As Tech’s basketball team continues to impress in the insanely competitive Big 12 Conference, the focus on Kliff Kingsbury and his football team going into the sixth year of his tenure has somewhat lightened.
This, however, is undoubtedly the most important time of the year for the 38-year old. Through five seasons, he’s coached the Red Raiders to a 30-33 record with a 1-3 mark in bowl games. Last year started off promising with wins against Eastern Washington, Arizona State and Houston, but lost five out of the next six, ultimately finishing the regular season with a 6-6 record.
Tech closed the season with a 38-34 loss to South Florida, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of fans who were once so optimistic about this particular team. The defense was there, the playmakers on offense were there, yet Tech found ways to lose games it should’ve won.
That makes this off-season paramount to any other. Half of Tech fans are ready for the university to move on, and the other half believes he just needs (even) more time. No matter where you stand, we know one thing: he’ll be here for the 2018 season, so for the sake of everyone, let’s hope he gets it together.
There’s a lot of work to be done this spring and summer. Here’s what should be on Kingsbury’s to-do list:
1. Finish putting the coaching staff together
Extending David Gibbs was a great move, but there are important vacancies remaining on the offensive side of the ball. Kingsbury needs to find an offensive coordinator -a capable, competent offensive coordinator- who can call plays with creativity and doesn’t shy away from running the ball. Speaking of, a running backs coach would be ideal too, preferably one with a serious knack for recruiting. Special teams was a disaster last year, so locating an upgrade from the previous coordinator is vital as well.
2. Identify your quarterback
The sooner you do so, the better. During the season, Kingsbury’s primary backup was McClane Carter, and while he didn’t necessarily choke, he wasn’t exactly impressive. I think Jett Duffey has tremendous potential if he can take care of the mental aspects of the game. Is Alan Bowman a threat? Either way, Kingsbury needs to find his guy and stick with them, because the inconsistency of last year’s starter simply wasn’t enough to make Tech a serious contender for anything.
3. Add some more talent on Signing Day
To clarify, I mean the second signing day (February 7), which used to be the only signing day. I know it’s all confusing, but the point is that this class is relatively weak and Kingsbury should hit the recruiting trail harder than ever. Tech has three commits who haven’t signed, and even after they sign, that’s only 15 incoming freshmen, all of which are three-star prospects or less with the exception of two wide receivers. Go out and grab another offensive lineman or two and shore up the defensive side of the ball also. Take some JuCo players if need be, but this class is pretty underwhelming as it stands.
4. Generate some excitement around this team
Spring game attendance has become kind of a big deal during the last decade or so, and schools like Ohio State, Georgia and Oklahoma put up some disgusting numbers like 100,000 fans in the stadium. I’m not asking Kingsbury to replicate that kind of performance, but Tech’s showing of 12,000 last year absolutely pales in comparison to both Power 5 schools and Group of 5 programs. BYU pulled in 14,000 fans, which is inexcusable, by the way. There’s no reason BYU should have more fans at a spring game than Tech. Not to mention, in 2016, UCF had 23,000 fans in the building. Those are schools that would give anything to be in the Big 12, yet Tech fans seem unappreciative, or at least unenthusiastic about its own standing.
This may be a challenge for the Tech athletic department as a whole, but I think everything begins and ends with the head coach. Let’s get to work, Coach King.