- The difference between 2016 and 2015 might very well be Coach Whitt
Usually the Strength & Conditioning coach of a staff goes unnoticed unless there are injury issues or endurance issues with a program. Though injury issues weren’t as big as they have been a few years ago for Texas Tech, 2015 was mired by endurance issues. Tech would almost always seem to start fast and jump out to a lead before looking over matched late in games and losing leads or unable to close the gap in games that were within reach. Some have speculated it may have to do with the mental toughness aspect of training and the ability to overcome adversity, while others thought the actual S&C program was lacking.
The new hire of Coach Whitt and the dismissal of Coach Dennis raised some eyebrows earlier this year, but the main news coming out of Lubbock this off-season has been the impact of Coach Whitt. The main adjective Kingsbury likes to use when it comes to talking about his S&C coach is how he’s brought “more accountability” to the players and the program as a whole. That’s saying a lot for a program who, unlike some in the NCAA, pride themselves on a culture of character and integrity both on and off the field. Coach Whitt’s military background and team unity focus has had an incredible impact on this team and Coach Kingsbury can’t stop raving about his new hire which maybe the hire of his career.
2. Luke Stice is a bigger pick up than we ever thought
Last season the Texas Tech fans eagerly anticipated the impact of former Ohio State 5-Star, Mike Mitchell. Though Red Raider outlets, including VTM, spent most of fall camp gushing over his athleticism and what he could mean to the defense who sorely needed another impact player, all Kingsbury had to stay about him was, “Y’all are putting a lot of expectations on the guy and deservedly so”.
This year, an under the radar grad-transfer from Houston, passed without a ton of notice. Most eyes were on former Notre Dame player, Kolin Hill and former Michigan defensive lineman, Ondre Pipkins. However, during Kingsbury’s presser he mentioned 3 players who have really stood out to him on defense and low and behold, Luke Stice was number 3. Specifically, he mentioned how the team looks to Stice for his energy and leadership. Let the hype machine start on Luke Stice.
3. David Gibbs Second Year
Though he also mentioned how change is a good thing when talking about the coaching staff shake up, he also talked about how Gibbs’ second year as defensive coordinator should reap noticeable difference as to past years. Though this might be a little hard to believe with Tech losing Robertson, Jackson, Awe, among others, dismissing Dakota Allen from the team and seeing Nigel Bethel transfer.
Kingsbury seemed a lot less anxious about his defense than last year and seems really happy with the direction Coach Gibbs is taking them.
4. Kingsbury’s 4th year
Kingsbury was asked about the difference between his 1st year with Tech and entering his 4th year, and it seems that Kingsbury is still focused on his goals, but is a little more humble for the experience. Kingsbury has had to go from setting Texas Tech on fire with his arrival and fast start in 2013, to the depths of dealing with the realities and difficulties facing the program. And though he says he’s still on schedule with his plan for Tech, this may be a crucial year to take that next step with Texas still rebuilding and Baylor facing a major shakeup with the coaching staff.
One thing Kingsbury mentioned was that the guys on the team now are his guys and understand the culture and how they do things. This seemed really odd to me having heard him discuss the impact in culture shift Coach Whitt has made, along with players like Luke Stice who transferred in and are now a leader on defense. I think this has to speak to his maturing as a head coach. Yes he may set the course of the program, but without a dynamic, energetic support staff handling phases of the game other than offense, the program suffers.
5. Receivers are 3 deep at each position
We may like the offense to run through a few players on offense, i.e. Crabtree, Grant, Marquez, Washington, etc, having balanced playmakers all across the field has to be a nightmare for opposing defenses. If you look at the highlight reels of the 2015 season, it’s basically as Washington, Grant and at times Lauderdale show. But now the idea of not being able to isolate or try to contain just one or two players, but every skill player on the field is a daunting challenge.
This also plays extremely well to Mahomes’ production in case injuries occur as they did last year to Ian Sadler and Dylan Cantrell. Though you probably won’t see one receiver have outstanding numbers, you’ll see a receiving corp who absolutely shines from top to bottom. One can only hope though, that Kingsbury can get guys the touches they want.
See the full presser below and share your thoughts on what you took away from Media Day.