Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas has been a bit of a house of horrors for the Mountaineers and the Red Raiders have been Neal Brown’s own personal nemesis since he took over. Mountaineer fans all remember too well the fateful game in 2012 when the Mountaineers strolled into Lubbock, thinking this would be a cakewalk, and walked out licking their wounds and their pride. Neal Brown and his team currently have a three-game losing streak to the Red Raiders and have failed to bring the John Denver Trophy back to Morgantown. (TM) (*note - not an actual trophy but it should be and if it ever is made, note that Smoking Musket has always been the first to proclaim this and name it. Naming rights and other related items can be negotiated as necessary)
Texas Tech hired Matt Wells the same year the Mountaineers hired Neal Brown. Wells played at Utah State and coached at Utah State before he left to become the head coach at Texas Tech. He did not last long, being fired 8 games into his third season. This year the Red Raiders turn to a new face to coach them, Joey McGuire. McGuire was the assistant head coach at Baylor, having moved up the ranks from tight ends coach to defensive ends then linebackers and now head coach.
The most important position on the offense is the quarterback and McGuire has to make a choice quickly in his first year. Tyler Shough, Donovan Smith and Behren Morton are competing for the starting spot. Smith appears to be a front runner with 11 game appearances and four starts under his belt. If he’s fully healthy, Shough is capable of being the starter like he was in Week 1 of last year, but he is coming off an injury from last season.
Leading target Eric Ezukanma is gone, but Myles Price is a speedy option who averaged over 14 yards per catch, and younger receivers like Loic Fouonji, Trey Cleveland and J.J. Sparkman will have to step up. Baylor Cupp a tight end transfer from Texas A&M will also be in the mix.
The running backs will once again be headlined by SaRodorick Thompson, who ran for 500 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Expect to see Tahj Brooks, who actually led the team with 568 yards while scoring 7 times and Cam’Ron Valdez get reps to spell Thompson and give the team a deeper backfield.
The offensive line will have to replace three starters from last year in center Dawson Deaton, tackle T.J. Storment and guard Josh Burger. Transfers Cole Spencer, Michael Shanahan and Cade Briggs will look to move into starting roles following the big departures up front.
New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter will have the challenge of trying to make Texas Tech a defensive minded program after years of high-octane offense from the Kliff Kingsbury days. Last year, the Red Raiders allowed over 400 yards and 30 points a game and will need to be much better if they want to compete for titles.
6-6, 275-pound Tyree Wilson was a force with 13.5 TFL and 7 sacks last year. The line lost Devin Drew to Nebraska, but Myles Cole transferred from ULM to be in the end rotation, and Jaylon Hutchings is a veteran noseguard who will team up with Tony Bradford for the interior pass rush.
At linebacker, the outlook is concerning because of the loss of Riko Jeffers and Colin Schooler. Now, Krishon Merriweather and likely Jesiah Pierre will be the guys in the middle for McGuire. Schooler, who transferred from Arizona in 2020, was the active FBS leader in career tackles and career tackles for a loss upon his departure, and he finished his career fourth on the school ledger in career solo tackles.
Safety Dadrion Taylor-Demerson is a good returning part after leading the team with three picks and ten broken up passes.
2021 Full Game and Highlights
Prediction that will be right: This will be a low-scoring affair
Prediction that will be wrong: John Denver comes home?