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Analyzing Texas Tech’s 2018 football season: Part One (offense)

Taking a look at Bill Connelly’s stat profiles along with other advanced stats provides some interesting conclusions

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing 5-7 season, most Texas Tech fans were ready to move on from Kliff Kingsbury. Less than 24 hours after the season ending loss to Baylor, the former Tech quarterback was officially fired, with Kirby Hocutt holding a press conference announcing the news. Only four days later Matt Wells was officially announced as head coach of the Red Raiders. In his introductory press conference on December 2nd, Wells described the Texas Tech job as being “a reload, not a rebuild.” Many people will see the 5-7 record and think Wells is being ridiculous in making this statement, however looking at the advanced stats gives an indication that the football team is already in decent shape.

The Quarterbacks

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Oklahoma State Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

By this point, most Texas Tech fans are well aware of the quarterback injuries that plagued the Red Raiders in 2018. McLane Carter went down on the third drive of the Ole Miss game with a high ankle sprain and was never the same. Alan Bowman suffered two collapsed lungs against the two best teams in the Big 12. Had he been healthy in the second half of both games, there is a good chance Tech would’ve had two top ten victories this season. Jett Duffey suffered a torn meniscus against Texas, and suffered a foot injury against Kansas State. If you would have told me Colt Garrett would be a viable option as the starter at the end of the season I probably would’ve assumed Tech was 2-9 at best.

The main reason I bring up the injury timeline is to set the stage for a pretty remarkable stat: In games that Alan Bowman started at quarterback (Lamar, Houston, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Kansas, Iowa State, and Oklahoma), the Red Raiders did not have a single offensive performance below the 50th percentile. There are only four other quarterbacks in the power five that can claim that: Kyler Murray, Trevor Lawerence, Tua Tagovailoa, and Will Grier. All four of those players are considered to be among the nation’s best, and all four boast surrounding talent that is much superior to what Bowman has.

In contrast, both McLane Carter and Jett Duffey were not able to achieve the same level of offensive success, with Duffey’s start against Texas being the only one of their four starts to meet the 50th percentile threshold. While it does seem harsh to hold Carter accountable for his start against Ole Miss, the 42% success rate that Tech had in the first quarter suggests not much changed between Carter and Bowman in the Ole Miss game.

Arguably the toughest moment for the Red Raiders this season occurred when Bowman was unable to go in the second half of the OU game due to a relapse of his collapsed lung injury. Up until that point, Tech had significantly outperformed the Sooners, with Bowman having his best showing since the Houston game. His performance on passing downs was arguably the best aspect of his performance, as he went 6-9 for 103 yards with no interceptions and one touchdown, averaging 11.4 YPA (includes sacks). For reference, Jett Duffey went 4-8 for 41 yards with 3.4 YPA on passing downs in the second half. Texas Tech would have their worst quarter of the season season success rate wise, with only a 9% rate for the third quarter. The Red Raiders would ultimately lose the shootout in Lubbock 51-46, and that would be viewed as the major turning point in the season and unfortunately the beginning of the end for Kliff Kingsbury.

Taking a look at ESPN’s QBR

ESPN’s Quarterback Rating (QBR) is often referred to as one of the best metrics to determine a quarterback’s success level within a game. The system evaluates all play types for a quarterback on a 0-100 scale, and is adjusted for defense. For future context: action plays are defined as all plays a player is involved in, while EPAis considered to be the expected points added from a player.

With that being said, here are the raw QBR stats for all three quarterbacks during the 2018 season:

2018 Texas Tech Quarterbacks

Quarterback Pass EPA Run EPA Sack EPA Total EPA # of Action Plays Adj. QBR
Quarterback Pass EPA Run EPA Sack EPA Total EPA # of Action Plays Adj. QBR
Alan Bowman 48 1.4 -5.8 47.8 387 70.9
Jett Duffey 18.9 3 -8.8 13.6 249 62.5
McLane Carter 4.3 -0.7 -2.1 2 65 46

As you can see from the table, Bowman was the best quarterback in just about every aspect of the game. Carter was clearly worse than the other two quarterbacks, however we need to take some consideration to the fact that he was playing injured for his only full game, and only had 1/6th of the action plays that Bowman had.

Speaking of action plays, Bowman’s EPA stats were better than Charlie Brewer’s despite having 133 fewer action plays. If anyone still thinks Brewer is better than Bowman I would highly recommend them getting help from someone much smarter than me.

Now that we have established Bowman’s superior season compared to his fellow Red Raider quarterbacks, we should compare his stats to some other notable players. First up, we will look at Bowman in comparison to every true freshman quarterback to start at least four Big 12 games since 2008:

Big 12 True Freshman Quarterbacks Since 2008

Quarterback Year Games Started Passing Yards TD/Int Ratio QBR Total EPA Completion % Sacks "Action Plays"
Quarterback Year Games Started Passing Yards TD/Int Ratio QBR Total EPA Completion % Sacks "Action Plays"
Alan Bowman 2018 7 2638 17/7 70.9 47.8 69.40% 8 387
Brock Purdy 2018 8 1935 16/5 75.5 43.1 66.30% 18 314
Charlie Brewer 2017 6 1562 11/4 61.2 17.7 68.10% 15 292
Sam Ehlinger 2017 8 1915 11/7 47.1 9.1 57.50% 11 412
Shane Buechele 2016 12 2958 21/11 54.9 28.2 60.30% 31 529
Jerrod Heard 2015 7* 1214 5/5 49.8 11.2 57.30% 28 317
Ryan Willis 2015 8 1711 9/10 31.2 -16.1 52.10% 31 395
Patrick Mahomes 2014 4 1547 16/4 71.8 18.4 56.80% 9 261
Davis Webb 2013 6 2718 20/9 80.4 41.5 62.60% 7 413
Baker Mayfield 2013 7 2315 12/9 56.8 14.9 64.10% 24 459
David Ash 2011 6 1,079 4/8 30.2 -11.9 56.90% 16 260
Nick Florence 2009 7 1,786 6/9 58.5 5.2 62.00% 19 354
Robert Griffin III 2008 12 2,091 15/3 69.6 37 59.90% N/A* (Stats not found) 479
Texas Tech v TCU Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Judging from the table it looks like both Brock Purdy and Alan Bowman are way ahead of every quarterback on the list with the exception of Patrick Mahomes and Davis Webb. In my opinion Webb’s efficiency stats are lower than both Purdy and Bowman, while Mahomes had a high sack percentage, a low completion percentage, and a lower EPA value. Bowman and Purdy each have unique strengths, with Purdy being the more athletic playmaker, while Bowman has shown unique touch on the deep ball (though Purdy also excels) and pinpoint accuracy. Both Red Raiders and Cyclones alike should feel confident in their quarterbacks for at least the next two years.

In order to project Bowman’s potential impact over a full season I decided to duplicate the action plays and pass attempts for a similarly ranked quarterback that started all twelve games. That quarterback would be Boise State’s senior, Brett Rypien, who had a QBR of 70.8. Here are Bowman’s stats when extrapolated to meet Rypien’s action plays:

Alan Bowman vs. Brett Rypien (2018)

Quarterback Year YPA Passing Yards TD/Int Ratio QBR Total EPA Completion % Pass EPA Run EPA Sacks
Quarterback Year YPA Passing Yards TD/Int Ratio QBR Total EPA Completion % Pass EPA Run EPA Sacks
Alan Bowman 2018 8.07 3859 25/10 70.9 69.9 69.40% 67.2 2 12
Brett Rypien 2018 8.26 3705 30/7 70.8 64.7 67.30% 82 1.4 32

This table should give Red Raider fans a lot of confidence. Brett Rypien is a four year starter at Boise State that is considered to be a top three QB in the Group of Five. He was named the 2018 Mountain West Player of the Year. If Bowman can improve during the offseason he could set himself up to be a legitimate candidate for Big 12 Player of the Year. Tech fans should have a lot to be excited for with #10 at the helm.

Running Backs

Despite having five capable running backs at various points in the season, Texas Tech struggled to get the ground game going. No running back had more than 341 yards, and Jett Duffey led the team with 434 rushing yards. Listed below are the running back stats for this year via Bill Connelly’s stat profiles.

2018 Texas Tech Running Backs

Player Pos. Year Rushes Yards Yards/Carry TD Hlt Yds/Opp Opp Rate Marg. Eff. Marg. Expl. Fum (lost) Receiving Yds
Player Pos. Year Rushes Yards Yards/Carry TD Hlt Yds/Opp Opp Rate Marg. Eff. Marg. Expl. Fum (lost) Receiving Yds
Ta'Zhawn Henry 5'7, 170 FR 86 341 4 8 4.1 41.90% 0.60% -2.00% 1 (0) 145
Da'Leon Ward 5'10, 180 SO 79 341 4.3 3 3.8 44.30% -8.90% -3.00% 0 (0) 196
Demarcus Felton 5'7, 205 SR 62 295 4.8 6 5.37 43.60% 0.90% -2.00% 0 (0) 14
Tre King 5'11, 190 SR 40 160 4 1 4.12 42.50% 2.40% -4.00% 1 (0) 48
SaRodorick Thompson 6'0, 200 FR 25 105 4.2 3 5.95 32.00% -5.40% -8.00% 0 (0) 0

As you can see from the table, the running backs all had relatively poor explosiveness and poor Opp rate, which indicates mediocre blocking. HLT yards are yards attributed solely to the runner, and SaRodorick’s high rate is pretty encouraging considering his lack of OPP Rate. Interestingly enough, Ta’Zhawn Henry and Da’Leon Ward were the two lowest runners by HLT yards/OPP, which is against the norm of shiftier runners having higher HLT rates.

Overall, this group of running back showed some flashes of strength this season, however the advanced analytics are pretty poor. In order for this group to improve next year the line will have to step up. If they can do that, both SaRodorick and Ta’Zhawn should improve a ton and give the Red Raiders three legitimate backs next year.

Wide Receivers

Widely regarded as the biggest strength of the offense, the Texas Tech receiving corps was phenomenal in 2018. Antoine Wesley led the way with 1,410 yards and became third all time in total receiving yards in a season at Tech, while T.J. Vasher and Ja’Deion High each put up solid numbers. While the group was not exactly explosive, they provided a lot of reliable targets for whoever was at quarterback. Every receiver on the roster had at least a 50% catch rate.

Antoine Wesley was undoubtedly the team’s best receiver, as his 1,410 yards ranked second in the entire country. Believe it or not, he was not even a Biletnikoff award finalist for the nation’s best receiver, which went to Jerry Jeudy (who was statistically inferior.) Wesley led the team in receiving yardage for nine consecutive games from Lamar to Texas, and his six 100 yard games were the most by any Tech receiver since Jakeem Grant in 2015.

Texas v Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

Here is the chart for the entire group of Red Raider receivers, courtesy of Bill Connelly:

Texas Tech Receivers 2018

Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Targets Catches Yards TD Catch Rate Yds/Catch Yds/Target Marg. Eff. Marg. Expl.
Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Targets Catches Yards TD Catch Rate Yds/Catch Yds/Target Marg. Eff. Marg. Expl.
Antoine Wesley WR 6'5, 200 JR 131 88 1410 9 67.20% 16 10.8 14.90% 0.45
Ja'Deion High WR 5'11, 190 SR 80 62 804 4 77.50% 13 10.1 25.60% 0.04
T.J. Vasher WR 6'6, 190 SO 80 54 687 7 67.50% 12.7 8.6 12.20% 0.07
Seth Collins WR 6'3, 190 JR 42 32 317 2 76.20% 9.9 7.5 13.90% 0.04
Da'Leon Ward RB 5'10, 180 SO 33 26 196 1 78.80% 7.5 5.9 5.60% -0.24
KeSean Carter WR 5'11, 165 FR 32 26 238 1 81.30% 9.2 7.4 17.60% -0.01
Zach Austin WR 5'11, 195 SR 29 17 143 1 58.60% 8.4 4.9 -4.60% -0.16
Ta'Zhawn Henry RB 5'7, 170 27 22 145 1 81.50% 6.6 5.4 -6.20% -0.13
De'Quan Bowman WR 5'11, 190 SR 18 10 90 1 55.60% 9 5 0.50% -0.43
Tre King RB 5'11, 190 SR 10 8 48 0 80.00% 6 4.8 -7.90% -0.24
Demarcus Felton RB 5'7, 205 SR 7 3 14 0 42.90% 4.7 2 -11.60% -0.29
Dalton Rigdon WR 5'11, 170 FR 5 3 29 0 60.00% 9.7 5.8 18.00% 0.1
Erik Ezukanma WR 6'3, 180 FR 3 2 48 1 66.70% 24 16 7.60% 1.51
Donta Thompson WR 6'5, 225 JR 2 2 21 0 100.00% 10.5 10.5 48.20% 0.27

Here are a few main takeaways from this table:

  • Antoine Wesley’s explosiveness was significantly better than any other rotation receiver on the roster.
  • High and Wesley both averaged at least ten yards per target, which is indicative of their ability to consistently get first downs. Wesley had 55 catches go for first downs or touchdowns this season, which was second in the Big 12 behind Tylan Wallace
  • Ja’Deion High was extremely reliable out of the slot, catching 77% of the passes thrown his way. In an offense designed to get slot receivers easy yards, having a dependable target is vital towards having success.
  • Speaking of dependable: KeSean Carter caught 81% of his targets. While he was not explosive as the other slot receivers, it was surprising to see him fade in touches down the stretch. Early on Kliff drew up about five plays per game designed specifically to get KeSean the ball. Those disappeared down the stretch, and ultimately the lack of touches meant his production was nowhere near as high as it could’ve been. KeSean will almost certainly see a lot more playing time with Ja’Deion High gone, and could be a main piece in the Hair Raid offense.
  • I know it’s an extremely limited sample size, but I am very excited to see what Erik Ezukanma can do. With Wesley going pro I expect Erik to be put in the second outside receiver role alongside T.J. Vasher. His production will be worth watching during the spring scrimmages.
West Virginia v Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

Ultimately, we were extremely fortunate to have two NFL caliber receivers on the outside this year, as both Vasher and Wesley provided unique match-up nightmares for opposing defenses to dissect. While both Wesley and Ja’Deion High will be gone next year, the returning players at receivers should make Red Raider fans confident. T.J. Vasher will likely be a pre-season all conference player. KeSean Carter and Seth Collins should have expanded roles, and Erik Ezukanma should be able to put up big numbers next season. This could be the strength of the team next year.

Concluding Thoughts:

  • Alan Bowman is the man at quarterback. Bowman put up stats at the quarterback position that only Brock Purdy and Davis Webb could match as a true freshman in the Big 12. The offense was significantly better with him at the helm, and his poise was extremely important for this young Tech team.
  • Bowman’s injuries cost the team at least two games. With Bowman in Tech almost certainly wins against Texas (80% win expectancy; 3 Duffey turnovers) and likely doesn’t turn in their worst quarter of the season after halftime against OU.
  • SaRodorick Thompson has a ton of potential. His advanced stats show a runner that made the most of limited opportunities.
  • Ta’Zhawn Henry was surprisingly poor at generating explosive runs, however aside from the outgoing Demarcus Felton he was your most dependable back.
  • The running backs returning next year all bring different skillsets, though it should be noted the team did best with Henry starting.
  • The offensive line has to get better at run blocks. No back having an Opp rate higher than 50% indicates a lack of dependable run blocking, and that limits the potential of the offense.
  • Antoine Wesley was a beast. Plain and simple.
  • KeSean Carter was extremely dependable, and ideally could’ve used more targets. His growth will be worth monitoring next year.
  • The offense will look drastically different with a Tight End. Donta Thompson only caught two passes all season. Whoever plays Tight End vs. Montana State might have two catches on the first drive with the Hair Raid Offense.

Overall, this offense has a ton of talent that David Yost will inherit. Make no mistake: this is like inheriting a lightly used Mercedes. With a little tweaks it could become extremely explosive. There is talent and potential to be found at every position group. It will be exciting to see how the offense changes with David Yost, and with Alan Bowman being back I can’t wait to see his growth.

Part two of this series will take a closer look at the defense from this season, and will focus on some changes coming due to Keith Patterson’s philosophy.


What grade would you give the Texas Tech offense for the 2018 season?

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  • 6%
    (8 votes)
  • 45%
    (60 votes)
  • 40%
    (53 votes)
  • 5%
    (7 votes)
  • 2%
    (3 votes)
131 votes total Vote Now

Leave your takes on this offense in the comments below!