For the 2012 Texas Tech football team, standing pat is not an option. Fan expectations are such that 5-7 records will not feed the bulldog. One miserable season was enough to start many sets of teeth to gritting. Back-to-back losing seasons would be intolerable.
Tommy Tuberville understands this as well as anybody, and that is reason it is rumored that he gave Otis Mounds, Matt Moore and Sam McElroy their walking papers. Official announcement is expected either Monday or Tuesday.
But getting rid of position coaches—as opposed to coordinators—is largely cosmetic and will not produce the seismic shifts necessary to right the Red Raider ship.
Failing the replacement of coordinators—which may or may not have done more harm than good—Tuberville simply must find new players who are significantly better than what he already has in the fold. Only better players will produce the immediate and dramatic results required to send the Red Raiders bowling again. And it may well be bowl or bust for Tuberville and his staff in 2012.
Now most of Tech's needs are obviously on the defensive side of the football, but not all of them.
On offense, strange as it may seem, the Red Raiders could use at least one more talented running back. Not so very long ago Tech had a logjam at this position. So much so that talented high school running back Bradley Marquez was immediately placed at receiver in summer workouts.
But events have conspired against the Red Raiders at this position. Harrison Jeffers quit football because of recurrent injuries. Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington, two extremely talented backs, succumbed to severe knee injuries and their availability for the 2012 season is in some question. Potential wunderkind Ronnie Daniels is no longer in the program and his return is doubtful. And Aaron Crawford has graduated.
This unfathomable attrition leaves sophomore Kenny Williams as the only back who has proven he can move the chains at the FBS level. Should he suffer some misfortune, Tech would be left with mini-mite Ben McRoy as the only scholarship running back on the roster.
It is clearly incumbent upon the Tech staff to find at least one quality running back who is neither a grade risk nor a character gamble, and who has no history of injury. Scatback Quinton White is Tech's lone running back commit at this point. Another running back commitment would not go amiss.
The Red Raiders could also use an infusion of talent at placekicker. Donnie Carona, who had a fine senior season, is gone. Without him, the 2011 season would have been even ghastlier than it was. Tech will be without him in 2012.
Ryan Bustin, a transfer from Kilgore College, may or may not be the answer. Whether or not Tech signs a kicker to a scholarship, it would behoove them to import another kicker, just in case Bustin is a bust. The Red Raiders don't want to be in the position of needing a miracle from Lynwood Town Homes to hit extra points for them.
But far and away Tech's greatest needs are on defense. There's no need to present a litany of nightmarish stats and results; it is already well known. Suffice it to say you can point your finger at any position on defense and chances are the Red Raiders need help there. But certain positions are even more dire than others.
Clearly, defensive tackle and noseguard are major needs. Because of injury to Donald Langley—himself a marginal player—Tech took the field against Baylor with Dennell Wesley and Kerry Hyder starting inside. The results were ugly.
Ideally, Wesley is a spot player and Hyder is a defensive end. But unless something dramatic happens, Wesley and Hyder will start in the season opener. As of the present, the only other options are sophomore Delvon Simmons, who is still a project, and undersized redshirt freshman Donte Phillips.
Tech's current commitment list shows J. J. Bynum and Anthony Smith, both solid high school recruits, as the only interior defensive linemen. Smith is a fireplug and may be able to contribute immediately. But if ever the Red Raiders needed a JUCO godsend it is right now at defensive tackle.
Had the Red Raiders been solid up front, the youth and inexperience at linebacker would not have been so devastating in 2011. Combine that inexperience with an overmatched defensive interior, however, and you've got the worst rushing defense in America.
Tech returns the linebacking quartet of Daniel Cobb, Blake Dees, Cqulin Hubert and Sam Equavoen. These players have no choice but to be better in 2012. Still, it would be madness to think one extra year of experience will turn this group into world-beaters or even upper level Big 12 performers. Help here is desperately needed.
Current commits are high schoolers Ryan Flanigan and Kris Williams. That is not good enough. The Nebraska Cornhuskers made tremendous hay with JUCO linebacker Lavonte David. Likewise, Tech needs desperately to hit on a backer from the junior college ranks.
Much has rightly been made of Tech's struggles against the run, but unbeknownst to many, the Red Raiders were also No.113 nationally in pass defense efficiency. It should also be noted that poor tackling by defensive backs contributed mightily to Tech's poor run defense.
The Red Raiders need help badly at all positions in the secondary. Terrance Bullitt is the only defensive back currently on the roster who is a reliable performer. Cornerback prospect La'Darius Newbold, a current Red Raider commit, should start immediately. Tech needs three or four more just like him.