Predictably enough, Texas Tech's disappointing loss to the New Mexico Lobos, which succeeded an uninspired victory over SMU, has produced more than a little apocalypticism and messianism among Raider fans.
In the former camp are those who claim to see the "end times." Dire predictions of 4-7 seasons, disembowelments by Texas and Oklahoma, and losses to--gulp—Baylor, hallmark this fever swamp of pessimism.
In the latter are those who believe the season can only be rescued by the miraculous appearance of a redshirted prophet. The resurrection can only take place if the ark of the covenant between wonder working coach and divinely anointed JUCO quarterback is discovered and its seal broken.
Both groups agree that the current situation is dire and that failure to improve dramatically will result in a miserable season for the Red Raiders.
All of which raises the sixty four dollar question. Short of ripping redshirts off of clueless quarterbacks, what action is most likely to produce rapid team improvement that would prevent a loss to the newest target of Tech fan hatred, the TCU Horned Frogs?
The official answer emanating from the upper reaches of the Tech camp is nothing. Mike Leach, in a party refrain that is now being recapitulated by his players, insists that Tech actually played well in the loss to the Lobos. Better even than they did when they pummeled the luckless lupines by a score of 49-0 just two years ago! We are hearing that player effort has been good, certain individuals have been outstanding, and adjusting the team's carburetor to blow some carbon out of its system will produce checkered-flag performances.
In other words, there is nothing wrong with the Red Raiders that more practice repetitions and game experience won't fix. Such experience will engender exemplary execution, which in turn will translate into touchdowns and takeaways.
Perhaps Leach is right. It certainly wouldn't be the first time. Maybe his club will gel into a juggernaut against TCU and mow down the Toads like a runaway John Deere burning nitrous oxide.
But then again, maybe not.
What if the sputtering and gasping continues against TCU? What if forays into the red zone remain cause for angst rather than anticipation? What if pedestrian quarterbacks continue to be like Mike (Vick, that is) against the defense? What then?
Well, in the interest of speculation, I've come up with some potential answers. Here's hoping they fade into a wisp of mind vapor after a beat-down of the Froggies this coming Saturday.
1. Start Randall Cherry and Keyunta Dawson in the defensive line: Against the Lobos, the Tech line rarely put any heat on quarterback Kole McKamey. This needs to change fast. In the future, starting with TCU, the Raiders will be facing signal callers far more dangerous than McKamey. Tye Gunn, Vince Young, and Jason White, among others, will damage the Raiders badly if left to their own devices.
In the New Mexico game, Cherry's name began to be called more frequently, and his quickness and athleticism in the middle might prove disruptive if employed often enough. Dawson is the team's second best pass rusher, but currently languishes behind the team's best pass rusher, Adell Duckett. This nonsense needs to stop.
2. Move Mike Smith back to middle linebacker and start Fletcher Session on the outside: Smith is having a very good year at the WILL position, but Brock Stratton has been a cypher in the middle. Smith has experience at middle linebacker and would be an upgrade there.
Session, who has been an active presence this season when on the field, would add some speed to the linebacker corps and hopefully would generate some turmoil in the opposition backfield given more of a chance to do so. John Saldi would move to the WILL in place of Smith.
3. Replace one cornerback with Chad Johnson and slide Dwayne Slay over to free safety: So far, moving Johnson from corner to safety has been a failure. Contrary to conventional wisdom, this move has not allowed him to utilize his playmaking ability insofar as he has made precious few plays. Indeed, Josh Rangel played most of the second half in Johnson's place against New Mexico, although the substitution did not improve productivity at that position.
Tech's current corners Antonio Huffman and Khalid Naziruddin have had their moments, but it is doubtful that both of them are superior to Johnson. Rotating Johnson to corner would improve that position dramatically and would allow Dwayne Slay, who was a sinister secondary force in fall workouts, to move into the starting lineup and out of Vincent Meeks' shadow.
4. Start Bryan Kegans in place of Cody Campbell: Pass protection has been stellar in the first two games, but the same can hardly be said for the run blocking. Kegans, a natural guard, has been the offensive line's sixth man and would add a little road-grading ability to the unit. Campbell, rather than Manny Ramirez, would seem the most likely guard to be replaced.
5. Start Taurance Rawls in place of Taurean Henderson: Okay, I know this is a radical suggestion. Henderson, who was being touted as an early entrant into the NFL draft three weeks ago, has been running tentatively thus far and has yet to break a tackle. His finesse style has been singularly ineffective. Rawls lacks experience and does not have Henderson's quickness, but is fast, physical and hits the hole hard. He deserves a shot.
6. Promote Bristol Olomua to the starting lineup and replace Joel Filani with Trey Haverty: Olomua has been a force of nature and is one player (Jarrett Hicks is another) who can single handedly alter the opposition's defensive game plan. His size, athleticism, and hands make him an extremely difficult match-up problem.
Haverty, whose coming-out party against New Mexico was impressive to the extreme, deserves a starting spot he's not going to get as long as he's stuck behind Nehemiah Glover. Filani and his current backup, Brandon Douglas, have done nothing so far. Therefore, starting Haverty at the X position looks like a no cerebral cortex kind of decision.
7. Start Cody Hodges at quarterback: Starter Sonny Cumbie's performance thus far has not been bad by any means. However, neither has it been effective from the standpoint of point production and wins. Hodges looked every bit as good as Cumbie in fall workouts, and starting the junior now over the senior would pay dividends for next year's team as well.
I am not suggesting that these changes should be made at once or at all. They are simply possibilities that Mike Leach may well have to consider if rote and repetition don't begin to produce wins in a hurry.
A Few Modest Proposals
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