Buckle Up for Season 2 of the Kingsbury Era

Texas Tech begins its second season under coach Kliff Kingsbury 6 p.m. Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium against Central Arkansas.

2014 Schedule
Saturdayvs Central ArkansasTied, 0-0
Sep 6at UTEPTech leads, 14-6-1
Sep 13vs ArkansasArkanas leads, 28-7
Sep 20vs OPEN
Sep 25at *Oklahoma StateTech leads, 21-17-3
Oct 4at *Kansas StateTech leads, 8-5
Oct 11vs *West VirginiaTech leads, 2-1
Oct 18vs *KansasTech leads, 14-1
Oct 25at TCUTech leads, 30-23-3
Nov 1vs *TexasTexas leads, 47-15
Nov 8vs OPEN
Nov 15vs *OklahomaOklahoma leads, 15-6
Nov 22at *Iowa StateTech leads, 9-3
Nov 29at *Baylor (Arlington, TX)Tech leads, 36-34
Dec 6vs OPEN

The 2014 Texas Tech football season begins with a scenario that is extremely familiar to the fans: the Red Raiders will field an explosive offense and hope that the defense has improved enough to make them legitimate contenders for the Big 12 title. Only once, in 2008, did those hopes fully materialize.

Triggering the Tech attack will be sophomore Davis Webb. As a true freshman Webb was up and down, but finished the season on an extremely high note, leading the Red Raiders to an upset win over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl and copping MVP honors. Everybody close to the program fully expects Webb to develop into an elite quarterback as a sophomore, and to emerge as a serious NFL prospect. Backing up Webb will be true freshman Patrick Mahomes.

At running back, Tech has all sorts of depth, but no single ball carrier who strikes fear into the opposition. The starter will be junior Deandre Washington, with Quinton White the primary backup. A pair of true freshman could also be in the mix. Reports are that Washington has had a superb fall camp, but truthfully, similar words have been heard about Tech backs over the last few years and never have they proved accurate. Only time will tell whether or not Washington really is a candidate for postseason hardware.

At receiver the Red Raiders, as ever, are loaded for bear. Despite losing the best tight end in school history to the NFL, the present group should be better than last year’s unit. The starters will be D.J. Polite-Bray and Reggie Davis on the outside, with Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez on the inside. Polite-Bray is a speedster, Davis is dangerous with the ball in his hands, Grant is a potential All American, and Marquez is a physical receiver who becomes deadlier the closer he gets to the opposing end zone. All have excellent hands. Depth comes from a batch of clutch possession receivers and another lightning bolt named Devin Lauderdale.

The Tech offensive line also figures to be a team strength. Le’Raven Clark is an honors candidate at either left tackle or right guard, which may be his most natural position. Alfredo Morales, Jared Kaster and Reshod Fortenberry are all veterans, while current right guard Baylen Brown, a sophomore, may be the most talented player in the group. Two true freshmen and a JUCO transfer are in the two-deep, and that may be cause for some concern.

The Red Raider defensive line, often a weakness, shapes up as the best such unit Tech has fielded in many a moon, particularly if a couple of newcomers pan out as expected. The current starters are Branden Jackson, Jackson Richards and Demetrius Alston, and they are all in the 6-foot-4 270 range. They are solid veterans, but hitherto have not shown a lot of flash. That may come from the backups, however. Rika Levi is a 340-pound monster at nose tackle; Gary Moore is expected to be an electrifying pass rushing specialist, and 310-pound Keland McElrath has wowed coordinator Matt Wallerstedt with the size and strength he brings to the table. As a total unit, this group has a bit of experience, size, strength and speed. As Wallerstedt is wont to say, there are a lot of moving parts.

Linebacker is an intriguing position, but also one that triggers spasms of concern. There are no worries whatsoever about outside backer Pete Robertson and inside backer Sam Eguavoen, however. Robertson has the entire package you want in an outside backer and looks to finally maximize his potential this year. Eguavoen is the defense’s quarterback and the most experienced player on the entire team. They will be one of the better linebacker tandems in the Big 12.

The other two spots, however, must be classed as question marks. Next to Eguavoen the starter is Utah transfer V.J. Fehoko. He draws praise for his intensity and physicality; we will see how he fares in pass coverage. Opposite Robertson will be Kenny Williams, last year’s starting running back. Many observers find it hard to digest that a career running back could suddenly become an effective Big 12 outside linebacker, but Williams was immediately anointed the starter and has maintained that position.

There is talent in the second unit of the linebackers, but it is, by and large, unproven.

The Tech secondary is very much a tale of two positions. At safety, worries are few. Strong safety J.J. Gaines will be a star if he can avoid injury, while free safety Keenon Ward, although only a sophomore, has deeply impressed teammates and coaches alike. Quality depth comes from JUCO transfer Josh Keyes and redshirt freshman Jalen Barnes, among other top-flight prospects.

Matters at cornerback are rather less reassuring. Boundary corner Justis Nelson, however, looks like a star in the making, and could be Tech’s best in literally decades. On the other side of the field, however, the current two-deep lists true freshmen Tevin Madison and Jah’Shawn Johnson. Either Madison and Johnson are special talents, or Tech never had anything at that position to begin with. We will discover the truth as the season develops.

Punter Taylor Symmank has a big leg, and field goal kicker Ryan Bustin has had a solid collegiate career, although he was singularly ineffective in spring ball. Kick returners are slated to be Jakeem Grant, who has shown flashes of greatness in the past, and Reggie Davis. True freshman Cameron Batson is expected to handle punt return duties.

Tech’s schedule, although hardly a cakewalk, looks more manageable than in past seasons. The only true non-conference threat is Arkansas, and that game will be played in Lubbock. Then, the scariest bit commences when the Red Raiders open conference play at Oklahoma State and draw Kansas State in Manhattan the very next week. A split is needed. The Red Raiders draw Texas and Oklahoma in Lubbock back-to-back, although with a bye week before the clash with the Sooners.

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