
PRACTICE BEGINS: March 15TH
SPRING GAME: April 17TH
LOCATION: Jones AT&T Stadium (Lubbock, TX)
Offensive Questions For The Red Raiders
All eyes will be looking to Cumbie to revive a passing offense that, for the first time since 2000, averaged less than 300 yards per game through the air. Hopefully, his Air Raid roots will help the team move in that direction, but the former Red Raider will have to find out what he has at quarterback first. Alan Bowman is off to Michigan, so that leaves Henri Colombi as the lone returner who started games in a Texas Tech uniform. Last year, Colombi came in and seemed to give the offense a spark, but he’ll get strong competition from Oregon transfer Tyler Shough, who was a one time starter at Oregon.
Running back was a bright spot last season, as SaRodorick Thompson averaged 5.6 yards per carry, but Cumbie will have some issues to work through at wide receiver. Three of last season’s five top receivers are gone: Ja’Lynn Polk and KeSean Carter transferred elsewhere, and T.J. Vasher is off to try his luck at the NFL. That leaves junior Erik Ezukanma, who amassed 748 yards receiving last season, to carry most of the load. Names that could step up include
Along the offensive line, the major loss was standout guard Jack Anderson, who’s off to the pros. Four starters are back, though, and the addition of tackle T.J. Storment from TCU should provide an upgrade. Expect Storment to take over a starting position on that line, which could mean some shuffling up front.
Defensive Questions For The Red Raiders
Eight starters return on defense, including multiple upperclassmen. All told, seven senior starters will be returning to the two deep, which should help improve a unit that gave up 444.9 yards per game. Highly productive defensive end Eli Howard decided to forego an extra senior and declare for the NFL Draft, so he’ll have to be replaced.
To help offset that loss, Texas Tech did add Florida transfer linebacker Jesiah Pierre, who would play alongside Riko Jeffers and Collin Schooler. As an already-strong position group, Pierre could certainly help make this a strength for the Red Raiders.
Zech McPhearson and Thomas Leggett are also gone from the secondary, so defensive coordinator Keith Patterson will have to fill those spots. Increased competition could improve what was a much maligned secondary in 2020. The Red Raiders added transfers at defensive back in Marquis Waters, Rayshad Williams, and Malik Dunlap, who all come in from other Power Five programs. Any of them could certainly push to take over a starting spot, but if nothing else, that might raise the play of the entire defensive backfield.