Matt Wells’ inaugural season in Lubbock ended with a 4–8 record, the second time in the past decade the Red Raiders have finished with so few wins. Wells believes things will begin to trend up this season, now that he has had a little time to put his stamp on the program. The former Utah State head coach is focused on shaping the Red Raiders into a consistent postseason visitor, one that wins bowl games when it goes to them — Texas Tech is 1–2 in bowl games since 2013. Despite a disappointing first year, Wells has the full confidence of Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt to turn things around.
Previewing Texas Tech's Offense for 2020
Offensive coordinator David Yost found some success with the well-known Air Raid offense after he took over. Texas Tech ranked 11th nationally in total offense, averaging more than 474 yards per game. Yost did it with backup quarterback Jett Duffey after Alan Bowman missed a majority of the year due to injury after also missing four games in 2018. Freshman Maverick McIvor may have been in line to be ahead of Duffey in the backup role, but a broken foot sidelined him the entire season. Now, Bowman and McIvor are healthy and Duffey has opted to transfer. Bowman looks to be the projected starter in 2020. In three games in 2019, Bowman posted 1,020 yards with a 65.6 completion rate.
Running back SaRodorick Thompson is the leading back, especially after the departure of Ta’Zhawn Henry. Thompson led the Red Raiders with 765 rushing yards last year. Wells added additional help to the backfield in June, as Alabama graduate transfer Chadarius Townsend is set to join the team in time for 2020. Wide receiver T.J. Vasher is poised to have a solid senior season with an adjustment in his body and overall attitude. Vasher says he took some time in the offseason to focus on his game, adding some weight in the process. But after suspensions and off-the-field problems, he also had a change in attitude.
Erik Ezukanma led the Red Raiders in receiving yards as a freshman with 664 and scored four touchdowns. He will once again be the second outside threat on the offense behind Vasher.
Jack Anderson highlights the returners on the offensive line but is recovering from surgery last fall. He’s still rated as one of the best guards in the Big 12 and will have a returning center next to him in Dawson Deaton. It will be up to guys like Casey Verhulst, Zach Adams and Weston Wright to fill in the holes at left guard and both tackle positions when it comes to depth after losing players to graduation. Transfer Josh Burger, a two-year starter at Wofford, is in line to take over at left tackle for the Red Raiders if he transitions over smoothly.
Previewing Texas Tech's Defense for 2020
The defense lost a key player at each level — Broderick Washington Jr. on the defensive line, Jordyn Brooks at linebacker, and Douglas Coleman III (who grabbed eight interceptions in 2019) in the secondary. Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson continues to emphasize the importance of third-down stops, but Texas Tech finished 91st nationally in third-down conversion percentage defense.
The injury bug hit last season, and Patterson was forced to move players with little to no experience to new positions, which led to big plays for opponents. This season, Patterson has added depth at virtually every spot on the field and moved former freshman All-America DB Adrian Frye from safety back to cornerback, where he feels most comfortable. LSU transfer Eric Monroe is also expected to push for playing time after joining the team in late June.
Riko Jeffers will have help at filling big shoes in the middle with fellow transfer linebackers Brandon Bouyer-Randle and Krishon Merriweather joining the team. “Krishon Merriweather has hit the ground running, literally and figuratively,” Wells says. “The guy can flat run. ... Krishon is going to be a really, really good addition.”
Eli Howard brings experience to the defensive line. Now a senior, Howard will bring the rush from the edge while Jaylon Hutchings and Nick McCann will take over the trenches.
Wells took an important step with the hiring of assistants Derek Jones and Kevin Cosgrove. Cosgrove, who will coach the linebackers, made the move to Lubbock following a year at LSU as the lead defensive analyst; he brings 39 years of experience. Jones spent 12 years at Duke, where he mentored some Blue Devils like Ross Cockrell and Jamison Crowder (on special teams) all the way to the NFL.
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Previewing Texas Tech's Specialists for 2020
The Red Raiders’ kickoff coverage unit was not where special teams coordinator Mark Tommerdahl wanted it to be last season. But the team did have great success in other aspects of the kicking game, as punter Austin McNamara and kicker Trey Wolff became two of the brightest spots for the Red Raiders. McNamara sent 20 of his 59 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, with only five touchbacks. Wolff drilled 20-of-22 field goals, with both misses coming from beyond 40 yards. They will both be back this season.
This is truly Wells’ program, featuring his recruits and his coaching staff. The offense still produces most of the highlights in Lubbock, but improvements on defense could be a quiet game-changer. If the Red Raiders are able to avoid injuries, then this year’s Texas Tech squad should be a tough matchup each week and could be bowl eligible at season’s end — and for years to come.