Dr. Saturday will be looking at the 25 most interesting teams headed into spring football through March, examining which programs have the biggest questions, the most expectations and the best storylines. This isn’t a list of the 25 best teams going into the spring, just the 25 we’re keeping the closest eye on. Previously: Kansas State.
What happened in 2012
Behind a good season by quarterback Seth Doege and a surprisingly strong start by the defense, Texas Tech had a pretty solid season.
The Red Raiders went 8-5, had some good wins against Iowa State, West Virginia and TCU, and then pulled out an exciting victory against Minnesota in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. There was also a relatively disheartening 1-4 stretch to end the regular season against tough opponents, so the 2012 season under Tommy Tuberville wasn't making anyone forget the glory days of Mike Leach.
What made the Red Raiders' season memorable is what happened off the field. Tuberville left suddenly and unexpectedly to Cincinnati, reportedly ditching recruits in the middle of a dinner to take the job. Texas Tech's search settled on a predictable name: Kliff Kingsbury, the young, hotshot Texas A&M offensive coordinator who is one of Texas Tech's all-time great quarterbacks.
While the switch from Tuberville to Kingsbury was a shock, it has pumped a lot of new life and energy into the program.
What makes them interesting in 2013
For better or worse, Kingsbury is a fun hire who makes Texas Tech relevant again. At just 33 years old to start his first spring practice as a head coach, he's the youngest BCS coach. He also was co-coordinator of one of the hottest offenses in college football at Texas A&M (and before that, co-coordinator for an exceptional Houston offense), was a college star and spent some time in the NFL and CFL, so he should have some legitimacy with the players.
There will also be some fresh ideas, as you'd imagine from a coach who is the youngest in BCS. He had a provision in his contract that he has creative say over the team's uniforms, which has created a stir. There have also been ridiculous marketing ideas thrown his way, but the main point is this: Kingsbury's hire is a bit of a gamble, considering his age and inexperience, but it's a worthwhile one. His youth, energy, track record as an offensive coach and strong association with Texas Tech could pay off huge for a program that is often overshadowed in its own state.
What needs to happen this spring
As with any team that has a new coach, spring will be vital to implementing new systems. Kingsbury headed up prolific offenses at Houston and Texas A&M, and he'll bring many concepts from the few years of coaching he does have under his belt to mold his own offensive attack. The defense has a new coordinator in Matt Wallerstedt, and there is promise of an aggressive, attacking scheme, but that's the promise of every new defensive coordinator in the last quarter century of organized football. This team also has a lot of personnel issues to figure out.
Doege is gone, so there will be a new quarterback. The offensive line depth is a big concern. The secondary has some issues, especially at safety where the Red Raiders lose two longtime starters. These are some of the roster issues that need to be addressed.
The Texas Tech defense did improve last season, and a lot of talent returns in the front seven. The Red Raiders promise to be multiple up front on defense this year, with an emphasis on the 3-4 look, and there's some buzz over the return of the "Raider" position, a hybrid strong safety/outside linebacker spot that used to be a staple of the defense.
The "Raider" in the defense will be senior Terrance Bullitt, who is coming off a 19-tackle season, but he wasn't a great fit in last year's scheme. Will Smith and Blake Dees also give Texas Tech some good options at linebacker. With some talent returning on the line as well, led by tackle Kerry Hyder, the Red Raiders should be pretty good on defense this season.
Although the quarterback battle is technically open, the expectation is that Michael Brewer will be the starter to replace Doege. And given that Kingsbury's last two quarterbacks were Case Keenum and Johnny Manziel, it's a good spot for Brewer to step in to. Brewer can pass the ball and is also very mobile, a skill set that has already drawn inevitable comparisons to Manziel's style of play. Last season he completed 34-of-48 passes last year for 375 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, so there is good reason for Texas Tech fans to be excited about Brewer, who will be a sophomore next year. With some returners at the skill positions around him, Brewer is in a good position to succeed right away, but it's hard to project what he'll do until he gets his chance to be the starter.
Oct. 26 at Oklahoma
Nov. 2 vs. Oklahoma State
Nov. 16 vs. Baylor
Nov. 28 at Texas
- - -
Check out Dr. Saturday's other spring previews: Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma, Stanford, South Carolina , Baylor, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Clemson, West Virginia, Missouri , Tulsa, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Louisville, Northern Illinois, Florida State, USC.