Kliff Kingsbury has had an interesting two-year start to his head-coaching career at Texas Tech. Year One featured big offensive numbers and an impressive postseason victory over Arizona State. Year Two featured another undisciplined team, seven Big 12 losses and no postseason. Kingsbury has plenty of talent, both as a coach and on his depth chart, but has to correct his team’s sloppy play if Tech expects to get back to a bowl game in 2015.
Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter: @AthlonSports
Previewing Texas Tech’s Offense for 2015
Texas Tech’s quarterbacks production was up and down throughout the 2014 season. Sophomore Davis Webb started the team’s first eight games before being shut down for the season due to a shoulder injury. True freshman Patrick Mahomes replaced Webb in the lineup and showed enough promise to emerge as a strong candidate to earn the job in the fall.
The offense as a unit was inconsistent and prone to turnovers. But with eight starters back, the Red Raiders are hoping to build on the last few games of the year when they finally seemed to get things on track.
The two strengths are the starting offensive line, which will return four veterans, including all-conference left tackle Le’Raven Clark, and running back, led by DeAndre Washington. The Red Raiders are looking for consistency at receiver as a young group turned in an uneven performance in 2014. Jakeem Grant is the leader of the pack, and the shifty senior should be a versatile weapon for the offense. Devin Lauderdale and Ian Sadler both emerged late in the year, but they’ll need to build upon that success if Texas Tech is to take a step forward this fall. The coaches are hoping that junior Reginald Davis will step up — he has loads of talent but has yet to realize his potential.
Ultimately, the Red Raiders’ offense will go as the quarterback goes. If the winner between Webb and Mahomes can limit turnovers and produce at an above-average level, Texas Tech should return to the postseason in 2015.
Previewing Texas Tech's Defense for 2015
The word of the offseason around the Texas Tech football office is turnovers. The offense is focused on reducing the amount committed, and the defense, led by new coordinator David Gibbs, is focused on forcing them.
Gibbs’ defense at Houston did a fantastic job of forcing turnovers over the last two seasons, and the hope in Lubbock is that he can duplicate some of that magic on the South Plains.
In the secondary, Gibbs will have some experience and potential with which to work, including sophomore corner Nigel Bethel and safety Keenon Ward. At linebacker, senior Micah Awe is the only experienced, veteran piece. But there are interesting options, including linebacker Dakota Allen and former five-star prospect and Ohio State transfer Mike Mitchell.
The defensive line returns all but one player, including Big 12 sack leader Pete Robertson (12 sacks in 2014) at one end and senior Branden Jackson on the other. Things must improve on the interior, however, as former junior college transfers Rika Levi and Keland McElrath are being relied upon to take big steps forward, which they appeared to do in the spring. It’s a unit that must improve if Tech is to make a bowl, and things appear to be moving in the right direction.
Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128
Previewing Texas Tech’s Specialists for 2015
Clayton Hatfield, a former U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection, will compete with Michael Barden and Taylor Symmank for the starting placekicking job. Hatfield has a big leg and likely has the edge. Symmank is expected to be the Red Raiders’ starting punter. The coverage units should take another step forward with an influx of young talent from among the incoming freshmen.
In Year 3 of Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure, two things are very clear: The offense must find some consistency and the defense simply has to be better. The addition of Gibbs should help stabilize the ailing defense, but all bets are off until they hit the field this fall. The big key, however, is at quarterback. The winner of the Mahomes vs. Webb battle must play at a high level for Texas Tech to return to form.