1. Sloppy and disorganized
I have always associated penalties and turnovers with coaching as penalties=focus and turnovers=focus/want-to. Texas Tech is a young team being coached by a young coaching staff, so perhaps it is no surprise it has made so many mental mistakes early on this season.
Texas Tech is starting to come up with turnovers on defense as they created a pair in each of its last two games, but still rank among the worst in the nation in turnover margin at minus-5. The Red Raiders also figure to rank dead last in penalties and penalty yardage after this weekend.
It is nearly impossible to win football games this way.
2. Mike Smith made a difference
In terms of physicality and assignment football, the Red Raider defense appeared to be a completely different squad up front against Oklahoma State. Tech gave up almost 300 yards less on the ground against the Cowboys than the prior game against Arkansas.
There are some other factors at play such as Oklahoma State's style and caliber of offensive line, but the facts are interim defensive coordinator Mike Smith had his guys ready to play on Thursday and that is the first time you can say that about the Texas Tech defense this season.
3. OL is better than expected
Center Jared Kaster said earlier this week many expected the offensive line to be a weak spot of the offense and the players took it personally. Whatever the veteran group is doing they need to keep it going as they have been a bright spot. Yes, they have contributed heavily to the penalty fiasco, but they are also consistently opening running lanes for the running backs and giving the quarterbacks time to deliver the ball.
This is a veteran group with a lot of experience coming into its own. There's still plenty of room for improvement, so don't be surprised if they are a real force by November.
4. DeAndre Washington is the real deal
Dre is having a very good season. The junior is a noticeably quicker and more decisive runner than a year ago. He's also breaking tackles left and right, in fact one defender usually never takes him down, which is what you want.
Washington leads Texas Tech on the ground with 299 yards and a touchdown on 53 carries for an average of 5.6 yards per carry. He's also caught 10 passes for 60 yards.
Sophomore Quinton White and true freshman Justin Stockton have both been effective rushers as well as the running back position has proven to be one of the major strengths, if not THE strength of the team.
5. The secondary is young, but talented
Heading into the season the secondary, especially the young cornerbacks, were my primary concern. The Red Raiders' top four corners appear to be sophomore Justis Nelson and a trio of true freshmen in Tevin Madison, Jah'Shawn Johnson and newly reinstated Nigel Bethel.
The Tech defensive backs weren't tested much through three games as they faced heavy rushing attacks. Yet, against Oklahoma State that inexperience was victimized as the Cowboys passed for 394 yards and four touchdowns. As this season moves along and the Red Raiders face the more talented quarterbacks and receivers the Big 12 has to offer, look for the corners to be tested.
That being said, I believe this group is talented and will improve with experience as long as it can stay confident and battle through the adversity which is sure to come.
6. Nervous Team
Teams take on certain personalities over the course of a season and one of those Texas Tech has shown is that of a nervous ball club.
Davis Webb could be described as jittery in the pocket, despite good protection as he wasn't sacked through three games. Ironically, he looked as composed as ever Thursday as he side stepped pressure on more than one occasion before leaving the game due to an injured left shoulder on a scramble.
Whether it be the punter dropping the snap, receivers dropping passes, defensive backs misjudging the ball in the air, etc. the Red Raiders appear to be a nervous group so far.
7. WRs are up and down
The receiving corps talent is undeniable as at times the Red Raiders look uncoverable, yet inconsistent play is really hurting the offense.
Sophomore Reginald Davis is a perfect example. Thursday night in Stillwater he hauled in six passes for 73 yards, including a pair of scoring grabs where he made the Cowboys secondary look silly. On the other hand he let several one-on-one opportunities on deep balls slip through his fingers. Veterans Bradley Marquez and Jakeem Grant took turns looking dominant only to turn around and commit drive-killing drops.
It does look as if Texas Tech has found its big target in Dylan Cantrell after a breakthrough performance on Thursday.
8. QB is a problem
Davis Webb is a big, talented quarterback with a huge arm, but he's also inaccurate and turnover prone. That may be irrelevant in the immediate future as his left shoulder injury could keep him out for an extended period of time.
If that is the case, in steps true freshman Patrick Mahomes, the talented, yet inexperienced (common theme) backup from Whitehouse. It is always scary to start a true frosh behind center, but it's even scarier when the guys behind him are walk-ons.
9. Junior College defensive linemen will improve
It's obvious the defensive line is coming on as junior college linemen Keland McElrath, Marcus Smith and Rika Levi continue to get more seasoning. As crazy as this may sound, I think this group might actually turn out to be a strength by the end of the season assuming they are able to stay healthy.
Don't believe me? Go back and watch Thursday's game again focusing just on those three. They looked really good, especially McElrath, who is third on the team in tackles with 26.
10. Will the team keep fighting, or fold the tent?
Texas Tech still has Big 12 heavies Oklahoma and Baylor on the schedule, plus an immediate date in Manhattan against a solid Kansas State squad. Texas is struggling, but the Red Raiders almost never beat the Longhorns.
Bottom line? Tech could struggle to find wins the rest of this season. Those questioning whether Kingsbury is ready to run a program will get the answer from how the Red Raiders respond. If they continue to compete, they believe in Kingsbury, if they shut it down it could get ugly.
10 Thoughts on Texas Tech After Four Games
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