To get a look at the KU-Texas Tech game from the opposing side we caught up with Will McKay who covers the football beat for RedRaiderSports.com
Has the Texas Tech offense changed any from the past couple seasons? And who are the top play-makers to keep an eye on?
In short, no, not really. It’s schematically the same thing, and this is still a team that’s going to throw it around the yard more often than not. The biggest difference with this team is that they play much more within the system with senior Nic Shimonek at quarterback than they ever did with Mahomes. While Mahomes was dynamic and created a lot of big plays, the offense often went off the rails into backyard ball mode with him under center.
Shimonek is a real cerebral pocket passer. He’s always trying to get the offense into the best play at the line, and he and Kingsbury have a lot of pre-snap communication. While the offense has been about Mahomes as the primary playmaker the last two years, it’s now about Shimonek distributing the ball to his playmaking receivers and tailbacks and letting them do the footwork.
Players to keep an eye on here, are Shimonek, outside receiver Dylan Cantrell, slot receiver Cam Batson, tailback Justin Stockton in the passing game, and – if he plays – slot receiver KeKe Coutee, who’s the most dynamic playmaker Tech’s had at receiver since Jakeem Grant, and he’s honestly a better pure receiver.
Coutee banged his knee up against Oklahoma State and will be a game time decision on Saturday.
What has been the key for the defense to show the improvement they have?
There are three reasons this defense is so much better in 2017: First, David Gibbs is in his third year as the DC, and you can tell the veterans who have been around are finally comfortable and really know what they’re doing. The scheme continuity is paying off.
Second, Gibbs and his defensive assistants brought in a TON of new players on defense, both from the JUCO and transfer route. That includes Dakota Allen, who returns to Tech after missing a year off. Other JUCO transfer starters include corners Octavious Morgan and Jaylon Lane, safety Vaughnte Dorsey, and rush end Tony Jones. All of them have been first year hits, and all of them are making plays for this defense.
Third, it appears to me that first year defensive line coach Terrance Jamison has paid off in spades for this defensive line, who’s playing at an entirely different level than they have since 2012. The interior is very stout with two players who have continued to grow in the system, and the edge players are getting pressure at a much higher rate than in the past.
Has Gibbs changed his scheme much and who are the main players to watch for?
Gibbs’ scheme is still the same. It’s a base 4-3 that they’ll use in a variety of ways, but they play in nickel against almost everyone, so it looks a bit like a 3-3-5 stack to the naked eye.
However, one big change this year that every opposing coach has noted is that Tech will play with a three man front and roll the rush end – a hybrid end linebacker that often played with his hand in the dirt a year ago – in a pure two point stance and really shift him and the linebackers around in pass rush situations.
You’ll see a ton of different shifts and aggressive looks on third down in man coverage, and it’s really seemed to boost this defense’s pass rush.
There are a few players to watch out for. First, the two linebackers, Jordyn Brooks and Dakota Allen. They’re playing better football as a pair than anyone else in the conference right now, particularly Allen, who’s been all over the place making plays in coverage, run support, and as a pass rusher when blitzing.
Interior D-linemen Mych Thomas and Broderick Washington have done a great job this year of controlling the line of scrimmage in three of the four games so far, and they’ve been a major factor in Tech really cutting down opponent rushing numbers compared to past defenses.
Other players to watch are rush end Tony Jones, defensive end Eli Howard, cornerback Damarcus Fields, and safety Vaughnte Dorsey.
If you were an opposing coach watching Texas Tech on film how would you attack them offensively and defensively?
I’d attack the offense by backing off eight into coverage and daring the Red Raiders to run the ball, because the running game for Tech has been terrible so far. They just haven’t gotten much going against any defensive line with a pulse, and it starts on the interior with a young offensive line that flat out got no push against Oklahoma State last week. You back off eight into coverage and dare them to run it, cause they just don’t seem to be able to.
As far as defensively, I’d attack the middle third of the field with crossing routes. Tech’s had a hard time stopping good receivers running shallow posts, sail, deep slants, and really anything that falls behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties.
Before the season there was so much talk about Kingsbury’s future, has all of that died down?
I’d say it’s died down considerably after the 3-1 start where they had a chance to drive down and win the game against Oklahoma State last weekend, especially considering how much improvement the defense has made. This team plays like a team, which just really hasn’t been the case in the past. They also have played with a ton of energy, emotion, and effort through the first four games. They keep that up, and Kingsbury’s job will be safe. We see a drop off here through the middle of the season and the townspeople might start getting anxious again.
How you do see the match-up with KU and what is your prediction?
I’d say that Kansas really impressed me with their ability to run the ball against West Virginia two weeks ago. I think some of that is because the Eers are bad against the run this year, but I also think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the Jayhawks, to my eyes anyway, just seem like such a better team offensively this year than they’ve been in years past.
That said, I think this Tech team is trying to have a big bounce back game against Kansas this weekend after falling short in a game they felt they should’ve won against Oklahoma State last Saturday. On top of that, Tech is one of the top turnover getting defenses in college football so far, and they haven’t been turning it over. Kansas has been, however, so I wonder if the Red Raiders can capitalize on mistakes defensively.
This Tech offense has been up and down and has yet to start fast yet this year, however, to the point that it’s become rather worrisome.
All that said, I think the Red Raiders win, but I think it’s closer than some believe. Let’s say somewhere in the range of 42-27 or 45-31.