Texas Tech Preview: Offense

Texas Tech offense explosive under new coach Kliff Kingsbury.

While the defense shoulders most of the blame, and rightfully so, for the Red Raiders' recent collapse, the offense has also averaged about 10 points less per game in the last four games, dropping from 41.1 points per game to 31.0. But Texas Tech still boasts one of the tougher offenses Texas has played to date.

There's going to be a tendency — because Kingsbury played for Mike Leach — to label the offense as the same Leach ran. But in reality, it's more like the adapted system that Dana Holgorsen and Kevin Sumlin ran than straight Air Raid. There's more motion and more complex routes, along with more run-pass option than Leach utilized. Sure, it's still a spread. And the Red Raiders still throw the ball all over the yard, but this is more the Houston offense than the old Texas Tech one.

Regardless of its roots, Tech has been effective on this side of the ball, ranking 17th in Offensive S&P+, including 22nd in Passing S&P+ while throwing for 400 yards per game. Perhaps most impressively, the Red Raiders have done it with a rotation of two true freshmen at quarterback.

And if the depth chart holds, the Red Raiders will actually be starting their third quarterback of the season in sophomore Michael Brewer (6-1 185). The Lake Travis product, Brewer was expected to start for Tech this season before suffering an injury in the offseason. That opened things up for his successor at Lake Travis in walk-on Baker Mayfield (6-2 220), and Mayfield responded by hitting 65.5 percent of his passes for 2,078 yards and 12 touchdowns to eight interceptions. He's also run the ball fairly well, gaining 306 yards before losses (most of which are sacks). Davis Webb (6-4 195) has also filled in well when Mayfield has been hurt or ineffective, completing 61.9 percent of his throws for 2,315 yards and 16 touchdowns to nine interceptions.

Typically in the past, Tech has been able to run the ball efficiency, if not often, because when the Red Raiders did run, it was somewhat of a surprise. But Texas Tech hasn't had that level of success this season, despite a pretty good pair of backs. Kenny Williams (5-9 225) is an absolute bowling ball and has rushed for 439 yards, albeit at 3.9 yards per carry. He's also scored eight rushing touchdowns. Deandre Washington (5-8 190) plays the scatback role and is better in space. He's rushed for 388 yards at 4.3 yards a pop with four touchdowns. Both backs are active in the passing game; they've combined for 54 catches for 435 yards and a score.

Eric Ward (6-0 205) is the Red Raiders' top receiver with 72 catches for 816 yards and eight touchdowns. Bradley Marquez (5-11 200) is opposite Ward as the other outside receiver, and he's caught 43 passes for 543 yards and five touchdowns. Of course, Texas Tech wouldn't be Tech without a tough-to-defend slot receiver, and that's Jakeem Grant (5-6 160) with 59 snags for 707 yards and five scores. When the Red Raiders go four-wide, the other slot is often Jordan Davis (5-9 170), who has 25 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown.

What makes this version of Tech's offense more dangerous than previous versions is tight end Jace Amaro (6-5 260), the nation's most devastating receiver at his position. Amaro has 92 catches for 1,157 yards and six touchdowns, and it seems like every one of his catches comes on a key third down to keep drives going. He's too fast and too strong for linebackers, and he's too big for safeties, with a giant catch radius that makes him not just an ideal security blanket, but also a brutal matchup downfield. He needs 20 catches and 173 yards in Tech's final two contests to break the NCAA record for catches and receiving yards in a season for a tight end, set by former Rice tight end James Casey.

Another staple of the Tech offense that has gone somewhat by the wayside are the giant offensive line splits that Leach preferred. Texas Tech still uses wide splits, but not to the degree that it used to. And the line has a whole hasn't been as effective, rushing for 3.8 yards per carry while allowing 24 sacks. The best of the bunch, at least from a talent standpoint, is probably left tackle Le'Raven Clark (6-5 320), who entered the year with all kinds of preseason mention. He, right tackle Rashad Fortenberry (6-5 285) and center Jared Kaster (6-3 275) have started every game this season at their respective spots. It's been more of a rotating pool at the two guard spots, though left guard Alfredo Morales (6-3 320) and right guard Beau Carpenter (6-6 285) have started eight and six games this season, respectively, with one of Morales's eight starts coming at right guard.

Kicker Ryan Bustin has made 21-of-24 field goal attempts, including 20-of-22 from 39-in. His long make of the season, 43 yards, came in the season opener against SMU. Grant is the starting kickoff returner, and he averages 21.4 yards per return. Sadale Foster (5-7 185), who also serves as the team's No. 3 running back, is averaging 7.9 yards on his team-high 12 punt returns.

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