NCF Nation: Sam McElroy

Catching up on Big 12 coaching carousel

December, 16, 2011
We're not done spinning just yet, but if you're a bit lost, here's the changes to the coaching staffs across the Big 12 thus far.

BAYLOR (9-3)
  • Out: Receivers coach Dino Babers took the head-coaching job at Eastern Illinois. No replacement named.
  • Out: Offensive coordinator Tom Herman took the offensive coordinator job under Urban Meyer at Ohio State. No replacement named.
KANSAS (2-10)
  • Out: Head coach Turner Gill fired. Other staff positions up for discussion.
  • In: Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis hired to replace Gill. Akron QB coach Ron Powlus hired to coach quarterbacks. Bishop Miege (KS) coach Tim Grunhard hired to coach offensive line. Running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Reggie Mitchell retained from Gill's staff.
  • No changes.
  • Out: Safeties coach Barry Odom left to become defensive coordinator at Memphis. No replacement named.
  • No changes.
  • No changes yet, but OC Todd Monken has drawn interest from several programs.
TEXAS (7-5)
  • No changes, though Texas was forced to proactively shoot down rumors of Mack Brown's retirement.
TEXAS A&M (6-6)
  • Out: Fired coach Mike Sherman. Defensive coordinator/interim coach Tim DeRuyter took head-coaching job at Fresno State but will remain on staff through the bowl game. Other staff positions up for review.
  • In: Hired Houston coach Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin will recruit while the other coaches prepare for the bowl game.
  • Out: Fired DBs coach Otis Mounds and offensive line coach Matt Moore. Moved defensive line coach Sam McElroy into a non-coaching role on staff.
  • In: Hired former Miami DC John Lovett to coach defensive backs and former Ole Miss defensive line coach Terry Price to coach the defensive line. No offensive line replacement named yet.
Texas Tech and Northwestern will kick off the New Year's Day bowls from Dallas in the inaugural TicketCity Bowl from the Cotton Bowl at the State Fair of Texas. With the appearance, Texas Tech stretches its streak of no losing seasons to a Big 12-best 18 years.

Here's a look at the matchup.

WHO TO WATCH: Quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield. These two have been intertwined all season, and it won't change on Saturday. Coach Tommy Tuberville says both will play, which isn't necessarily anything new for the Red Raiders. In fact, both played during Texas Tech's best win of the season. Steven Sheffield got his only start of the season against Missouri, but struggled and was replaced by Potts. He rallied his team from a double-digit deficit and helped Texas Tech win three of its final four games to reach bowl eligibility.

WHAT TO WATCH: Texas Tech's defense. The Red Raiders struggled for most of the year defending everything, but especially the pass, where they rank last in the Big 12. Texas Tech is at the bottom in total defense, too. Northwestern will be starting Evan Watkins in place of injured, do-everything quarterback Dan Persa, but if the Red Raiders can right the ship against the inexperienced Watkins, they could win easily. Northwestern was blown out by Illinois and Wisconsin in its final two games. Complicating matters for Texas Tech is its situation at defensive coordinator. Defensive line coach Sam McElroy will take over for this game after James Willis left the program on Sunday.

WHY WATCH: There should be plenty of what fans like to see: offense. Even though Northwestern was blown out in those two games, it scored 27 and 23 points, giving up 48 and 70. Texas Tech's offense hasn't been consistent all year, but against the Wildcats defense, the Red Raiders should have some success. Potts has a pair of 800-yard receivers in Detron Lewis and Lyle Leong, and an 800-yard rusher in experienced senior Baron Batch.

PREDICTION: Texas Tech 38, Northwestern 27. I have my doubts about Watkins' ability to make plays in big spots like Persa did this year, and against a playmaking offense like the Red Raiders have, converting a few of those inevitable third-and-longs is necessary. Texas Tech should be able to do it. Northwestern won't.

TicketCity Bowl: Keys for Texas Tech

December, 31, 2010
1. Get one quarterback into a rhythm. If Texas Tech doesn't have success throwing the ball, it's not very good. If it does, it can beat a lot of good teams. The Red Raiders plan to play both Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield at quarterback, which isn't bad in itself, but they have to figure out early who has the hot hand and who they plan on riding late in the game if it's close. The Red Raiders have struggled to run the ball all season, and need to get it done through the air to put up enough points for the win. That won't happen if Potts and Sheffield are uncomfortable or both have off days. Potts will likely be the guy for most of the game, but a couple bad drives early has the potential to throw the whole offense out of whack. If Northwestern capitalizes, a slow start by Tech could also produce some forced plays from whoever is under center for the Red Raiders, creating a deeper hole.

2. Stay grounded early. Texas Tech's defense has been unimpressive for most of the year, and now they'll be listening to a new voice in defensive coordinator Sam McElroy. It's been a year of transition for the Red Raiders, and this game is no exception. Early on, you might see some confusion. Maybe a costly delay on getting a play relayed to the players on the field. Whatever happens, Texas Tech will have to shake it off and get ready for the next possession. This game should have plenty of points, and the defense can't let an early miscue that can be easily fixed affect them later in the game.

3. Force Evan Watkins to make mistakes. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound freshman has lots of size, but not much experience. He'll be making his third career start, and in his last game against Wisconsin, he completed just under 60 percent of his passes and had three interceptions. He's also thrown for just 258 yards in those two starts combined. Texas Tech loved to blitz under former coordinator James Willis, but with the quality of quarterback play in the Big 12, that can come with a ton of risk. Against Watkins, that risk isn't quite as high. Come after him for 60 minutes, dare him to make a play downfield over the top of the defense, and there's a pretty good chance his mistakes will be more frequent than his big plays.