Kliff Kingsbury enters his sixth season coaching his alma mater facing two key questions:
1) Can he find a quarterback that, despite lack of experience, can make the usually high-octane offense run?
2) Will the Red Raiders defense continue to improve?
The answer to the second question is pretty straight forward. Texas Tech returns 10 starters on defense, including high-impact players in linebackers Dakota Allen and Jordyn Brooks, and safety Jah’Shawn Johnson. Those guys helped the Red Raiders finish tied for 13th in the nation in turnover margin with a plus-11 ratio.
But there is room for improvement as Texas Tech still surrendered 443.8 yards per game, 104th nationally. While yards allowed isn’t always a key indicator of a defense’s overall effectiveness, the Red Raiders also underperformed in getting to opposing QBs. Texas Tech posted just 18 sacks as a team, which also ranked in triple digits.
If the Red Raiders can continue creating turnovers while decreasing overall yards allowed and increasing the sack totals, they could actually win more big games with their defense.
The answer to the first question is more complicated. Texas Tech will begin preseason practice with a three-man battle for the starting QB spot between junior McLane Carter, sophomore Jett Duffey and freshman Alan Bowman.
Carter started against Texas last season, but senior Nic Shimonek replaced him in time to lead the Red Raiders to a victory in Austin. Duffey was at one-time the heir-apparent to Patrick Mahomes, but an off-the-field issue led to a suspension from school for two semesters and derailed his development during that time. Bowman is a 2018 signee who enrolled in school in the spring and made strides during spring practice.
Whoever plays quarterback will have to do so without a proven go-to receiver. Keke Coutee entered the draft following his junior season and left a big hole. T.J. Vasher (29 catches, 545 yards, 6 TDs) was Texas Tech’s fourth-leading receiver last year, but he’s the top returner. Alongside him will be a crop of players with potential but few career receptions, including seniors Ja’Deion High and De’Quan Bowman, junior Antoine Wesley and Oregon State transfer Seth Collins.
The best thing Kingsbury and the Red Raider QBs have going for them is an offensive line that returns four starters and has good depth.