I don't know if this is re-branding some sort of key to a victory or the reasons why Texas Tech can win or lose, but I wanted to try something different this year, which is to identify what Texas Tech should attack on the opponent. To try to think analytically and critically, like a coach, about what I would try to attack if I were the coach, which means that I also need to know my team's strengths and weaknesses as well as the opponents. I also have to be careful and not say the same thing every week. Obviously, Texas Tech's strength is the passing games and most Big 12 defenses are horrible. 1 + 1 = 2. I want to try to do better than that.
I also know that I want your help. Typically, each week, I'm just going to give one possible method of attacking the opponent from each side of the ball and I'll leave it up to you to think of the others. Feel free to make it more theoretical or player specific. And these thoughts are admittedly pretty weak as I can say that I just don't know much about Northwestern St. It is the first game of the season against an FCS team that I haven't seen play in a handful of years. Let's go.
For the first game of the year, I don't know if I want Texas Tech attacking too much for the simple fact that I think that it shouldn't be necessary to attack this team and the non-conference teams. I'd also add that I'm not saying that I want the players to not be aggressive, but rather, Texas Tech should be able to play Northwestern St. pretty much straight up and still dominate. Remember, Northwestern St. was 112th in total offense for FCS teams. And if I recall from my preview of Northwestern St., the Demons are a multiple offense, which means that we might see a little bit of everything. For those of us who like to see teams do one thing well, this is an odd move and I'm sure that NWS has an identity, but I couldn't gather much of anything from earlier this summer. Northwestern St. is not an offensive juggernaut and Northwestern St. only managed 10 total points against SMU and LSU last year.
So my plan, and this might be my plan for a good part of the non-conference games, is to play teams straight up. I'm fine with calling blitzes in the natural course of things, and I think that DC Art Kaufman will want to give these players some experience blitzing, but there's no reason to go overboard. I don't want to see this defense be overly aggressive simply because I think they are over-matched athletically. I don't want players forgetting about their actual assignments. Blitz as you normally would, but keep it within the scheme. I think that you're going to see a relatively vanilla defensive front-four and I think that's a good thing.
Attacking Northwestern St.'s defense is after the jump.
Perhaps this is a bit opposite of what you might expect from me, but I think in this game, I'd love to see OC Neal Brown let some of his running backs not named Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington receive at least 35+ touches, and this includes rushing and receiving. All the reports from practice are that RB Kenny Williams and RB Sadale Foster have been terrific and if they get the ball for at least one week, which gives both Stephens and Washington one additional week to get stronger, then I think this would be a good thing.
I question whether or not this is really even truly feasible, because Stephens is supposed to be one of the stars of this team and it might better Texas Tech to actually have him see game action early and often to get him used to seeing live action. On the other hand, I think it is important to see some of these younger players get some time. You almost hate to experiment the first game of the season, but I don't know if this is really an experiment.
One other by-product of working the running game, and I really mean the running backs catching and receiving the ball, is that it builds a bit of confidence for the offensive line. Not that these guys need a pick-me-up, but everyone could use a bit of confidence and it would be nice to see 25 rushes and 150 to 175 yards rushing. I'll get to the receivers next week, but let's get some teams worried a bit about how this team is going to have a ton of options running the ball and hopefully a lot of success.
I'd also add that Northwestern St. head coach Bradley Dale Peavato said that the key for the Demons is to get Texas Tech off the field and limit the snaps for the defense:
"The keys for us to win are first, getting off the field defensively. We've broken down six games and we've seen very few third downs for Texas Tech. That tells you they're getting big chunks on first and second down, and we've got to win those downs. Offensively we need to move the ball, move the chains and give our defense a rest. Texas State played defense for 106 snaps out there last year and it didn't end well for them. Iowa State played 65 snaps of defense and won the game," he said.
If anything, I think I view this as a test more than anything else and truthfully, guys like Williams and Foster will need to pass that test. I know what Stephens and Washington can do.
All helmet images via The Helmet Project.