COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2012 PRESEASON TOP 25
Big 12 PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Kliff Kingsbury, First Season | OFF. COORDINATOR: Sonny Cumbie, Eric Morris | DEF. COORDINATOR: Mike Smith, Matt Wallerstedt
Sophomore Michael Brewer is expected to be the latest in a string of successful signal-callers at Texas Tech that dates back to Kliff Kingsbury’s playing career on the South Plains. Brewer, whose father and grandfather played quarterback at Texas, is no stranger to expectations and should be able to meet the standard of his predecessors at Tech, most recently Seth Doege.
The Red Raiders may lean on a stable of running backs early in the season while Brewer and an inexperienced receiving corps get into gear. The Tech backfield returns three players who have seen significant playing time, led by junior Kenny Williams, who rushed for 824 yards in his first season as the team’s feature back. He could become the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher in 14 years. DeAndre Washington, who redshirted last season while recovering from a knee injury, and former junior college transfer SaDale Foster are two other options in the backfield.
The Red Raiders’ receiving corps is less experienced than it may seem at first glance. Five players return who started at least one game last season, but only two of them — Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant — played in more than seven games in 2012. Ward is the unit’s obvious headliner; he caught 82 passes for 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior and should be a preseason All-Big 12 selection.
Tech worked with just eight scholarship offensive linemen through the spring and will rely on five signees to solve the depth issues that have lingered since 2011.
Matt Wallerstedt is Tech’s fifth defensive coordinator in five years and, like his immediate predecessors, has changed up the team’s base defensive scheme — this time from a 4-3 to a 3-4. While the Red Raiders finished the 2012 campaign ranked a respectable 38th nationally in total defense, the team struggled at forcing turnovers and pressuring the quarterback.
Nearly all of the entire defensive front seven returns, but some of the more athletic defensive ends were transferred to outside linebacker. End Delvon Simmons was expected to be a key piece of the defensive line, but he decided to transfer after spring practice. Experience is an issue in the secondary as plenty of new faces will patrol the defensive backfield this fall.
Last year’s nickel back, Tre’ Porter, transitioned to safety and is expected to lock down one of the starting spots. Sophomore J.J. Gaines emerged in spring ball and will enter fall camp as the favorite to earn the start at the other safety position. There’s also a solid cornerback option in senior Bruce Jones, who started six games last season after transferring in from junior college. The last cornerback position likely won’t be filled until fall camp. Several newcomers will be in the mix.
No issues here. The Red Raiders return their field goal kicker, punter and primary kickoff returners. Ryan Bustin hit 17-of-24 field goals as a sophomore and made all 59 extra point attempts. Punter Ryan Erxleben averaged 42 yards per punt last season. Grant took over the kickoff return duties late in the season and returned two kicks for a touchdown — one for 99 yards and one for 97 yards — in his last two games.
Things changed in Lubbock the night Kingsbury was announced as Texas Tech’s new head football coach. With one move, a fan base that had been fractured since the tail end of the Mike Leach era suddenly became united.
But a united fan base doesn’t guarantee success. The Red Raiders have some nice pieces, but there might be a few too many questions — Can Brewer shine at quarterback? Can the offensive line replace three starters? Can the secondary hold its own? — for this team to be a significant factor in the Big 12 race in 2013.