2014 CFN Preview - Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech QB Davis Webb
Texas Tech QB Davis Webb
Posted Jul 31, 2014

Preview 2014 - Are the Red Raiders really that good, or are they just pretty? (Getty Images)

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Preview 2014

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Kliff Kingsbury
2nd year: 8-5
Returning Lettermen
Off. 22, Def. 24, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Texas Tech Players
1. OT Le'Raven Clark, Jr.
2. QB Davis Webb, Soph.
3. WR Jakeem Grant, Jr.
4. LB Sam Eguavoen, Sr.
5. DE Branden Jackson, Jr.
6. WR Bradley Marquez, Sr.
7. LB/RB Kenny Williams, Sr.
8. PK Ryan Bustin, Sr.
9. LB Pete Robertson, Jr.
10. RB DeAndre Washington, Jr.
2014 Schedule
8/30 Central Arkansas
9/6 at UTEP
9/13 Arkansas
9/25 at Oklahoma State
10/4 at Kansas State
10/11 West Virgina
10/18 Kansas
10/25 at TCU
11/1 Texas
11/15 Oklahoma
11/22 at Iowa State
11/27 Baylor
Can the team that whacked around a terrific Arizona State team in the Holiday Bowl show up throughout the Big 12 season?

Of course, bowl games are self-contained entities, but after losing five straight games following a 7-0 start, and proving to be a bum slayer with no FBS victories over anyone who finished with a winning record, 2013 Texas Tech appeared to be a lot of flash, a lot of fun, and a lot about being handsome. And then reality came down like a hammer when it was time to take a seat at the Big 12 adult table.

It’s not like the Red Raiders were totally awful, but the defense went goodbye in November allowing an average of 51.25 points in losses to Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas.

484 yards of total offense and four touchdown passes in a dominant 37-23 win over Arizona State later, and now the narrative has changed.

Maybe Kliff Kingsbury needed a year to get everything in place, and now he’s about to take the offense and the program to a whole other level.

Considering all the drama and controversy surrounding the departure of Mike Leach, Tommy Tuberville did a decent job. But he wasn’t Texas Tech like Kingsbury is.

It’s always good to be the coach following the coach who followed The Coach, and with Big 12 championships not a part of the fun over the years despite all the offensive wizardry, Kingsbury can all but shove aside the Leach era with one really, really good campaign. It’s every mid-range Big 12 program’s mantra: If Baylor can …

Texas Tech might not have the talent or the horses the Bears have enjoyed over the last few seasons, but that’s changing. Kingsbury is a hot coach at a suddenly hot program with an offense that’s been around for a while, but it just a wee bit cooler now when the guy who helped turn Johnny Manziel into Johnny Football is running the show.

But can the Red Raiders start beating the good teams in the Big 12 on a regular basis and not just take care of the mediocre?

The offense finished second in the nation last year in passing and eighth overall, and there’s no reason to think it’s going to slow down this year with eight returning starters and a rising star quarterback in David Webb.

The defense has to replace six starters and needs help coming up with big plays and key stops against the better offenses, but as long as it can hold serve once in a while so the offense go do what the offense does, this could be a dangerous team that no one wants to face.

It might take a few years and a full recruiting cycle for Texas Tech to rise above being a petty annoyance, but it’s going to be a fun ride. The Big 12’s biggest X factor should be wildly unpredictable, but all guns are pointed up.

What to watch for on offense: As always, you know exactly what’s coming. The problem is that the passing game doesn’t just have to be good; it has to be otherworldly for the offense to fly. Over the first seven games of the season – all wins – the Red Raiders threw for 404 yards or more in six of them, throwing for 293 against TCU in what turned out to be a 20-10 slugfest. The passing attack hit the 400-yard mark just once over the final five regular season games – all losses – and it took 71 throws to get to 425 yards in the 52-34 loss to Oklahoma State. Against Arizona State? 403 yards, meaning Texas Tech was 7-1 last season when throwing for 400 yards or more, and 12-2 over the last three seasons when hitting the mark. This year, expect 400 passing yards to be the norm despite the loss of top targets Jace Amaro and Eric Ward.

What to watch for on defense: If you can play defense, you might have a shot at battling for a starting spot on a defense that got shredded by anyone with a running game but was surprisingly terrific against the better passers. This year, it’s going to be a fight with three new starters in the secondary and question marks in the defensive interior. Expect several newcomers to play big roles right out of the gate with JUCO transfers and true freshmen getting their chances in the rotation at several key spots. The big spotlight will be up front in the interior with juniors Jackson Richards and Demetrius Alston needing to hold up from the start, but there needs to be a good rotation around them. Over the first half of the season when the team was winning, the D allowed 200 rushing yards just once in the first seven wins – in the close call against TCU – and gave up 277 yards or more in every game the rest of the way, with the one aberration the bowl win over Arizona State. Stop the run, control the game, and everything will work out. Easier said than done.

The team will be far better if … everyone can stop screwing up. Naturally there will be interceptions when you’re using a few new quarterbacks in an offense that throws the ball 714 times, so the 18 picks weren’t all that bad. However, for a team that didn’t run all that often, the 15 lost fumbles were a killer with nine coming over the final six game stretch. Penalties were the other big issue, committing a whopping 104 on the year with ten or more coming in four games including 11 for 102 yards against Texas. Steady, the sins occurred on a regular basis with seven or more penalties in 11 of the 13 games. Texas Tech just isn’t good enough to survive so many mistakes.

The schedule: It’s not going to be like years past when the Red Raiders could load up early and hang on late unless they can get by Arkansas at home. Starting out against Central Arkansas and UTEP should be good warm-ups, but the Hogs are much stronger this year. There’s a week off after dealing with Bret Bielema’s club, and Tech is going to need it.

The Big 12 schedule starts out at Oklahoma State on a Thursday and is followed up by Kansas State. On the plus side, that gets two road games out of the way with just two true road games – TCU and Iowa State – the rest of the way. However, the season finale against Baylor is in Arlington. Getting Texas and Oklahoma in back-to-back November games, and wrapped around a week off, should be interesting, but the date with the Sooners on November 15th is the last one in Lubbock.

Best offensive player: Senior OT Le’Raven Clark. The guys up front have to make the machine go, and while there were too many sacks allowed last season – 33 – and the quarterback was getting popped a bit too often, Clark was still one of the key stars at left tackle. With four starters returning, the line should be a major positive, but it’s Clark who’s the one everything works around and the guy who has to keep Davis Webb upright. The veteran has excellent size and great feet, and after earning First Team All-Big 12 honors last season, he should be in the mix for All-America consideration.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Sam Eguavoen. The hope is for DE Branden Jackson to take his game up a few notches to make up for the loss of Kerry Hyder, and hybrid LB/DE Pete Robertson should be among the team’s statistical stars, but everything will be funneled Eguavoen’s way. He might not be all that big, but he can move and holds up well. Now he has to make more plays closer to the line and not down the field.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Davis Webb. Of course, as the triggerman for the attack he has to throw for a bazillion yards a game of the season won’t work, but just as important will be staying healthy with Michael Brewer taking off and early season star Baker Mayfield going to Oklahoma. After spring ball the Red Raiders had just one quarterback – Webb – officially listed on the roster, meaning new recruit Patrick Mahomes had better be ready to roll from Day One. A star baseball pitcher, he has the arm, but he needs time in the system and lots and lots of practice reps. This could be his offense, though, if Webb gets popped.

The season will be a success if … the Red Raiders win ten games. It might seem like a bit of a lofty goal, but after winning eight games last season, and with so many veterans back on offense, shooting for an extra two victories is a reasonable goal. If this a ten-win team? The defense has to be far better to get even close, but Central Arkansas, UTEP, Kansas, West Virginia and Iowa State have to be sure things, and then it’ll be up to coming up with a few upsets to get close. There might not be enough in the bag to win the Big 12 title, but a top four finish is possible with a few big breaks.

Key game: Nov. 1 vs. Texas. Texas Tech got obliterated 41-16 in Austin by a team that didn’t show up on a regular basis. The last win over the Longhorns came in the epic Michael Crabtree game in 2008, and before that it was 2002. This season, coming up with a win at home over Charlie Strong’s bunch will be vital with Oklahoma coming up next and coming off a road game at TCU. Beating Texas would be a huge moment for both Kingsbury and the program.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Third Down Conversions: Texas Tech 98-of-218 (45%) – Opponents 71-of-207 (34%)
- Penalties: Opponents 107 for 928 yards – Texas Tech 104 for 978 yards
- Fumbles: Texas Tech 34 (lost 15) – Opponents 23 (lost 11)

2014 Texas Tech Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players