Thus far, owing to Tommy Tuberville's abhorrence of wind, even the media have only just glimpsed the 2012 Texas Tech football team. Barring an early morning dust storm of epic proportions that will change on February 25. Here are some facets of the game all Red Raider fans should pay special attention to.
Pass Rush/Pass Protection: Texas Tech's pass rush didn't have much punch a year ago, and with talented defensive end Scott Smith no longer in the fold, this is certainly an area of concern.
New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman is still installing his defensive package, so the pass rush will probably be quite vanilla, but it would still be nice to see the defensive line generate some heat on Seth Doege and Michael Brewer.
If anybody is going to create havoc, it will likely be Dartwan Bush. But help from Kindred Evans, Branden Jackson and Leon Mackey would be most appreciated, as would interior disruption from Kerry Hyder and Delvon Simmons.
The defensive line will face a Tech offensive line that is experienced and talented, but also has players playing new positions. Center Deveric Gallington is in a new role, as is right guard Terry McDaniel. Backup left guard Alfredo Morales has been an elemental force in practice so far. Keep an eye on him.
The Quarterbacks: The quarterbacks…always with the quarterbacks! Yes, it is an obvious and tired refrain, but Tech's quarterback situation bears watching. Neither Doege nor Brewer has particularly stood out in practice to this point, and both need to. Doege must elevate his game and Brewer needs to hit the ground running if he's going to see meaningful snaps in the fall as Tuberville has indicated he will.
Will Smith: It's still early days, but this junior college transfer outside linebacker has already raised some eyebrows. Not only is he a physical specimen, he plays like one.
But he must prove himself at each progression of his career. Smith has done well in practice, now he needs to do the same in a scrimmage. If he rises to the occasion in scrimmages, the next tests will be non-conference and ultimately Big 12 games. But first things first—let's see what Smith can do in his first scrimmage.
Coverage: The Red Raiders were abysmal across the board defensively last season and pass coverage was no exception. But when we last saw the Red Raiders—before the gales of February arrived—Tech's linebackers and defensive backs were plastering running backs and receivers.
Tackling: Suffice it to say that if the 2011 Red Raiders had missed only half as many tackles as they actually did, the team would have won a couple more games. Tech's defense tackled poorly indeed, and that must change. So watch to see if Kaufman's guys can make the routine tackles in space. If they can, it'll be a vast improvement over what we've seen the last couple of seasons.