With the Red Raiders left with really no choice but to get rid of head coach Mike Leach at the end of last season, they entered the offseason looking for a new head football coach, and while many thought Ruffin McNeil, who stepped in for Leach to coach the Red Raiders to a win over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl, would get the job, the Red Raiders went out and signed former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville.
Tuberville doesn’t plan to completely change up the Red Raiders high flying passing attack, but will make some changes that should make the offense a little less explosive than it has been in years past. What Tuberville will bring is a much more defensive minded approach to the Red Raiders, something they lacked with Leach in charge. The Red Raiders have 14 starters back for the upcoming season, and here is a quick look at both sides of the ball, plus my prediction on where Texas Tech finishes the season in the highly competitive Big 12 South.
It will be interesting to see who wins the quarterback job this fall between senior Taylor Potts and senior Steven Sheffield. Potts took the majority of the snaps in 2009 throwing for 3,440 yards with 23 touchdowns to 14 interceptions, while Sheffield was also impressive when he was on the field throwing for 1,219 yards with 14 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions, and you can’t forget his fourth quarter performance against Michigan State, where he led the Red Raiders to a comeback win.
Look for senior running back Baron Batch to get more carries this season with Tuberville in charge. Batch led the Red Raiders with 884 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns in 2009. The team also returns sophomore back Eric Stephens and the explosive Harrison Jeffers to get in on the action this season.
All the weapons in the passing game return for the Red Raiders this season. Senior Detron Lewis led the way with 844 yards receiving and six touchdowns, but the guy to watch out for is sophomore Alexander Torres, who had a team best 67 catches for 806 yards and five scores last season. Also back are seniors Lyle Leong and Tramain Swindall.
Even with all the weapons the Red Raiders return at the skill positions, just how good this unit is will come down to the play of the offensive line that has to replace three starters from last year’s squad. If this unit can find away to plug in new pieces and keep whoever starts at quarterback off their back, I think this offense has the potential to win this team a lot of games in 2010.
It will be very interesting to see how much better the Red Raiders improve on this side of the ball over the next couple of years. Tuberville brought in James Willis, a former assistant of his at Auburn, to be the teams new defensive coordinator. The defense will have some learning to with the team shifting to a 3-4 scheme this season.
Up front the Red Raiders will bring back starting nose tackle Colby Whitlock, but will have to find two new starters at the two defensive end spots. It looks like junior Donald Langley and red-shirt freshman Kerry Hyder have the early edge to step in and start, but there is some depth here and they will likely rotate a number of players in throughout the game.
At linebacker the Red Raiders should benefit from adding an extra man to this group, as they return four of their top six linebackers from 2009. Senior middle linebacker Bront Bird should be a force in the middle, while senior Brian Duncan has the potential to put up some big numbers in this system.
The Red Raiders also have some experience back in the secondary, as they return three of four starters to this group from 2009. The Red Raiders really like sophomore safety Cody Davis, and I look for another big season from him in 2010, after Davis finished second on the team with 81 tackles in 2009. Fellow sophomore DJ Johnson is expected to take over at the vacated corner spot, and will start opposite of returning starter LaRon Moore.
It would be a huge surprise for the Red Raiders to finish much higher than fourth this season in the South with so many changes taking place. I currently have them finishing behind Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M. We will get a really good idea of just how good this team is when they host instate rival Texas on Sept. 18.
For a complete look at the Big 12 Conference, check out Jimmy Boyd’s 2010 Big 12 predictions. If you plan on making money betting on college football this season, be sure to check out our live college football odds feed each week.