Last season was not a good one for Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders finished 5-7 overall and an unsightly 2-7 in the Big 12, and their 12-year run of bowl appearances came to an end. Their only league wins came over woeful Kansas and – stunningly – Oklahoma, which was No. 1 in the nation at the time.
A poor defense was the Red Raiders' downfall. Tech was 114th in total defense, 113th in scoring defense and had the worst rush defense in the nation. Tech has gone from 78th in total defense in 2008 (Mike Leach's final season as coach) to 49th in '09 to 114th in both '10 and '11.
Texas Tech at-a-glance
Coach: Tommy Tuberville (3rd season)
Last season: 5-7 overall, 2-7 in league
Spring practice dates: Feb. 17-March 24
Returning starters (minimum 7 starts last season):
Offense (7): QB Seth Doege, WR Cornelius Douglas (moving to CB), G Deveric Gallington, T Terry McDaniel, WR Alex Torres, T LaAdrian Waddle, WR Eric Ward
Defense (6): S Terrance Bullitt, E Dartwan Bush, LB Daniel Cobb, S Cody Davis, T Kerry Hyder, S D.J. Johnson
Special teams (1): P Ryan Erxleben
Coach Tommy Tuberville again changed defensive coordinators, replacing Chad Glasgow with Art Kaufman, who will be Tuberville's third DC in as many seasons at Tech. The Red Raiders used a 4-3 set in 2010, then switched to a 4-2-5 scheme last fall; they will go back to the 4-3 this spring.
Tech had 10 players start at least one game in the secondary, and nine of those guys are back.
Offensively, the Red Raiders' rushing attack was a problem last season (125.2 yards per game, 87th nationally). One positive is that they will have an experienced line this fall, headed by three seniors.
The passing attack should be fine. QB Seth Doege had a productive first season as the starter, and he has a plethora of talented wide receivers.
[Big 12 spring preview: West Virginia, TCU bring new look to league – again]
The biggest problem: Depth in the offensive backfield. Texas Tech goes into spring practice with just one scholarship running back and two scholarship quarterbacks available. RBs Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington will miss the spring after suffering knee injuries last season returns, while last season's No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks, Jacob Karam (to Memphis) and Scotty Young (TBD), have left the program. True sophomores Kenny Williams and Ronnie Daniels – Daniels no longer is on scholarship after being indefinitely suspended last September – are the only two true running backs on the roster. To supplement that depth, WRs Bradley Marquez, Javares McRoy and Sadale Foster – each played some running back in high school – are expected to get reps at running back, and coaches hope to use this opportunity to develop a hybrid running back/receiver position. Seth Doege returns at quarterback, and he'll be backed up by redshirt freshman Michael Brewer. Brewer, who led Austin (Texas) Lake Travis to back-to-back state championships, has generated a fair amount and was beginning to be looked at as Doege's heir apparent last fall.
On the spot: WR Tyson Williams. A former Division II All-American at West Texas A&M, Williams transferred to Texas Tech last January and is expected to be a major factor in the Red Raiders' receiving corps this fall; he is entering his final year of eligibility, meaning he needs to produce immediately. Williams dazzled coaches in practices last fall but had to sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. Offensive coordinator Neal Brown has said that more NFL scouts inquired about Williams last year than any other player on Tech's roster. Williams will start out as an inside receiver – coaches love his physicality – but easily could play any of the team's four receiver positions.
On the verge: DT Delvon Simmons. One of Texas Tech's biggest defensive issues last season was size, or lack thereof, on the interior. Simmons, who is 6 feet 5 and 282 pounds and is a former Rivals100 prospect from McKeesport, Pa., didn't arrive on campus until late last summer, putting him behind the rest of the program's 2011 signees in terms of conditioning. He played sparingly as a freshman, but with a full offseason under his belt, he now is expected to take on a much larger role.
General overview: Texas Tech's top priority this spring is to stay healthy. The Red Raiders were decimated by injuries last season, and 10 players – six of whom started at least once in 2011 – will miss all or most of the spring while rehabbing. There also will be a lot of new faces on the practice field; Tuberville had to replace five assistants, including two in the past week. There also are seven early-enrollee JC transfers. Tech's success this fall largely will be determined by how well those transfers perform, especially those on defense. The Red Raiders gambled a bit by going so JUCO-heavy with their 2012 class – seven already are on campus, and two more will arrive in the fall – and if that gamble doesn't pay off, Tech again may find itself at home during bowl season.
For in-depth coverage of Texas Tech athletics, go to RedRaiderSports.com.
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