The Texas Tech Red Raiders are one of four teams in the Big 12 who will be playing for a brand new head coach but the Red Raiders may be the ones who benefit the most from a regime change. TTU’s former golden boy, Kliff Kingsbury, was always able to generate high-octane offenses but those usually came at the expense of the defense and that detrimental defense was the downfall of doom for Kingsbury. New head coach Matt Wells will inherit some pieces that could help surprise people as the Red Raiders make a push for middle of the pack in 2019.
GET TO KNOW THE ENEMY
Where are they from?: Lubbock, TX
#BRAND Slogan: #SaddleUp #WreckEm
Recommended Blog: Viva The Matadors
Famous Alumni: Lincoln Riley, Wes Welker, George Eads (CSI)
Conference: Big 12
THE HEAD COACH
Matt Wells was a quarterback at Utah State in the mid-1990s. Wells worked his way up the coaching ranks through Navy, Tulsa, New Mexico, Louisville and Utah State before taking over as head coach in 2013. Wells inherited a USU program with talent and immediately turned in 19 wins, a conference title and two bowl wins in his first two years. The team slowly regressed to 3-9 in his fourth year before Wells righted the ship with 16 wins (including his second 10-win season) and another conference title.
Under Wells (including his 2012 season as offensive coordinator), the Aggie never finished worse 73rd in total defense and four times finished in the top 40.
SCOUTIN’ THE RED RAIDERS
The Red Raiders continued to be who they were under Kliff Kingsbury in 2018 - a dangerous offense capable of putting up points on anybody but a defense incapable of stopping a fly. The Red Raiders started the year against Ole Miss Rebels in the Texas Kickoff, a game they lost 40-27. TTU then reeled off 3 straight wins including knocking off #15 Oklahoma State before the Mountaineers once again took down Texas Tech. Two more wins against TCU and Kansas pushed the Red Raiders to 5-2. The Kansas win would be the last of the season as the Red Raiders would go on to drop their final 5 games including losses to Kansas State and Baylor. They finished 5-7 and fired head coach Kliff Kingsbury at the end of the season.
Who did they lose?
Former Last Chance U star Dakota Allen, who helped “anchor” the Texas Tech defense has graduated. Allen was fantastic in his senior comeback season, totaling over 70 tackles and providing a stabilizing force for a defense that has been one of the worst units in the Big 12 the past few seasons. The Red Raiders also lose running back Da’Leon Ward, who was the team’s leading running back rusher (but not the leading rusher - that honor goes to QB Jett Duffey). The big loss on offense has to be Antoine Wesley, who caught over 1400 yards last season.
Who do they return?
Another returning Big 12 quarterback, Alan Bowman was sensational as a freshman in Kingsbury’s Air Raid system. Bowman was on track for Freshman of the Year until a partial collapse lung against West Virginia sidetracked his season. Still, despite not playing a full season, Bowman threw for over 2,600 yards, 17 touchdowns at 8 yards a pop. He will be backed up by the electric Jett Duffey, who was the team’s leading rusher last season.
Bowman will have a pair of receivers in T.J. Vasher and Seth Collins to throw to. Vasher is an underutilized big receiver who will be looking to make a big splash as an upperclassman.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jordyn Brooks and his 84 tackles return as well as linebacker Riko Jeffers and his 71 tackles. The pair also had 5 sacks last season. They will be bolstered by linemen Eli Howard and Broderick Washington Jr. The massive pair of bigmen had 6.5 sacks last season and will be asked to help slow down offenses in the Big 12.
Why should West Virginia be worried?
Bowman was very good as a freshman and should benefit from playing in the Air Raid system again (OC David Yost brings the wide open offense with him). He will have enough talent surrounding him that Bowman, if he can remain healthy, should thrive in Lubbock.
Why should West Virginia not be worried?
You have to go back to 2013 to find the last time the Mountaineers lost to the Red Raiders. The game will be in Morgantown and now the Mountaineers will be looking to see where they stand in the Big 12 and if they can still make a bowl. The Red Raiders have talent but have yet to put it all together.