Friday, August 2, 2013
Opening camp: Texas Tech Red Raiders
By David Ubben
Texas Tech opens up preseason camp on Saturday after players report today. Let's take a closer look at Kliff Kingsbury's squad going into camp.
Schedule: The Red Raiders begin practice on Saturday, and will also host a local media day that day. The Red Raiders open their season in Dallas on the road at SMU on Friday, Aug. 30.
Setting the scene: Tommy Tuberville's exit came out of nowhere this season, but AD Kirby Hocutt gave Tech fans exactly what they wanted: Kliff Kingsbury. He took a measured approach in spring practice, waiting to learn more about his personnel before he locked in what he wanted to do on offense or defense.
Eyeing clarity: Michael Brewer was the assumed starter in Lubbock, but true freshman Davis Webb enrolled early and made a big impression on the coaching staff. For now, there's no starter, but Kingsbury wants to name one in about two weeks, or halfway through fall camp. "We did that last year at Texas A&M and it worked out a little bit for us. Hopefully, we have that same success," Kingsbury noted. Jameill Showers was the assumed starter for the Aggies until midway through fall camp when Johnny Manziel pulled a big surprise and won the job. He did OK once the season arrived.
Fixing a big hole: Delvon Simmons was a solid defensive lineman for the Red Raiders after signing as a blue-chip recruit, but he left for USC back in June in a surprising decision, his second school change since signing a letter of intent with North Carolina in 2011. Tech has to figure out what to do with the tackle spot the 290-pounder left behind. Another top-level recruit, Michael Starts, also transferred. Kerry Hyder is a star, but the Red Raiders need Jackson Richards to step up in their absence. Hyder might slide over and replace Simmons in the middle, with Branden Jackson moving to defensive end. Redshirt freshman Anthony Smith has an opportunity in camp, too.
All eyes on: Kingsbury. He's attracted a ton of attention since taking the job, which is no surprise after he helped Manziel win the Heisman and returned home to his alma mater at 33, making him college football's youngest major conference coach. He brought back a ton of young assistants to Lubbock with Texas Tech ties, and the youth across the staff can be argued as a major positive or negative. Wins will decide which it is. There has been so much talk between visits with media and alumni. Kingsbury said this week he's tired of it. The heavy-duty work will start on Saturday. I'm sure you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more excited than him.
On the mend: Linebacker Terrance Bullitt is a big-time talent that's a little underrated across the league. He suffered a shoulder injury down the stretch in 2012, and that shoulder has been a constant issue since he first hurt it back in 2011. He sounded psyched this spring, saying the game was "fun again" and he's back to full health. Tech's defense will benefit.
Emphasis: Kingsbury knew two big things had to be fixed right away: Penalties and turnovers. The Red Raiders committed almost a full penalty more than any team in the Big 12 and ranked 121st nationally in the stat. They also forced just 11 turnovers in 12 games, less than all but two teams in college football. That has been the focus all offseason, and if he fixes that, Tech will improve in a hurry.
Outlook: The Red Raiders didn't get a vote in the coaches poll, and the Big 12 media picked the Red Raiders seventh in the league. That's a fitting spot, but Tech is an experienced team with a lot of upside, even if it is short on truly elite talents. Eric Ward and Jace Amaro are fantastic 1-2 targets in the passing game, and Jakeem Grant adds some major explosiveness to the offense. Tech will be able to beat anybody in the Big 12, but in a deep league, they can lose to most teams, too. This looks like a 7-8 win team to me.
Quotable: Kingsbury, on the SEC's dominance as he moves into the Big 12. "I think anytime you win seven national championships in a row, you're on top. That's hard to dispute that. Great defenses, great coaches in that league, and I feel the same about the Big 12. I think it's cyclical in a way that in a couple years the Big 12 may be making the same sort of run."