Since Tommy Tuberville's arrival in Lubbock, the Red Raider passing game has not been as dominant as it was under Mike Leach. This is by design, and as such, comes as no surprise.
Texas Tech has averaged 332 passing yards per contest under Tuberville, where the Red Raiders averaged 393 yards under Leach. Keep in mind, moreover, that Leach didn't even get the aerial show truly revved up until his third season; in 2000 and 2001 Tech averaged a comparatively meager 296 and 337 passing yards per game.
The primary reason for the reduction in Tech's passing yardage has been Tuberville's desire to beef up the running game. In the simplest terms possible, the Red Raiders have run more than they did under Leach, passed less, and the aerial numbers have declined concomitantly.
The 2012 season could be a very interesting one for the Tech passing game, however. Tuberville still desires to run the ball more effectively—make no mistake about that!—but there are huge questions looming over the ground game while the passing arsenal appears stable, experienced and well stocked. Does this set of circumstances foretell a return to truly gaudy passing numbers for the Red Raiders?
Will Texas Tech average more or less than 370 passing yards per game in 2012?
In 2006, which was Graham Harrell's first season as Tech's starting quarterback, the Red Raiders averaged 370 passing yards per contest. From 2002 to 2009, which were the seasons in which Leach's offense was at its most potent, that 370 yards per game was the low mark. The Cody Hodges-guided team of 2005 was next lowest with 385 yards passing per game.
Three hundred and seventy passing yards sounds like a great many, but it's all in how you look at it. In 2011, Nick Foles and the Arizona Wildcats threw for 370 yards per outing, and that was good enough for third best in the nation. On the other hand, Leach's Red Raiders routinely blew that number away, producing 417 passing yards per game in 2008, 474 in 2003 and 476 in 2007.
Seth Doege and his mates would not have to do much better than they did last season to eclipse the 370-yard barrier. In 2011 they passed and received for 345 yards per contest. So this mark is hardly beyond the pale.
And there are certainly factors that would make one think that 370 yards is in jeopardy.
First and most obvious, there is a wealth of talent and experience in the passing attack. Senior Seth Doege is in his second season as the starting quarterback and should be very comfortable behind center.
Then there are all those receivers. Eric Ward will be one of the Big 12's best, and a healthy Alex Torres will be a weapon too. Darrin Moore was the nation's leading receiver early last season until an injury in the Nevada game derailed him, and Bradley Marquez was Tech's most impressive receiver this spring. And that's just the outside receivers!
On the inside, Jakeem Grant is a newcomer who will make loud noises over the college football landscape, while Tyson Williams is another D1 rookie who will shake things up. And if Jace Amaro returns from myriad problems, he will be a mismatch nightmare.
Most quarterbacks would salivate at the prospect of throwing to such a talented group, and Doege may not have any choice.
Tech has but one surefire running back in the chute right now, and he's an untested JUCO transfer by the name of SaDale Foster. Leading backs Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington are rehabbing severe injuries, while other ace back Kenny Williams remains in legal limbo, at least for now. Should that trio miss a significant portion of the season, Tech's ground game will suffer and Doege and his wideouts will have to pick up the slack.
Adding to the likelihood that the Red Raider passing attack will surge will be the presence of an improved defense. In 2011 the Tech defense could only get off the field by allowing the opponent to score touchdowns. The 2012 unit looks good enough to get off the field the old fashioned way, and may even record a few three-and-outs. This means Tech's offense will get more cracks at racking up the yardage.
If the iffy offensive line comes together, there is good reason to believe the Red Raider passing attack will put up very impressive numbers. Mark yours truly as one who believes this will happen and Tech will surpass 370 passing yards per contest in 2012.