Tech Ready to Prove Doubters Wrong

The Red Raiders may have finished the 2002 season with nine wins, but college football experts around the country aren't going to let that take away from their negativity. The Red Raiders aren't too concerned with the rankings, instead they're going to let their play on Saturdays speak for itself.

The preseason rankings have become a source of jokes for the Texas Tech football team. "The greatest minds in college sports, from what I understand, have us rated about seventy-fifth, so we're obviously not very good," quipped Head Coach Mike Leach at the weekly press conference. He jokingly decided to defer analysis of his team to the experts working for national media outlets, even though most haven't been to a single Texas Tech practice this off-season. "I'll defer to them. Whatever they think is probably how it is," said Coach Leach. All joking aside, the Red Raiders know that they need to get it done on the field before they will get any respect from the rest of the country. "We just go out there and do what we always do," said Coach Leach.

One of the sources of the low expectations is the loss of quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. His replacement B.J. Symons may be a new face to most of the nation, but he's been on the sidelines learning the offense as long as Coach Leach has been in Lubbock. "He's a good quarterback, and he's up there with anybody that I've ever coached," said Coach Leach. Even with a change at quarterback, the expectations of the Texas Tech players and coaches haven't changed. "I have high expectations, and he has high expectations," said Coach Leach. One reason for the high expectations is the number of returning starters on offense. The offense has nine returning starters from the 2002 offense that was the best in the Big 12. "He's been throwing to those guys for the last three years," said Leach.

The other source of concern on this team is the defense. The Red raiders gave up over thirty-one points per game during the 2002 season. What is being overlooked is the amount of change that has happened on the defensive side of the ball. In addition to a new defensive coordinator, the Red Raiders have a number of new faces starting on defense. The starting lineup could include up to five freshmen. Coach Leach thinks the changes will have a positive effect. "I think they play real hard, and I like the fact that they're new faces because they're going to be around here a long time," said Coach Leach. The new players have made their way into the starting lineup because of their physical talent, but this is a tradeoff. "We're bigger, stronger, and faster, but we're less experienced," said Coach Leach. The idea of starting freshman doesn't concern Coach Leach too much though. "We have very few receivers playing on this team that didn't start as freshmen," said Coach Leach. "We're Freshman University."

With all the pieces in place, all that is left to play the games. At this stage, The Red Raiders have to win games if they are going to get attention from the experts and voters. Coach Leach has a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to games. "Try to score and try to stop them from scoring", said Coach Leach. "Get first downs, don't let them have any." He also knows that his team will benefit from the support of fans. "We need as many Red Raiders out there as possible," said Coach Leach. "Circle the wagons, and get some people out here to watch us play SMU, and see what happens."

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