In just over a week the Masked Rider will gallop onto the field at Jones AT&T Stadium for the first time in about nine months, ushering in a new era of Texas Tech football after a disappointing end to the Kliff Kingsbury experiment.
Former Utah State coach Matt Wells and his crew have worked tirelessly to implement their ideals, values and strategies in a short window of time. The 46-year old from South Carolina is hoping the team will buy in to what they’re selling and establish a new culture of winning in Lubbock in the same way Chris Beard has galvanized the basketball program.
Unless tragedy strikes against Montana State or UTEP, we won’t really have an idea of what this team is made of until September 14, when Tech takes on Arizona in Tuscon. For now, all we know is that this team will be fascinating to watch—mostly from the number of intangibles riddled across the different positions.
In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about the Red Raiders entering 2019.
1) Who is the most important player on offense this season?
If you asked the 60,000 or so fans that will fill up Jones AT&T Stadium for each home game this season that same question, pretty much all 60,000 would say Alan Bowman.
And they would be right.
In David Yost’s high-octane, hurry-up offense, no player is as instrumental to this team’s ability to move the ball than the sophomore quarterback; who’s coming off an injury-plagued yet hope-inspiring freshman campaign. There were blindingly-bright moments, like when he threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns in the first half against Oklahoma before exiting the game with another partially-collapsed lung. He had a legitimate chance of pulling off an incredible upset over the Sooners before he went down, and the consequence of his exit dramatically changed the trajectory of the season.
2) Who is the most important player on defense this season?
In a post-Dakota Allen world, Jordyn Brooks holds the fate of the defense in his hands at the middle linebacker spot. The unquestioned leader of the unit, Brooks has All-Big 12 potential and a few gifted playmakers in the secondary and on the d-line to help him out in Adrian Frye and Broderick Washington, respectively. If these three players are successful, they’ll keep Tech in some games they should otherwise be losing, but it all starts with that crucial middle linebacker position. The good news for Tech fans is that Brooks was statistically more productive than Allen last year.
The Big 12 is obviously regarded as the best passing league in the country, but there are some dangerous backs who can do just as much damage as some of the big-name receivers. Brooks’s strength is his ability to limit opposing running backs’ success, and he’ll need to be sharper than ever this year with guys like Chuba Hubbard, Kennedy Brooks, Keaontay Ingram and Pooka Williams running directly downhill at the veteran linebacker.
3) What should be the biggest change between last year and this year?
The obvious change is the coaching staff. Coach Wells is working on installing a new culture, one that prides itself on discipline, accountability and work ethic. Nothing flashy: Hard-nosed football, respect for the run game, all while maintaining the Air Raid identity. It’s everything this program needs.
I also think a big change is that we actually have some certainty about and confidence in who will be taking snaps under center this season. There hasn’t been a quarterback Tech has really rallied around since Patrick Mahomes in 2016, but Alan Bowman is generating a lot of hype after an impressive freshman season. Was it a fluke, or have we found the quarterback of the future? I think the overwhelming opinion favors the latter. This kid is the real deal, he just needs to stay healthy.
4) What is the most important game on this schedule, and why?
Arizona. The way I see it, even though this is only the third game of the season, a loss here will prevent the Red Raiders from earning a bowl bid. (RELATED: The 3 games that will determine Tech’s bowl eligibility this season) If Tech can start out this season 3-0 with a road win over a Pac-12 team, who knows? Maybe they head into Norman with a surplus of confidence and pull off the upset they came so close to accomplishing last season.
5) What is your prediction for W/L record and postseason destination?
Well, we’ve got road games against Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, West Virginia and Arizona. Meanwhile, home matchups against Oklahoma State, TCU and Iowa State will prove to be very difficult. This schedule is absolutely brutal.
With underwhelming offensive line play and a slew of early season injuries, I don’t think Tech will get that much-needed win against Arizona. That means they’ll need to win four out of the season’s final nine games to reach bowl-eligibility. Who are the four most likely teams they have a chance to beat? I’d say the Red Raiders have a...
- 65 percent chance to win at Kansas
- 57 percent chance to beat Kansas State at home
- 51 percent chance to win at West Virginia
- 40 percent chance to beat Iowa State or TCU at home
As much as I want the Matt Wells era to begin with a postseason appearance, I just don’t see it happening. I think Tech finishes 5-7 in year one, with some bright spots to build on for the future. I believe Wells is the right man to bring the Red Raiders back to relevance in the Big 12, I just think he’s a year or two away.