The Red Raiders rank No. 59 in Athlon's Top 130 for 2019
Texas Tech moved on from Kliff Kingsbury — after the team's fourth losing season in five years — and brought in former Utah State head coach Matt Wells to take the reins. Wells took the Aggies to five bowl games during his six seasons and departed as the second-winningest coach in program history.
Wells inherits a Texas Tech team that was not far from having a very successful season. Tech dropped three games by eight points or fewer — two of those losses coming from the eventual duo that played in the Big 12 Championship Game, Texas and Oklahoma.
Wells has the opportunity to turn this group into a unit that can close out games. It all starts with his sophomore quarterback from Grapevine, Texas.
Previewing Texas Tech's Offense for 2019
Texas Tech's passing attack is one that stands the test of time. The Air Raid remains in place with David Yost as offensive coordinator. Yost will work with quarterback Alan Bowman, the young standout whom Yost calls a "football junkie." Bowman, who missed four games because of an injured lung, posted a completion percentage of 69.4, the best by a Red Raider since 2012. Wells and Co. will work this season with a healthy Bowman, who showed he could compete against the Big 12 by amassing 2,638 yards and 17 touchdowns through the air.
Texas Tech will lean on veteran targets such as Seth Collins and T.J. Vasher this season. Both are battling with injuries that should clear up by the time the fall rolls around. Vasher brings his wingspan and height to the outside receiver position. His seven TD catches in 2018 were second on the team. Vasher served as the second primary target through his 11-game season, finishing with 54 receptions for 687 yards. Transfers McLane Mannix and R.J. Turner are also expected to push for playing time.
Running back Ta'Zhawn Henry and receiver KeSean Carter are two sophomores who can benefit from a season of experience and some time to learn Yost's system. Carter, a two-sport athlete who also runs track, showcased his speed on the indoor track with a personal record of 6.71 in the 60-meter dash.
The offensive line will return four veteran pieces — tackles Terence Steele and Travis Bruffy and guards Madison Akamnonu and Jack Anderson. Wells has adjusted the front five by switching Steele and Bruffy. Steele will work at left tackle after 27 consecutive starts at right tackle, while Bruffy will move to the right after starting 22 games at left tackle over the past couple of years. This unit's depth is still one of the strong points of the offense. Wells wants to have at least eight or nine players available in the rotation in case of injuries and unexpected situations.
Previewing Texas Tech's Defense for 2019
Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson comes in working with a defense that allowed an average of 448.9 yards per game last season. Turnovers will be emphasized once again after the Red Raiders posted 2.2 takeaways per game in 2017 but only 1.5 last year.
The middle of the defensive unit for Texas Tech will have to replace Dakota Allen, a key piece who totaled 262 total tackles in his three years in Lubbock. Red Raider fans, however, don't have to look far for new leaders at the position with Jordyn Brooks and Riko Jeffers stepping into the spotlight. The two combined for 144 takedowns last season.
A defensive front with Eli Howard and Broderick Washington will provide experience in a scheme that will utilize a lot of different coverages with the ability to apply pressure on opposing teams if needed. Patterson’s recent success in his lone season at Utah State shows in the turnover margin. The Aggies tied for the FBS lead with 32 turnovers forced a year ago — and their 22 interceptions should have Texas Tech players such as Adrian Frye, Jaylon Lane and Justus Parker licking their chops that Patterson's game plan will give them plenty of ball-hawking opportunities.
Previewing Texas Tech's Specialists for 2019
Wells is expecting to bring in more kickers and punters later in the offseason. Right now, Trey Wolff has emerged as a possible replacement for Clayton Hatfield, who did not miss an extra point last season and finished 7-of-7 on field goals from 40 yards or longer. Questions remain about Wolff's consistency and lack of experience, though. Cody Waddell will be competing for punting duties with Austin McNamara, the third-ranked punter in the 2019 recruiting class. McNamara averaged 42.6 yards per punt in his senior year at Gilbert (Ariz.) Highland and put 12 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Learning a new language is weighing on this offense, which will at times rely on new faces and young players, especially at receiver.
Defensively, Patterson has some wiggle room to be coverage heavy with some depth in the secondary. The ability to play with blitz packages featuring a new hybrid Raider position, which Lonzell Gilmore will fill, should allow the Red Raiders to improve on a mid-50s ranking in sacks.
In order for the Raiders to have a successful season, Wells will need to trust in Bowman's and Yost's partnership to produce points. The defense will need to find a way to increase pressure on the quarterback, which will lead to turnovers and more three-and-outs against fast-paced Big 12 offenses.