NCAA Football Preview - Texas Tech Red Raiders

9:51 AM, Aug 20, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -

2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Under the direction of third-year head coach Tommy Tuberville, the Red Raiders embarked on what at first glance appeared to be a season headed in the right direction as they routed their three non-conference opponents by a combined score of 151-30.

They moved to 4-0 by claiming a 24-13 win at Iowa State in the Big 12 opener, but a 41-20 loss at home to Oklahoma the following week started the team on a road of inconsistency that wound up saddling it with an 8-5 mark overall, and a losing conference record at 4-5. Tech's biggest Big 12 victories came in consecutive weeks over West Virginia (49-14) and TCU (56-56 OT), but the Red Raiders overall seemed out of sync, which was pretty much the story during Tuberville's tenure as well.

Although he had underachieved in the eyes of many Tech supporters, Tuberville's decision to leave Lubbock after three seasons (for Cincinnati) prior to the team's clash with Minnesota in the Meineke Car Care Bowl (a 34-34 Tech win) was still surprising and left the Red Raiders in a quandary, but one they remedied quickly as 33-year old Kliff Kingsbury was named the 15th coach in program history less than a week later.

A former record-setting quarterback at Tech (1998-2002), Kingsbury is making his head coaching debut this season after serving as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at both Houston and Texas A&M the last four years. He has mentored former UH standout Case Keenum, and was instrumental in helping A&M's Johnny Manziel win the 2012 Heisman Trophy.


OFFENSE: The pass has been Texas Tech's weapon of choice for quite some time, and 2012 was no different as Seth Doege threw for 4,205 yards and 39 touchdowns in helping the Red Raiders rank first in the Big 12 and second nationally with more than 355 passing ypg. Doege is now gone, but Kingsbury is expected to work his magic with sophomore Michael Brewer as he has all the tools to develop into the next great Tech signal-caller. In limited reps last season, the then-freshman completed 34-of-48 passes for 375 yards, four TDs and no interceptions.

Leading receiver Darrin Moore has moved on, but senior Eric Ward is set to assume that role after logging 82 grabs, 1,053 yards and 12 TDs last year.

The Texas Tech running game typically takes a back seat to the high-flying aerial attack, and that will likely continue as Kingsbury's offense is expected to be up-tempo in an attempt to secure big yardage on every play. Still, the Red Raiders are fortunate to have junior Kenny Williams back after he rushed for a team-best 824 yards and crossed the goal line five times in 2012.

The offensive line appears to be the one area that may take some time to work itself out as there are only two returning starters, and a lack of depth that may force some youngsters to step up sooner rather than later.

DEFENSE: Tech's strength on defense last season was against the pass, the team permitting an average of 192 ypg to rank first in the Big 12 and 15th nationally. The effort against the run didn't yield quite the same success as foes rumbled their way to 175.3 ypg, ranking the unit fifth in the conference and 74th in the country. The Red Raiders also had difficulty forcing turnovers, going nearly six complete games at one point without securing a takeaway.

Despite having eight players back with starting experience, the Red Raiders will be playing under their fifth defensive coordinator in the last five years so some confusion may be evident, as least at the outset. Talent-wise, most of the playmakers reside in the secondary, the notables being senior safeties Tre' Porter and Bruce Jones.

Pressure up front will likely be the key to any success the Tech defense achieves this season, but the switch to a 3-4 means the linebackers are going to have to play a more prominent role. High expectations surround guys like seniors Will Smith (top returning tackler with 55 stops) and Terrance Bullitt.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Ryan Bustin converted 17-of-24 field goal attempts last season, but he had three blocked and was only 3-of-7 from beyond 40 yards. Upping that production in his junior year will be crucial for the team should it hit a snag trying to get into the end zone. Punter Ryan Erxleben returns for his senior campaign after averaging 41.7 ypp in 2012. The return game will likely feature a combination of guys, including sophomore receiver Jakeem Grant and senior running back SaDale Foster.

OUTLOOK: The past two seasons have seen the Red Raiders stumble late, dropping five straight games to close the 2011 campaign, and four of their last five last year. Tuberville failed to deliver a winning league ledger, and the Red Raider faithful is hoping Kingsbury will bring them back to prominence.

Kingsbury is excited for the opportunity to lead his alma mater into the next chapter in its history, but he knows it's going to take a lot of hard work.

"As far as the football goes, I'm more of a walking-type guy, not a talking- type guy. So I'll let you all see that in the fall", Kingsbury said at his introductory press conference.

He continued, "It's going to be an exciting brand of football. We'll be attacking on both sides of the ball, we'll play with confidence. The kids are going to have fun. They're going to have swagger, and you'll enjoy next year's team. I promise you."

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