Know Thy Enemy

RaiderPower.com Publisher Jarret Johnson answers five questions heading into Thursday's game against Texas Tech.

1) Much has been made of Kliff Kingsbury's return to Lubbock. What were the expectations heading into the season, and what's the general feeling on what he's been able to accomplish so far?

Jarret Johnson — Expectations weren't very high as far as wins and losses.  Most fans realized Tommy Tuberville didn't leave much for Kingsbury to work with, especially on defense.  Then when quarterback Michael Brewer, who was expected to start, went down just weeks before the season started expectations plummeted.  Despite all the adversity Tech fans were simultaneously relieved Tuberville was gone and ecstatic that one of their favorite sons had returned.  The 7-0 start, despite the soft schedule, definitely raised some expectations for this season, but the general consensus was eight wins would be an enormous accomplishment. Fans are anxious to see how Kingsbury recruits and how he does with his own players.  Overall, Kingsbury and his young staff have reenergized a program that had fallen on hard times. It's going to take some time to build it back up.


2) If the depth chart is correct, the Red Raiders could start their third quarterback of the season. Can you break down Tech's quarterback situation heading into the Texas game?

Johnson — I would be shocked if Brewer starts Thursday, but Kingsbury has been secretive about the quarterback situation all season. Brewer was listed as the starter against Baylor, and even erroneously announced as such over the PA at AT&T Stadium. I think Baker Mayfield will get the nod, because what he brings as a dual-threat. Davis Webb has put up some big passing numbers this season, but brings almost nothing to the table with his feet. The bottom line is Tech has rotated a pair of freshman quarterbacks this season and both have significantly more experience at this point than Brewer, who is in the midst of his third season in the Tech program. The future is bright at the position, but this season has been a practice in frustration at what is a traditionally a glamour spot for the Red Raiders.


3) A major part of Texas Tech's four-game stumble of late has come from increased struggles defensively. What have been some of the causes of those issues?

Johnson — Depth. Everyone knew Tech was going to have to be miraculously healthy on defense this season to hold up and that just hasn't been the case. Just as practically every other FBS team in the nation, Tech has been hit hard by injuries at this point of the season and it has shown down the stretch. For example, two true freshmen, including a walk-on, will start in the secondary Thursday. Not exactly what the staff hoped for heading into the season. Even when healthy, the Red Raiders are light up front and were going to struggle against the run. The injuries have just made it worse.


4) Who's an under-the-radar player that you think could have a major impact on Thursday?

Johnson — Junior running back Kenny Williams. The Pflugerville Hendrickson graduate has improved as the season has progressed and is poised for a big night in his hometown. If Tech is going to pull the upset it will have to at least pose a threat on the ground and I think Williams can get it done against a Texas defense which has been gashed at times this season. Williams has also shown the ability to be a productive receiver out of the backfield.  Receivers such as Jace Amaro and Eric Ward will draw a lot of attention, so it will be on Williams and fellow running backs Deandre Washington and Sadale Foster to win some one-on-one battles.


5) What is your prediction for Thursday's game?

Johnson — I wish I could pick Texas Tech, but I just can't see a scenario where that beat up defense stops Texas in the run game. If the Longhorns keep it simple and run the ball then they should win. The Longhorns just need to lineup in power formations, run the ball and then hit some big plays with play action. I think Tech will play inspired football on the big stage and keep it close, but Texas wins 38-28.


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