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Kliff, no pressure now, but be better than Tuberville.
Head coach: Kliff Kingsbury
1st year: 0-0
Ten Best Texas Tech Players
1. WR Eric Ward, Sr.
2. DE Kerry Hyder, Sr.
3. QB Michael Brewer, Soph.
4. WR/TE Jace Amaro, Jr.
5. DE Dartwan Bush, Sr.
6. DE Delvon Simmons, Jr.
7. LB Sam Eguavoen, Jr.
8. FS Tre' Porter, Sr.
9. OT Le'Raven Clark, Soph.
10. RB Kenny Williams, Jr.
8/31 at SMU
9/7 Stephen F. Austin
9/21 Texas State
9/28 OPEN DATE
10/5 at Kansas
10/12 Iowa State
10/19 at West Virginia
10/26 at Oklahoma
11/2 Oklahoma State
11/9 Kansas State
11/16 Baylor (in Arlington)
11/23 OPEN DATE
11/28 at Texas
Okay, Texas Tech fans, let's be practical and honest. What more do you want?
Remember, it's not like Mike Leach was winning Big 12 championships on a regular basis, and while no one seemed to fall in love with the Tommy Tuberville era – especially considering many weren't happy about Leach being let go – he actually did a decent job.
The defense that was such a disaster at times under Leach suddenly found a groove under Tuberville's watch, finishing 15th in the nation and leading the conference. The passing game didn't go anywhere, leading the conference and finishing second in the nation behind Marshall averaging 356 yards per game.
While there were five losses, there's no real complaining over defeats to Oklahoma and Texas to go along with road losses to Kansas State and Oklahoma State with an overtime loss to Baylor. At the end of the day, issues and all, Tuberville got the job done after an ugly end to 2011.
Even so, the fan base is hoping for more under favorite son, former star quarterback Kliff Kingsbury.
If Kingsbury's team finished second in the nation in passing and led the way against the pass, would Red Raider fans take it? Yeah, if it came with eight wins or more with a bowl victory.
Of course, the goal is to start winning Big 12 championships, or at least competing for them, while giving the program an identity of something new after Leach was dumped following the Adam James controversy and Tuberville had a sideline issue with an assistant. Kingsbury will be given a ton of leeway from the fans who love their former star gunslinger and want him to succeed, but in the improved Big 12, making much of a press forward will be harder than it appears.
The defense welcomes back eight starters from a group that didn't get into the backfield and didn't force turnovers, but it was excellent against the pass. The offense has the potential to crank things up even more with the coaching staff deeply committing to making the high-octane attack even more effective.
It's going to be a learning process, and Kingsbury and his group will get plenty of time and chances, but he needs to beat Texas and Oklahoma. He needs to bring the magic the program that everyone seems to think he can. The fans are jacked up, the offense should be more entertaining, but now it's time to bring home even more wins.
What to watch for on offense: The triple option. Yeah, right. Passing, passing and more passing. Really, what does the nation's No. 2 passing game to shoot for and improve? How about finishing first? Kingsbury is looking for a quicker tempo, more short-to-midrange completions – even for Texas Tech – and more of an emphasis on being explosive. Great, that seems easy enough, but how does this actually work? Again, speed it up. It starts with deciding on a quarterback – it'll be Michael Brewer when all is said and done – and it continues with putting the players in spaces where they can do something with the ball on a regular basis. Part of the problem under both Leach and Tuberville was that the offense stalled way too often for long stretches.
What to watch for on defense: What's the alignment going to be? With a hybrid linebacker/defensive end called the Bandit, and the hybrid safety/linebacker called the Raider, Texas Tech has plenty of options to run with depending on the matchup. Is the D going to a 4-2-5, or a 4-3? Will the 3-4 work at getting to the passer, or will it take some manufacturing to hit the quarterback on a regular basis? Defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt will have to be very creative and very flexible, but more than anything else, his defense has to be consistently solid after the Red Raiders were blown up for 52 points or more in four of the final seven games. It would also be a big help if …
The team will be far better if … the defense could start forcing more turnovers. Texas Tech gave up blocked kicks (5) and recovered three fumbles. The defense didn't even force a fumble in three of the last four games, and it didn't recover one in the final six games of the year. Making it worse, the secondary didn't come up with a pick in the final five games of the regular season and the two against TCU were the only ones in Big 12 play after the league-opening win over Iowa State. The high-octane attack will make up for plenty of mistakes, but it would be a huge help if the defense came up with more than 11 takeaways.
The schedule: Kingsbury's first season should start off with a big of a bang going to Dallas to face a good-looking SMU, but it has to be a good warm-up game along with the home opener against Stephen F. Austin before dealing with TCU at home. If all goes well and according to plan, the Red Raiders should be 4-0 with Texas State up next and a bye week to prepare for a road trip to Kansas. With Iowa State to follow, if Tech can beat TCU, a 6-0 start isn't out of the question before the fun really begins.
The Kansas game kicks off a run of three road games in four weeks with West Virginia and Oklahoma coming after the home date against ISU. On the plus side, Tech goes almost all of November without playing a true road game, hosing Oklahoma State and Kansas State before playing Baylor in Jerry World in Arlington. The regular season closes out with a week off before going to Texas.
Best offensive player: Senior WR Eric Ward. The hope is for quarterback Michael Brewer to live up to his upside and potential and be the new star of the attack, and receiver/tight end Jace Amaro could blossom under the new coaching staff and become an all-star, but Ward is the No. 1 main man for the passing game. While he didn't lead the team in receiving, he came up with 12.8 yards per try with 12 scores on his 82 grabs. He built on the 16-catch, 151-yard, two score day against Baylor at the end of the 2011 season, he was steady throughout last year with a few nice blowup performances. The centerpiece of the receiving corps, he'll combine with Amaro to make brewer's life easier.
Best defensive player: Senior DE Kerry Hyder. Fellow end Dartwan Bush was a key part of the pass rush at times making six sacks with a team-leading five quarterback hurries and 12 tackles for loss, but Hyder was even stronger all-around finishing third on the team in tackles with six sack and 14 tackles for loss. Big enough to work at tackle and quick enough to shine on the end, he has the versatility to make the defense work around him.
Key player to a successful season: Senior CB Olaulwa Falemi. Someone has to start picking off passes. With the loss of safeties D.J. Johnson and Cody Davis, almost all the picks are gone; the Red Raiders have only one interception coming back. The safeties should be fine with Tre' Porter and J.J. Gaines looking great throughout the offseason, and Bruce Jones is an experienced corner who can pop, but Falemi is a smallish 5-9, 157-pounder who needs to use his speed and quickness to help out a secondary that didn't come up with enough big plays.
The season will be a success if … the Red Raiders win eight games again. It's going to be a struggle to get by Oklahoma and Texas – especially on the road – and Oklahoma State, Kansas State and TCU will be tough outs, but with so many winnable games against teams like Stephen F. Austin and Texas State, six regular season wins and a bowl game should be a given, but in Kingsbury's first year, as long as the program is as least as strong as it was last year, the transition will be complete and the expectations will be ramped up next year.
Key game: Sept. 14 vs. TCU. The two programs have only played three times since 1995, and last year was a 56-53 thriller with the Red Raiders winning in three overtimes on an eight-yard Alex Torres touchdown catch. This time around, it's the Big 12 opener and it couldn't come at a more perfect time. Texas Tech starts out the season with winnable games against SMU and Stephen F. Austin to prepare for the showdown, and Texas State and an off-week follows before going to Kansas and dealing with Iowa State. With a win over the Horned Frogs, it's very, very possible Tech could start out 7-0 before going to Oklahoma.
2012 Fun Stats:
- Fumbles: Texas Tech 14 (lost 8) – Opponents 14 (lost 3)
- Average Passing Yards Per Game: Texas Tech 355.9 – Opponents 192
- Penalties: Texas Tech 100 for 981 yards – Opponents 72 for 689 yards
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