By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: With the pass once again being the offensive weapon of choice, the Red Raiders throttled their first two opponents of the 2009 campaign (38-13 over North Dakota and 55-10 over Rice). Then came a showdown
with Texas, which Tech lost in a 34-24 final. A 29-28 loss at Houston had
coach Mike Leach's club sitting at 2-2, with the bulk of the Big 12 slate
still to come. The Red Raiders won their next three games, all by at least 20
points, but setbacks in two of their next three tempered any enthusiasm the
team or its fans had at the time.
A 41-13 shellacking of Oklahoma was a great way to rebound, as was a 20-13 win
over a pesky Baylor squad in the regular-season finale, setting the stage for
Tech's trip to San Antonio and an Alamo Bowl clash with Michigan State. The
Red Raiders topped the Spartans, 41-31, putting the wraps on a 9-4 season, and
while that aspect of things was a positive, there was plenty of controversy
and negativity surrounding the Red Raiders in 2009 as Leach came under fire
for apparently mistreating one of his players.
In the end, Leach was terminated just prior to the Alamo Bowl and after a
thorough search Tommy Tuberville was hired as Texas Tech's new football coach.
Tuberville, who has previous coaching stops at Auburn and Ole Miss, has to
fill some pretty big shoes as the Red Raiders went to 10 straight bowl games
under Leach, who has more bowl victories during his tenure than the rest of
the school's 85-year football history combined.
Tuberville's first task after being hired was to gather his players and let
them know that nothing that had transpired last season was their fault. "It
could have been very difficult had the players just said, you know, we're not
doing this. We don't want to play for a new coach. Or we don't want to change
defenses. Or we don't want new assistant coaches here. So I've been very proud
of the players and their maturity and how they've handled it."
He continued, "They're usually a lot more mature than a lot of people making
the decisions of what goes on. They know really what needs to happen. So I've
been fortunate that we've got good leaders on the team. We've got guys that
have stepped up."
OFFENSE: Although Texas Tech has led the nation in passing six times in the
past 10 years, an overhaul of the offense is expected under Tuberville, who
prefers to run the ball a bit more. He will have the luxury of using either
senior Baron Batch (884 yards, 14 TDs) or sophomore Eric Stephens out of the
backfield, and both have the talent to become very good backs in the Big 12.
Certainly not abandoning the pass, Tuberville expects either Steven Sheffield
or Taylor Potts to direct the offense with equal effectiveness. Both are
recovering from injury, but the coach likes the poise and control under which
the two operate.
"Your quarterback has to have the respect of every player on the team from the
kickers, defensive linemen. Everybody has to have confidence that the
quarterbacks are going to get the job done." He is excited about the prospects
of having two experienced guys, "I haven't been around two quarterbacks like
this in a long time. They're both very, very good athletically, and they can
get the job done."
With the top five pass catchers from last season back, whichever QB is under
center shouldn't matter much. Look for guys like Alex Torres and Detron Lewis,
who combined for more than 1,600 receiving yards last season, to do their best
to continue to make plays down field despite what will likely be a drop in
The offensive line, which has just two starters back, must gel quickly if the
new offensive approach is to succeed.
DEFENSE: Under Leach, stopping foes took a backseat to flying past them, but
Tuberville, a defensive-minded coach, is hoping to change that. Implementing
the 3-4 with the current crop of players won't be easy, but the cupboard isn't
completely bare as players like senior NG Colby Whitlock, senior LBs Brian
Duncan and Bront Bird, and a secondary that returns three starters should all
make the transition a [relatively] smooth one.
Last year, the Red Raiders ranked in the top half nationally in scoring
defense (22.5 ppg), rushing defense (126.8 ypg) and total defense (352.4 ypg),
and while that was a positive of sorts, Tuberville wants his players to know
that effort in all phases of the game is what is going to help them achieve
"We want our defense to take a step up. We want to let them know that they're
part of the team. For us to win a championship, they have to be accountable.
The one thing I noticed about our defense is they didn't have a lot of
confidence. You know, wasn't a lot of talk about them. If it was, it was
about, know, not playing very well, no credit on that side. I think they
played pretty well last year. A lot of games they played well."
SPECIAL TEAMS: Matt Williams and Ryan Erxleben appear to have a hold on the
placekicking and punting jobs, respectively, and the hope is both will
continue to demonstrate the kind of consistency they showed last season. There
is no shortage of guys capable of making their mark in the return game, so
special teams could be a real area of strength for Tech this year.
OUTLOOK: Playing just two of their first five games in Lubbock means the
Tuberville era could get off to a shaky start, particularly when three of them
are against Big 12 foes. As difficult as the majority of the schedule may be,
the Red Raiders could find themselves in position to challenge for a
respectable bowl game as they close the regular season with home games against
Weber State and Houston.
The key to a successful campaign will hinge on the health at QB, coupled with
a consistent rushing attack and confident defensive play. There is clearly
talent on both sides of the ball for Texas Tech, but buying what Tuberville is
selling with be as important.