Texas Tech 2016 Football Preview: Breakdown, Keys to Success & Predictions

Texas Tech 2016 Football Preview: Breakdown, Keys to Success & Predictions
By Jeff Watson

Conference: Big 12
Head Coach: Kliff Kingsbury, Quarterbacks, Fourth Season, 19-19 record (1-1 bowl games)
Offensive Coordinator: Eric Morris, Inside Receivers, Fourth Season 

Air Raid, Spread Offense

Defensive Coordinator: David Gibbs, Safties, Second Season

Multiple 4-3, Turnover Focused

2015 Record: 7-6, 4-5
2015 Bowl: Advocare V100 Texas Bowl (Lost to LSU in the Texas Bowl, 56-27
Returning Starters on Offense: 5
Returning Starters on Defense: 7
Key Losses: Jakeem Grant (WR), Le’Raven Clark (OL), DeAndre Washington (RB), Jared Kaster (C), Alfredo Morales (OL), Pete Robertson (LB/DE), Braden Jackson (DE)


Texas Tech’s Offense
The Red Raider attack averaged 45 points per game, 388 passing yards, and 580 total yards in the 2015 campaign. These “PlayStation-like” numbers were legit enough for the tortilla tossing offense finish ranked second in the nation in each of the offensive categories mentioned. It sounds crazy to predict the 2016 offense will top these numbers and in all likelihood lead the nation this season in a bunch more categories. The school known for signal callers slangin the rock will have their all-world QB Patrick Mahomes back firmly entrenched at the position, and will show even more command of this offense since breaking-up with baseball. Mahomes has the passing skills necessary to perfectly fits this Air Raid attack, and the numbers should be astronomical again with some solid pass pro this season. The O-line is somewhat concerning having to undergo an overhaul with inexperienced players having to start at three different slots up front. They will have two big boys in Baylen Brown and Tony Morales returning to provide veteran leadership for an all too important bunch of ballers needing to let the star QB do his thing to help the team win.

The receiving corps is going to be solid and one of their strengths for this team having numerous quality targets for Mahomes to find. Although, there is no alpha-dog leading this pack who stands out as the playmaker as many Tech teams had in the past. WR Reginald Davis grow could the one all-star they need to emerge. Davis showed some big play ability scoring 8 touchdowns on just 38 catches last season making him a viable scoring threat for the team. Can Davis hit a few more homers this season only tipping the scales at 6-0 and 188 pounds? The Big 12 Academic All Conference receiver needs to step up with Sadler to be one of the main weapons on the perimeter.

There is no doubt losing running back DeAndre Washington will be tough because of his surprising production last season, but Justin Stockton has the speed and talent to do what the Red Raider offense needs. He has been crowned “the one” going into the 2016 season, and as rapper Trick Daddy used to rhyme, Justin Stockton can “Take it to Da House”.

Texas Tech Offensive Keys to Success
The front five wasn’t all that bad in pass protection last season allowing just 27 sacks in 620 pass attempts, but for a system that is designed to get the ball out quickly, it was is too high. Tech only allowed 13 sacks in Kliff Kingsbury’s second season in 2014 after drastic improvement following a despicable 33-sack-season in 2013. The most important position group in all of sports has to avoid falling back into this on again, off again seasons. Center Tony Morales was granted a sixth year due to medical hardship so he will be a welcomed back anchor to lead this front. Brown will have to be solid at the right tackle position (maybe left tackle as some have him listed) due to some new bodies.

Here are some neat numbers I came across on the offensive line that may be of interest. I credit the Football Outsiders website for this O-line statistical information. Who ever said it it wasn’t sexy to be an O-lineman?

Offense Adj. LY Rk Std. Downs Line Yards Rk Pass. Downs Line Yards Rk Opp. Rate Rk Power Success Rate Rk Stuff Rate Rk Adj Sack Rate Rk Std. Downs Sack Rate Rk Pass. Downs Sack Rate Rk
Texas Tech 119.6 8 3.58 2 3.79 17 45.2% 6 88.2% 2 14.9% 5 152.0 24 3.8% 41 5.8% 34
Run-blocking stats
• Adjusted Line Yards: One of only two opponent-adjusted numbers on the page, this aligns with the ALY figure FO tracks for the NFL and is presented on a scale in which 100.0 is perfectly average, above 100 is good, below 100 is bad.
• Standard Downs Line Yards per Carry: The raw, unadjusted per-carry line yardage for a team on standard downs (first down, second-and-7 or fewer, third-and-4 or fewer, fourth-and-4 or fewer).
• Passing Downs Line Yards per Carry: The same unadjusted averages for rushing on passing downs.
• Opportunity Rate: The percentage of carries (when five yards are available) that gain at least five yards, i.e. the percentage of carries in which the line does its job, so to speak.
• Power Success Rate: This is the same as on the pro side — percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown.
• Stuff Rate: Same as STUFFED on the pro side — percentage of carries by running backs that are stopped at or before the line of scrimmage.
Pass-blocking stats
• Adjusted Sack Rate: An opponent-adjusted version of a team’s sack rate — sacks divided by (sacks plus passes), presented on a scale in which 100 is perfectly average, above 100 is good, below 100 is bad.
• Standard Downs Sack Rate: Unadjusted sack rate for standard downs pass attempts.
• Passing Downs Sack Rate: Unadjusted sack rate for passing downs pass attempts.

Ian Sadler, WR- Can Sadler turn into one of those great slot WR that Texas Tech seems to be known for in their system. Maybe Sadler can be something like a Wes Welker or Danny Amendola type of player? Ok, that’s a lot to ask and it remains to be seen, but Red Raider fans would probably give their tortilla-toting arm for that type of big play dependability. Sadler was a go to target for Mahomes last year when they needed a big play so there could be some chemistry brewing into something special. Averaging 14.2 yards per catch last year he is Tech’s top pass catching WR returning for what hopes to be a scoreboard breaking 2016 season.
Receiving: 42 catches 596 yds, 3 TD

Justin Stockton, RB- Stockton “took it to the house” on many plays last season proving to be the best homerun threat at any of their skill positions on the team. He is the fastest player on the team and Kingsbury is promoting him as “the guy” this season proving his ability as he scored five touchdowns on just 61 carries last season. He needs to carry a significant workload replacing key production from Washington last season who had one of the most impressive seasons for a RB in the Tech Air Raid era. His smaller sample size numbers from last season actually favorably compare to Washington during last season.

2015 61 367 6.0 54 5 22 341 15.5 50 6
2014 48 396 8.3 75 4 12 76 6.3 17 1

Baylen Brown, OT- Started previous 3 seasons off and on for this OL unit providing some leadership and solidifying needed experience for a team replacing 3 starters from the OL. Brown made 12 appearances last season including 11 starts and is listed as the team’s anchor at tackle. He made the move to right tackle during training camp and was part of a 2015 Red Raider offensive line that allowed just 27 sacks and 5.2 tackles for losses allowed on the season. Brown has started in 18 of Texas Tech’s last 20 games but now needing to protect their star QB. The 6’5, 305 pounder will have some help in center Tony Morales who was granted a 6th season for medical hardship.

Best Offensive Player
Pat Mahomes, QB- The 6-3, 215-pound Junior was only the third QB in Big 12 history to account for over 5,000 of total offense last season. When you are the QB that led an offense now boasting the most points ever scored by a Texas Tech offense you are going to get some fanatic attention. Considering the prolific Air Raid teams that stepped onto Jones Stadium over the years it is a feat worth noting and promoting. Mahomes has been described as a “bomber”, a fair comparison, but I say he is better described as a “fighter-bomber” such as the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak aircraft. The guy can bomb the deep ball as we know, but he has shown legitimate accuracy and a competitive will to fight for every yard when he so often extends broken plays with his athletic ability. Last year he threw for 4,653 yards and 36 touchdowns in the best season by any Red Raider quarterback since Graham Harrell (UNT Mean Green OC) threw for 5,111 yards and 45 touchdowns in the epic 2008 campaign. Mahomes participated in spring drills for the first time in his career since not playing baseball any longer, a fearful thought for opposing coaches and defenses already under the impression he had total command of this offense. More records are going down in Lubbock!
Passing: 364 of 573, 4,653 yds, 36 TD, 15 Int
Rushing: 131 att, 456 yds, 10 TD

Texas Tech’s Defense
The 2015 Texas Tech defense was historically awful and set records for their inability to make stops. It isn’t a complicated to figure out why Texas Tech has such a poor record….just get a darn stop on third down. Or as I heard hundreds of times in practice during my both my playing and coaching days, “GET OFF THE FIELD”. Tech’s defense wasn’t just bad in a single defensive category, but downright awful against the run giving out first downs like it was Christmas morning.

The Red Raiders finished second-to-last in the nation in total defense, allowing a mind-blowing 548 yards per game. The 2015 defense gave up 43.6 points/game and got schooled by all the top teams in the Big 12 and whomever had any type of offense. This team needs the secondary to be the defensive strength to win and improve this defense as an entire unit. That said, the defensive line will have to make big strides on the field to get this team to compete for a conference title and big time bowl game. But in my opinion, it begins and ends with the secondary. As run stoppers and big play robbers.
The sacks weren’t there from the front four last season so the DL has to put more pressure on the QB. Defensive lineman Breiden Fehok brings some hope to a front needing a spark plug where the LB and secondary can not have as much pressure to stop the run and pay the pass in such a pass friendly league. Losing what was to be one of their best defenders in LB Dakota Allen hurts this team, but they have enough talent to be much better and second year coordinator David Gibbs is teaching this defense to create turnovers and make plays while focusing on stopping the run. He is preaching the importance of making the offense more predictable in their pass-run play calling serving as an added advantage for both his own play-calling and this defense who is in need of any advantages they can get.

Texas Tech Defensive Keys to Success
Have I mentioned a few stops against the run would be paramount to the success of the defense and team? Only three times did the Tech defense allow less than 200 yards rushing in a game last season while padding-up the stats on the Red Raiders front seven that gave up 49 rushing scores, gave up 300 yards or more seven times and allowed over six yards per carry. This doesn’t help the Big 12 perception that no defense is played or the lack of defensive toughness. Maybe that is changing for some of the teams in the Big 12, but it remains to be seen for this squad desperately needing to make some noise right now.
Malik Jenkins, LB- Dakota Allen was slated to be the man in the middle, but as mentioned he was dismissed from the team with three other players back in May. Jenkins hast the most experience to replace Allen and he has the requisite size to play the in the middle (6’1, 225 lbs) considering Big 12 standards and having to play in space. The coaches mentioned all spring how Jenkins had cross-trained at every linebacker spot, so if the coaches deem the middle linebacker spot more important that is where he is most likely to make a difference.

Broderick Washington, DT – The 6-3, 308-pound Washington was a quality recruit having above average toughness along with the proper demeanor to fight the line of scrimmage to hold his own. He doesn’t have to be flashy and he is not. Although he is young, if he rises up into a steady starter, the Tech defensive weakness could turn into something of a strength. They do have some improving talent on the inside, but now everyone has show production to help anchor the miserable run defense. Having an even average run stopping squad to get them off the field would be a welcome notion to those of the Guns Up Nation. Along with Michigan transfer Ondre Pipkins, the Red Raiders need interior help to go along with Breiden Fehoko. Saying this D-line has to be far better (and most likely will be) is just a bit of an understatement.

Best Defensive Player
Jah’Shawn Johnson, S
He is becoming one of the best at his position on the Big 12 while possessing that sparkplug type build at 5-10 and 180 pounds. He has a nose for the ball and he will put a lid on you too. He reminds me of a Bob Sanders type of player who used to play close to the line of scrimmage and pop some ball carriers, maybe too much. My concern for Johnson is staying healthy with his style of play which got him hurt early on as a freshman and missed most of the season, but it allowed him to redshirt. Last year he finished third on the team with 85 stops including two picks – taking one for a score against Kansas – with 16 tackles in the win over Arkansas and 11 in the loss to West Virginia..

The Texas Tech Football Team Will Have a Successful season if…
It’s a nine-win season- It may take a bowl game to get to nine wins for this squad, but with six home games in the first nine games it will be a good start in that direction. It will take some big wins on the road to make it a successful season, ,but it is time for KK to produce as the head ball coach in Lubbock.
The defense has to make some stops or they are doomed!
Key Game
at Kansas State, Oct. 8 – 1st big road test of the season in the Big 12. Can they win in Manhatten, KS, and head into the WVU at 5-0 at home before OU comes to Lubbock? Their second half of the schedule is tough and they better be 1 loss of less heading into the OU game to have a chance at nine wins this season.
Funky Fun Stats
– Field Goals: Texas Tech 16-of-19 – Opponents 9-of-18
– Rushing TDs Allowed: Opponents 49 – Texas Tech 34
– Points Per Game: Texas Tech 45.1 – Opponents 43.6

Tech Tidbits-Texas Tech University is located in Lubbock, TX, began playing football in 1925. The Red Raiders play at Jones AT&T stadium holding a rowdy crowd capacity of 60,454 and known to participate in a unique tradition of throwing tortillas at opposing teams when entering the field of play. The tradition of throwing tortillas has very humble origins. EverythingLubbock.com reported the tradition hails from 1989, when students first started by taking the lids off of their 44oz cokes and threw them on the field. The lids were soon gone on these beverages, but since tortillas are a pretty popular tailgate food item, readily available in Texas due to our proud ethnic diversity, they became the throwing item of choice. A more dramatic version of the story claims the tradition throwing tortillas began when Texas A&M visited Lubbock in 1992. The tenth-ranked Aggies playing at Tech brought the attention of ESPN to town and an ESPN announcer proclaimed “nothing but Tech football and a tortilla factory in Lubbock”. Therefore, in a little bit of ironic comedy, tortillas were thrown before the game onto the field. Tradition really began because the Red Raiders went on to upset the Aggies, and so it goes Tech fans just kept doing it before games after that victory.
The Texas Tech football program, not their basketball program playing a traditionally higher scoring sport with a greater lopsided probability, holds the record for the most lopsided victory in school history. The Tech 2015-16 men’s basketball team averaged 72.0 points per game and the highest point total this past season was 94. To put their potent, high-scoring Air Raid era into perspective, Tech scored 80, 75, and 70 points during the Mike Leach era, making 80 points almost more than the season high point total for their basketball team. The tech football program put up 120 points setting the record for most points scored in a single game and happened to be the same game boasting the most lopsided win in school history. And in another surprising revelation, the record-setting game was played in 1925, not in the Air Raid era. Texas Tech beat Wayland Baptist University 120-0 only 19 years after the forward pass became legal in college football. Say what? The spread offense has increased scoring in modern college football, but it is likely that Tech overpowered Wayland in 1925. This is pure speculation because records from the game are not available.