Raider Power Mailbag

RaiderPower.com senior writer Joe Yeager and publisher Jarret Johnson answer questions from subscribers about Texas Tech football, basketball and recruiting.

Awhooks210: If all the chips fall our way with Tyron Johnson as our WR and David Gibbs as our DC, what are both of your realistic expectations next year? Would leading the conference in fewest defensive penalties and leading the conference in takeaways be a realistic expectation for next season?

Jarret: It's hard to tell. The Red Raiders could be greatly improved but it not show in the win-loss columns due to a difficult schedule. Assuming Tech beats Sam Houston State, UTEP, Kansas and Iowa State, the Red Raiders would need to get two more wins in games against TCU, Texas (away), Oklahoma (away), Arkansas (away), West Virginia (away), Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Baylor (in Arlington) to become bowl eligible. I think that's a reasonable expectation, but it won't be easy.

I wouldn't hold my breath on the Tech defense suddenly leading the Big 12 in fewest penalties, no matter who the defensive coordinator is. If Gibbs is hired than I do believe Tech will improve in turnovers forced as he has a proven track record at three FBS programs in that category. In fact Houston led the nation in takeaways in 2013 and were once again among the top 10 this season.

Joe: Regarding your second question, no, I do not think that is realistic. If Gibbs really is the new DC, and if he is even better than advertized, I still believe Tech fans should expect only moderate improvement in those areas. And there's nothing at all wrong with moderate improvement. If the defense moderately improves three straight seasons, it will be one of the best in the B12.

As to overall expectations, I think it all hinges on KK's development as a head coach more than anything else. No, Tech did not have elite talent last season (Tech rarely does), but the product on the field was much worse than the talent. That goes back to coaching. Kingsbury is still young, and he is still learning. But the point is that he must learn very quickly because the business he's in is not known for patience. So, if Johnson and Gibbs come aboard, and if KK shows strong development in his third season, I think it is possible that the Red Raiders could finish as high as fourth.

MotorCityTitansFan: What's your projection for Justin Jamison? What kind of production can we expect from him by year's end? On a related note, who will be our best big man by year's end between Jamison, Odiase, and Manderson?

Jarret: He's athletic and has shown improvement, but he's way behind both Odiase and Manderson in my opinion. It would be nice for Tech if he can buy those two some minutes during conference play and know all the plays and rotations on defense. Maybe he can be a bigger contributor next season.

Tech's best big man is Odiase by far and I expect that to continue throughout the season. He is drawing double and triple teams from opposing teams which is giving his teammates wide open looks. Unfortunately, Tech is having a hard time knocking those down. Manderson looks better every time out and is going to be a real player for the Red Raiders. See above for Jamison.

Joe: Jamison remains a mystery. He showed real signs of coming around, just before the disastrous trip to Vegas, but has since basically disappeared. I have heard that he may be dealing with an injury of some sort--not a serious one--and that he is going to have to gut it out. That could be part of the problem. At any rate, I do believe he has the physical tools to get major minutes, and to be a nice all-around player--rebounder, passer, scorer--but he is going to have to display some real "want to," and keep right with Tubby, because Coach Smith doesn't play any games.

I still believe in Odiase's talent, and that, given help from the team's guards, he can be a true inside force. But guys like Williams, Gotcher and Evans simply have to become consistent outside threats to prevent teams from doubling and tripling Odiase. As good as Odiase is, he's not good enough to defeat that sort of attention. But, of the three, Dr. No is still my guy.

OleTechsan1953: Do you guys think that all recruits now committed to TT will sign with us on NSD?

Jarret: No. While I think many are rock solid, history tells us there will be some movement between now and National Signing Day. Carlos Strickland is definitely one to watch.

Joe: Actual Signing Day surprises are fairly rare. The vast majority of players who commit verbally, end up signing with the school to which they committed. And because I don't know of any current commits who have undeniably indicated they are wavering, I'm going to say that all current commits end up signing with Tech.

ZTanner: Which position group will improve the most from 2014 to 2015 and why?

Jarret: Defensive backs. This group reminds of the offensive line a season ago in that it was young, yet talented. The offensive line took its lumps in 2013, hit the weights and training table, benefited from continuity and thrived in 2014. I can see the same thing happening with the defensive backs. I may be a season too early in this line of thinking, but true freshmen Nigel Bethel, Tevin Madison, Jah'Shawn Johnson and Derrick Dixon each showed flashes. I liked the pairing of Dixon and Justis Nelson at safety for the Baylor game, but I don't know if either are big enough to hold up for a season. Redshirt freshman Payton Hendrix is an imposing figure who could make an immediate impact at a number of positions back there. We'll see.

Joe: I'm going to be optimistic (I know. When will I ever learn?) and go with the defensive line. Fehoko will come in and make a difference, although I do not believe he will single-handedly make the unit a world-beater. Then there's Courtney Wallace, who I think is underrated, and will also contribute. But most important, JUCO recruits often improve dramatically in their second year. Look for Levi, McElrath and Smith to be much better than they were last season.

redraider1286: Do you think this team will improve as the conference season goes along, or are we in for another long season with basketball?

Jarret: I think it will be a roller coaster ride due to Tech's combination of talent and inexperience. The Red Raiders will upset some teams at the USA, but the Big 12 will provide a gauntlet of a conference schedule once again. Six-plus conference wins would be an accomplishment this season in my opinion.

Joe: Both. (Ha ha.) I believe the current squad is better than last year's team was at this juncture, and because the current team is so young, it will only get better. But this year's Big 12 conference is no place to learn. It is beyond brutal. I would not be shocked to see seven teams in this conference make it to the Dance. And what that means is that the young pups in scarlet and black are going to take their lumps. But by next season they should be giving better than they get.

Techster24: What ARE odds DC prospect Gibbs demands some coaches of his liking? Do you think Kliffy will say OK so long as you don't touch Smith?

Jarret: I believe the new defensive coordinator should be able to bring in some of his own guys and Tech should have at least one opening, if not two right now. Safeties coach Trey Haverty could conceivably move over to inside or outside receivers coach so that could mean three spots the new defensive coordinator could fill with his own guys. We'll have to see how much Tech can afford and exactly who Kingsbury wants to retain.

Joe: There is already one defensive spot open with the departure of Scott. Thus, there is a built in compromise situation where Kliff can allow Gibbs to bring in one guy of his choosing. Additionally, I believe Gibbs will successfully campaign to bring in one more of his own coaches, which means another current defensive coach will likely be given his walking papers. I think that should be enough to lure Gibbs given that Houston-to-Tech is definitely not a lateral move. And I do believe Smith will remain with Tech next season.

RawlsLandman: Defensive recruiting strategy. Has anyone given thought to recruiting in bulk on the D-line if you can't get the highly sought after targets. Basically add a few more project players increasing the odds that a few pan out?

Jarret: The Red Raiders have offered 24 defensive linemen for the current recruiting cycle and have landed four of them (Fehoko, Wallace, Washington, Gilmore). I can confirm they have been in contact with at least another dozen more. They are efforting to bring in more bodies up front, but it's not as easy as some have suggested here on the board, especially when you have a recent history of futility at that position and don't have a defensive coordinator.

Joe: Good d-linemen--especially tackles and nose guards--are the hardest players to find, and they are also very important players on the field. This means--or should mean--that coaches will shade somewhat to recruiting extra interior d-linemen, but because scholarships are so limited and valuable, you can't go too far in that direction. Having good interior d-linemen doesn't help you out if it means the cupboard is bare in the receiving corps. So, while I think recruiting extra interior d-linemen happens, I think there is a real limit to how much a coach can do it.

ZTanner: What is Texas Tech's biggest need left in this recruiting class?

Jarret: Defensive linemen. As Rawls alluded to in the previous question, Tech not only needs bodies, but big ones, who can come in and compete, not just be out there. The Red Raiders could use two more defensive tackles and 2-3 defensive ends/outside linebackers.

Joe: I'm assuming you mean with the nine or so scholarships remaining. That being the case, I'm going to say linebacker. Pete Robertson is very good, but he'll be a senior. We think Mike Mitchell will really help out. And we've seen flashes from Micah Awe (another upperclassman), and Andre Ross, but I still don't like the numbers in this group and the lack of prime young talent coming up. I really like what I see of D'Vonta Hinton, but he's not enough. Tech needs to reel in at least two more solid linebacker prospects to satisfy me.

TECHAWL: What did you get for Christmas?

Jarret: My top two gifts were a new Vizio TV and a Google Chrome Cast. For those unfamiliar with Chrome Cast, it looks like a flash drive which you plug into a HDMI port on your TV. After a ridiculously simple process of setting it up on your Wifi network it allows you to play Netflix, Youtube, HBO In-Demand and other aps from your phone on your TV. It's basically a projector from your phone to your TV. All your smart devices can project straight to your TV with a push of one button. I love it. It's fun to make a Youtube music playlist when entertaining with everyone taking turns and see what you end up with. It was a good Christmas all around, surrounded by family. I am blessed.

Joe: A bag o' switches. In addition to that, I got a couple of biographies of olde tyme race car drivers (Ted Horn and Rodger Ward), a killer dark blue, egg-shaped ceramic light that projects star-like images on the ceiling and wall (It's a retro thing.), a nice Polo long-sleeve shirt, a collection of four spice-rubs for grilling meat, a book on the collection of ancient Christmas ornaments, two DVDs (Alien and the original Lord of the Flies), and various other oddments and ends.



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