Folks, it is that special time of year again. It is August, and therefore, football season.
Right now, Lubbock is one of the brighter places in the Big 12, I mean, when was the last time we, as a fanbase, were this excited about our football program?
For me? I don’t know if I have had this positive of an outlook since Kliff Kingsbury started his tenure at Tech with a 7-0 record in 2013. We finished 7-5 that season.
Needless to say, a lot has happened in nine years.
However, this season, and in the seasons to come, I think the offense will be back to scoring points.
Now, I’m not here to tell you to expect a 9-3 year or anything like that. Don’t do that. It won’t happen in year one. There are still some growing pains with this team, and they are learning new systems on both sides of the ball, under a first time head coach no less.
But, there is reason to think that this offense can put up some impressive numbers this year. It all starts with Zach Kittley.
One of the brighter young minds in this game (he turns 31 this month), Kittley returns to Lubbock, where he was a Student Assistant and Graduate Assistant before taking the OC/QBs job at Houston Baptist. We all remember HBU almost pulling off the upset of Tech a few years ago in a game Tech escaped with a 35-33 win.
Following the 2020 season, Kittley took over as OC/QBs coach at Western Kentucky where Bailey Zappe just finished last season breaking FBS Touchdown and Yardage Records for a single season. After last year, he accepted the position of OC/QBs coach at Texas Tech after Sonny Cumbie left to become Head Coach at Louisiana Tech.
Kittley likes to spread the field and create one-on-one matchups to be able to take some intermediate to deep shots throughout the game. This should come as a relief to those of you who are like me, and were absolutely tired of David Yost calling bubble screens every other play. I’ll link a basic YouTube video so you can understand the basics of how his offense works.
Now on to the running backs and receivers.
This season will look a lot like last year in terms of personnel, but hopefully both of our main running backs in Sarodorick Thompson and Tahj Brooks can stay healthy.
Thompson comes into the year weighing in at 220 lbs while Brooks has put on some weight as well, clocking in at 230 lbs. Thompson, a senior, will most likely split time with the junior Brooks, in a system that will be used more effectively because of the stable of massive lineman and tight ends the Red Raiders have coming into this season. Kittley and Joey McGuire have already said there will be some 12 and 13 personnel (multiple tight ends) on the field frequently. This will set the run and play action up to excel, and when you have RBs like Thompson and Brooks, the end result looks pretty nice.
Brooks and Thompson combined for over 1,000 yards and 17 TDs last season where each saw time away from the field due to injuries. If both of these guys remain healthy, this season could be special for them. I truly think that other than Roschon Johnson and Bijan Robinson at Texas, Brooks and Thompson could be the best RB duo in the conference.
This offseason, Tech lost Erik Ezukanma to the NFL Draft. Without Easy-E, the Red Raiders will look to fill his shoes with some familiar names, and a new face.
The Red Raiders have two senior wideouts, with Chad Townsend making the switch this offseason from RB to Receiver, along with longtime mainstay Xavier White. White is looking to improve on his stats from last year, where he caught 18 balls for 133 yards and 1 TD. The top receiver coming back from last years roster, is junior Myles Price. Price caught 38 balls for 523 yards and 2 TDs last season. Along with Price, are juniors Loic Fouonji, Trey Cleveland, and Cameron Cantrell. Fouonji will have a bigger role on this team as he played behind Ezukanma last season, while Trey Cleveland came on strong at the end of the year.
There are two sophomores, maybe three, that I think could make some huge strides and have a significant impact on the receiving core this season. JJ Sparkman, Nate Floyd, and incoming transfer Brady Boyd. Sparkman caught the only TD pass in the bowl game against Mississippi State, and at 6’4”, I think he can make an immediate impact after playing in 9 games last year.
Brady Boyd transferred in from Minnesota after playing in 9 games for the Golden Gophers. He went to school at Southlake Carroll, where in his senior season, he caught 71 balls for 1,159 yards and 18 TDs, including a 12 catch 190 yard and 2 TD game against Austin Westlake in the 6A State Championship. Boyd has raw talent as his numbers above show, and I think in the right offensive system he will flourish.
Jerand Bradley, a redshirt freshman played in four games last year, including the Liberty Bowl, where he had two catches for 64 yards including that big 50+ yard catch that set up a Myles Price TD on the next play. Bradley is an athlete that can make an immediate impact because of his size, let alone his talent. He stands at 6’5” and 215 lbs. thus fitting into the taller mold of Tech receivers of the past such as TJ Vasher or Antoine Wesley, both of whom are in the NFL.
Speaking of height, it is an advantage with this receiving corps as JJ Sparkman, Trey Cleveland, Jerand Bradley, and Loic Fouonji all stand at 6’4” or taller, not to mention some of the tight ends, such as Mason Tharp who comes in at 6’9”.
No matter who starts under center this fall, they will have plenty of playmaking options in the form of RBs and Receivers. With these skill players, matched with an elite offensive mind in Zach Kittley, don’t be surprised if the Red Raiders catch a few defenses off guard this season with their play.
Its football season in Lubbock once again, get out to the Jones to support this team and new coaching staff!