THE RESULT | A FITTING END | This game felt like a pretty good summation of the entire season. There was good. There was bad. There was a little bit more good than bad and that's how the game and season ended. I know that there are plenty of people that are disappointed with the overall aspect of the program, but there will be so much to discuss throughout the offseason as to what can and should be done to right the ship. I said this after the Houston game, but I'll say it again. This team is what it is right now, which is a pretty good, top 20 offensive team and an absolutely awful defensive team. I can live with having just a top 20 offensive team, but the fact that the defense has struggled so much is bothersome. We'll get into this a little bit after the jump, and more later in the offseason, but I actually think that the defense is slowly morphing into some sort of 4-2-5 defense, but there's a lot to improve. A lot.
And I'm probably repeating quite a bit of what you guys and gals have already said, so if it sounds completely unoriginal, I'm sorry. Also, this is pretty much a rambling of thoughts, which is par for the course.
Storylines and MVP's after the jump.
Potts Shines | I thought he was really good, completing 76% of his passes and a fluke interception that made his overall numbers look a little worse. Potts finished the day with only 6.6 yards per attempt, which is really bad, but it didn't bother me while I was watching the game because he did take his shots down the field, but just didn't connect. Potts has come a long way since the start of the season, but I have no doubt that by the end of the year, he was a damn fine quarterback and I think I now see why Leach, Tuberville and Brown all wanted Potts to be the guy. If he could have put up similar numbers to this for the entire year, then I think Texas Tech wins 2 more games. And the interesting thing is that of the last three games, this was actually Potts' worst game, statistically speaking. If you can figure out NCAA quarterback ratings, Potts' ratings for Weber St. was 200.18, for Houston it was 162.04 and against Northwestern it was 152.4. The competition was much different than earlier in the year, but if Potts is just a little more efficient then I think this makes the difference in a couple of games. And that last statement probably indicates that it was all Potts' fault, which I do not believe is the case. It was a culmination of figuring out a new offensive coordinator, a line that had to learn how to zone block and you get an offense that struggled early, but came on strong late in the year.
I get the feeling that the short yards per attempt for the year, the team averaged 6.7 for the year, is not really what OC Neal Brown wants. In 2009, his Troy Trojans averaged 8.3 YPA, but in 2008, they averaged 6.1. So the offense is capable of stretching the field quite a bit more, and I don't know if this is an issue of getting a year or two into his system or the maturation of Levi Brown (Troy's quarterback for those 2008 and 2009 years).
If anything, seeing the quarterback competition in the spring might be one of the more discussed topics on DTN because in some folks' eyes, there are three or four viable candidates and the guy in the lead, Seth Doege, was the least heralded coming out of high school, while Jacob Karam, Scotty Young and were all highly decorated coming out of high school. All of them.
I'm So Scared Baby | I watched the game twice and the thing that scares the mess out of me is the defensive line. Yes, the secondary is in disarray, and the Bird and Duncan are slow, but what bothered me more than anything else was how much the Northwestern offensive line was getting a huge push on Texas Tech's defensive line and the Texas Tech defensive line just couldn't make an impact. We'll talk a bit about the whether it matters if a team runs a 4-3, a 3-4, a 3-3-5 or a 4-2-5 and in my opinion, a lot of it is window dressing. That's not to say that scheme and coaching isn't important, it clearly is.
First and foremost, it comes down to athletes on the field. I don't remember when I heard this, but I was listening to Barry Switzer on DFW's The Ticket at some point, I think after the 2008 season when Texas Tech was well thought of and he said that Texas Tech would never be able to compete with the likes of Oklahoma and Texas because Texas Tech could never get the athletes that UT and OU have. If I believed Switzer's overall statement, there's really no point in being a fan, but I do think there is some truth to what Switzer says in that athletes can shorten the learning curve or hide deficiencies no matter the defensive alignment.
Since I'm not invited to the planning meetings where Tuberville and his staff are determining who to recruit, but if I had to guess my thought is that the staff wants to recruit athletes that are smaller, but are capable of being put in positions where they can be moved a bit. No matter if the defensive scheme was Willis or Tuberville, what they both echoed was that they wanted and needed to be faster on the field. Tuberville made a living off of turning safeties into linebackers, linebackers into defensive ends, etc. The rub is that no matter who takes control over the defense, they're going to have to figure out a way to not get pushed around along the line of scrimmage and be faster at every position. It all starts up front and the linebackers can't make plays if the defensive line isn't occupying their man and making it tough on opposing offensive lines.
And truthfully, there's a ton returning players along the defensive line, but they have to be better. By my count, there's eight returning defensive tackles (Neill, Perry, Coleman, Langley, Rumph, Wade, Graves and Agoucha) and six defensive ends (Bush, Richards, Smith, Barr, Hyder and Knighton). As an aside, of those eight defensive linemen six of them are juniors, seniors next year, and this could be a huge problem in 2012 as there are only three defensive linemen (Castleman, Lewis and Evans are committed for 2011). This is the problem with recruiting JUCO's (Rumph, Langley and Smith).
Back to 2011, there's no question that Colby Whitlock was the rock of the defensive line and to have a defensive tackle that ended up 6th on the team in tackles is going to be incredibly tough to replace, but the defensive just cannot afford to be pushed around and expect success defensively.
Encouraging Things On Defense | Like a lot of you, I was incredibly encouraged by Cqulin Hubert filling in for Bront Bird after Bird was injured in the first half. Like a lot of you, he was really good, but he can be better. He's not quite there from a technique standpoint as he tends to guess on plays and be wrong, but I think this is cured by seeing the field. I'm more than happy to see Hubert in the middle next year. I think he's going to be just fine, but he's got room for improvement.
For those of you begging for Texas Tech to start running a 4-2-5 or some variation thereof, then I think the process has already started.
"Exhibit 1" is the move of safety Brent Dewhurst to outside linebacker. He was injured in the game, but that position change was made a handful of games ago.
"Exhibit 2" is safety Cody Davis playing some linebacker against Weber St. and Houston and it appeared to me that he and Dewhurst were, at times, switching positions during the game.
"Exhibit 3" is the transition of Tre` Porter from playing cornerback to start the season to eventually ending up at safety. I think that Porter played mostly cornerback in high school and a lot of people, myself included, thought that Porter would stay at cornerback while at Texas Tech, but the staff has transitioned Porter to safety and I think that what the staff wants with Porter is a guy that can do so many things including having the ability to play some cornerback, but be a versatile secondary player that is capable of doing just about anything.
In my opinion, the transition has already started.
Now it's just a matter of time to figure out how the front line of the defense shakes out and as I'm writing this, I feel like I'm all over the map, but in my opinion, I'm perfectly fine starting Smith and Langley at defensive end and Wade and Perry at defensive tackle. I think that's a fairly strong yet athletic defensive line, and even if you want a little more athleticism along the line, feel free to throw in Hyder at defensive end. The one thing that I don't want to see is a completely undersized defensive line and I thought we saw too much of that with Sam Fehoko getting a ton of snaps at defensive end.
I love Fehoko's passion, but he seems to me to be a one-trick-pony in that he's an excellent pass-rusher off the edge, but he's not capable of playing the run. Throw him in there on passing downs, but I think I want a guy with a little more versatility to play both the pass and run with my starting defensive end. With the starting four I mentioned, you can fill in with a handful of players: Rumph, Coleman, Agoucha, Bush, Richards, Hyder, Barr and Knighton.
Running Downhill | One of the things that Tuberville mentioned after the game was that he said he wants to be a better downhill running team. He mentioned running out of the Pistol offense as a bit of a break to the lone running play out of 10 personnel, which is a draw play (every spread team is essentially stuck with this one running play). Personally, I'm fine with that and I'd agree that the running game still needs work. The overall numbers look pretty good from the Northwestern game, 29 carries for 183 yards rushing. The downside is that of those 183 yards, 86 of them came off of one play from RB Eric Stephens. I hate the argument of taking out a running play to prove a point, but if you take out that play, the offense churned out 97 yards on 28 carries (this includes 2 carries from Potts) which is an average of 3.4 yards per carry. You could say that Texas Tech got lucky on that Stephens play or you could say that it was the perfect play (no safety help, excellent blocking up front and thankfully Stephens had enough gas to find the endzone). If you include that 86 yard carry then you're looking at 6.3 yards a carry.
Special Team Problems | After the game, I found myself chuckling at the honesty of Tuberville's comments regarding special teams:
We wanted to make our guys play a little bit harder with that onside kick. I would blame it on somebody else, but I did call that. I had been wanting to call it all year long. That was a little different onside kick, but at least they didn’t pick it up and run it back. It took them two plays to score. The chancellor had been after me all year long to quite kicking onside kicks, but it is one we thought we could get. They lined up perfectly for us, and we had it but it would make any difference because we were offsides, which is a cardinal sin against an onside kick. Our special teams really weren’t great today we made some mistakes and again what happens is, when your younger guys that are on special teams are starters and then they move up to be first teamers on defense after the first quarter then you have to put your third team guys on your special teams. It kind of had us in a tailspin, but it was good to get a lot of players in the game. We played a lot of new faces.
I know that people don't like to give Tuberville much, if any credit for being honest. We can certainly debate whether or not the volume of players seeing time that don't normally seem time on special teams makes that big of a difference, but it probably does on some level. There are some good things here, as he admits that the special teams wasn't good and made mistakes. Admitted. We can only hope that there's room for improvement. There will be some hires over the next few weeks and we'll see if the special teams is addressed. I've seen mention that perhaps a position coach should be in charge of the special teams and I think the only way to honestly address special teams is to hire a special teams coach. I believe that NCAA regulations limits the staff that you can have so that has to be considered too.
As far as the onside kick, it didn't bother me and I actually liked it. I don't think that Northwestern was sitting on that play and I thought that they were somewhat surprised. I think my initial reaction was laughter because it was unexpected for me as I didn't think that Tuberville would try it again after issues with the onside kick earlier in the year.
Worried About Receiver | Like a lot of you, the area that probably worries me the most is receiver because there's so much production that's going to be lost in Detron Lewis and Lyle Leong, in particular from a scoring standpoint. I do take solace in knowing that guys will step up their play and hopefully by this time next year we're talking about how players like Austin Zouzalik, Alexander Torres, Tramain Swindall, Aaron Fisher, Eric Ward, Shawn Corker, Darrin Moore, Cornelius Douglas, etc., have picked up the slack. I think there's plenty of talent at the receiver position and I'm hoping that the offensive staff has figured out what they have as far as personnel. It takes time to learn what these guys can do, and this isn't me giving them a pass, but I do think it takes time to figure out how each of these players can excel.
Thanks to the Seniors | I'm probably getting a bit sentimental here, but I do have an appreciation for what the seniors, and really the entire team, was able to do this year. At this time last year, they were all forced into an uncomfortable situation where they really didn't have much of a choice. I believe Tuberville when he said this after the game:
We made a lot of changes, and it goes back to your players. They can make it difficult or they can make it a lot easier, especially the seniors. They did a great job of keeping all the younger guys focused and there were times when I am sure they would have liked to do something a little bit different, but they bought into it and they gave us an opportunity to be here today.
As mentioned above, there are a lot of Texas Tech fans that question Tuberville's sincerity and that's understandable. Time will tell if this this thing lasts for more than a few years, but I do believe that this group of seniors, for the most part, handled the situation at hand as well as could be expected. They didn't always say the right things and there's no way that every player was on board with the way things were handled, but I always feel this way at the end of a season, which is that I cheer for these guys personally. I think guys like Bront Bird, Brian Duncan, Baron Batch, Taylor Potts, Colby Whitlock, LaRon Moore, Detron Lewis, Lyle Leong, etc. are good people. They were forced to react in a very adult situation, a situation that I'm pretty sure that I would not have handled very well as a 20 or 21 year old in college. Again, they weren't perfect, but overall, I was pretty happy with how they've conducted themselves.
OFFENSIVE MVP | QB Taylor Potts | As mentioned above, I think he finally got it by the end of the year. After what he said after the Missouri game, he instantly became one of my favorite players because I think he "gets it" on a bigger level than just what's being played on the field.
DEFENSIVE MVP | LB Cqulin Hubert | I'll take 13 tackles any day of the week from my linebacker. He wasn't perfect, but for a true freshman that was a late add to the class, I'm happy.
SPECIAL TEAMS MVP | K Matt Williams | I don't think I'll ever forget his story. Glad that he got a field goal, 24 yards, in the game. Once he started kicking worrying as to whether or not Texas Tech was going to make an extra point became a thing of the past.