By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
2013 record: 8-5 overall, 4-5 in Big 12, defeated Arizona State, 37-23, in Holiday Bowl.
Returning starters: 8 on offense, five on defense.
Top players returning: Sophomore QB Davis Webb, junior RB DeAndre Washington, junior WR Jakeem Grant, sophomore WR Reginald Davis, senior OT Reshod Fortenberry, junior OT Le'Raven Clark, senior LB Kenny Williams, junior LB Pete Robertson, senior K Ryan Bustin.
Key players to replace: WR Eric Ward, TE Jace Amaro, QB Baker Mayfield, LB Will Smith, DT Kenny Hyder, DB Tre' Porter, DL Dartwan Bush.
Finding negatives about Texas Tech football is difficult as the program has a positive vibe under second-year coach Kliff Kingsbury.
But there was good news/bad news coming out of the spring. The good: Sophomore quarterback Davis Webb, who led the Red Raiders to an impressive Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona State, was spectacular in all scrimmages. The bad: Webb is the only scholarship quarterback on the depth chart, the roster … anywhere on campus right now.
Baker Mayfield, the Big 12 offensive freshman of the year, and Michael Brewer decided to transfer during the offseason. Freshman Patrick Mahomes, a highly touted recruit, is expected to be Webb's backup.
If the Red Raiders can keep Webb healthy, the high-powered offense shouldn't miss a beat. After Mayfield went 5-0 as a starter then was sidelined with an injury Webb took over and stared the last five games.
"It'll never be harder for him mentally than it was last year with that kind of yo-yo of starting, not starting," Kingsbury said of Webb. "That was as tough as it will ever be for him. It's downhill from here for him as far as mentally. He wants to be great. He wants to be the best that's ever played here."
Webb will be operating behind an improved offensive line and has some dangerous weapons at wide receiver even though the top pass catchers from last season (Eric Ward and Jace Amaro) have moved on.
"This is the fastest receiving group that I've ever known since I've watched Texas Tech football, we've got plenty of guys that can run," Webb said. "We have a really good chance to be a really good team and we're flying under the radar. There's no reason why you shouldn't expect this team to be one of the best teams that's ever played at Texas Tech."
*Senior Kenny Williams has been the team's starting running back the last two seasons but he volunteered to move to defense in the spring. He wound up as the starting outside linebacker on the post-spring depth chart. However, it's likely Williams could still get some carries and the tentative plan is to have him be a two-way player. Coach Kliff Kingsbury expects Williams to still make contributions on special teams so the 5-9, 235-pounder could be a three-way player.
*The excitement created by Kingsbury's first season has not abated. The enthusiasm for this season combined with an attractive home schedule – a nonconference game with Arkansas along with home games against Oklahoma and Texas – has Texas Tech on the verge of selling out Jones AT&T Stadium before the season starts.
*The defense expects to get a boost from the arrival of freshman cornerback Nigel Bethel II as well as junior-college transfers Rika Levi, Brandon Thorpe and Marcus Smith. "As all of our guys get here in June and we have a monster summer, this thing will look a little different than even what it looked like today," defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury on …
The team's mindset heading into his second season as coach:
"We have a lot more confidence than last year. Last year, we just tried to install and the guys are trying to figure us out and figure out our expectations. They know what they can be after that bowl game and carry that confidence over to being a top-15 team. They know what they can be if they put it all together, so that's exciting."
The improved depth and talent on the offensive line:
"It's a completely different unit. We had seven guys we had to rotate through two groups last year, so this year we had 10 guys that we could put in there and felt good about and they're coming together. They're all back from last year so they should be much improved and we're excited about that group."
Receiver Bradley Marquez being able to replace some of Jace Amaro's production:
"Brad is a faster, smaller version. We'll be a little smaller across the board this season, but the speed will pick up, and I think Brad will translate well into that position. We'll do different things with him than we asked Jace to do. We've got to be good in adapting to our personnel."
|Aug. 30||Central Arkansas|
|Sept. 6||at UT-El Paso|
|Sept. 25||at Oklahoma State*|
|Oct. 4||at Kansas State*|
|Oct. 11||West Virginia*|
|Oct. 25||at TCU*|
|Nov. 22||at Iowa State*|
|Nov. 29||Baylor (at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas)|