Tech blog Viva the Matadors sat down with us to talk starting quarterbacks, a defensive renaissance and why the Red Raiders will come out ahead of Ole Miss on Saturday.
Red Cup Rebellion: Mike Leach and Tommy Tuberville (who you may know we pretty much all hate) had Texas Tech at a point where eight wins were the norm, but Kliff Kingsbury has only reached that number once in five seasons. What do you think contributes to that, both schematically and on the recruiting trail?
Viva the Matadors: Ole ‘Pine Box’ sure does have a way with impressions doesn’t he? But, I’ll agree he was a fairly successful coach at Tech relative to what we’ve seen from Kingsbury. But, to be frank I think fans would take the Kingsbury years to the Tuberville years 10/10 times. People hated Tuberville because nobody believe he wanted to be in Lubbock and he rubbed plenty of people the wrong way. Kingsbury is a Red Raider hero to many and we’re all dying for him to succeed—likely the same feeling Rebel fans have for Matt Luke. But, the Mike Leach years spoiled fans to our best decade of football ever.
From a schematic standpoint, Kingsbury is the best offensive coordinator in America. Prior to his defeat of Texas last year, there were rumors Nick Saban might poach Kingsbury if we fired him. The problem has primarily been the fact he didn’t know what he was doing as a head coach when he came to Lubbock. There was poor management of the staff and player attrition, and when the momentum dried up prior to last season we had the lowest rated P5 recruiting class in America. The recruiting numbers were partially due to class size, and aren’t indicative of quality necessary, but it sure doesn’t look great. At this point though, most fans are optimistic about the best defense we’ve had in a decade, our most experienced coaching staff in the Kingsbury era, and a home schedule that sets us up to surprise some people. If we can come out of this season with seven or eight wins fans will hop on the bandwagon again.
2. The defense wasn’t great statistically last season, but it had three players given preseason first-team All-Big 12 accolades. How do those things coexist? How can two defensive backs be so highly regarded on a team that struggles to stop the pass when it needs to? Ole Miss’ wide receivers are enormous, strong, and fast—can Tech keep up?
Well, we led the conference in turnovers last year. David Gibbs’s defense is predicated on quarterback mistakes and he doesn’t care if we give up yards so long as we get stops on third down or turn people over. We were also plenty stout against the run and gave some great teams fits there.
In terms of the players, Dakota Allen is a future NFL player, and is likely one of the best linebackers you’ll see this season. The defensive backs, Jah’Shawn Johnson and Justus Parker, were turnover factories and executed in clutch moments. Of course, when I saw the pre-season awards I had to look twice as well. But, I can assure you all three of those guys are elite talents.
Matchup wise, if you want a glimpse of how A.J. Brown will do, check out the N’Keal Harry tape from the Tech-Arizona State game last year. I’d say he’s the most linear comparison to Brown and he had a phenomenal game against us. I’m sure you’ll see Demarcus Fields line up on him, and he’s plenty big/fast too but he’ll probably hope to limit Brown to 80 yards or less. Likely though, Brown is going to have a field day—i.e. 150-plus yards. I think Parker locks up your slot guy fairly well, but D.K. Metcalf worries me. I think he’ll be a huge X-factor Saturday and how he performs in one-on-ones will decide some key events.
At the end of the day, if we can hold you guys to field goals and turn QB Jordan Ta’amu over two or more times, we’ll be in a spot to win. If not, it’ll be a long Saturday for Red Raider fans.
3. Quarterbacks Jett Duffey and McLane Carter each have different skill sets. Do you think we’ll see both on the field, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of each (as best you can answer that about people who have one collective start)?
Barring a shock, Carter is our starting quarterback and he’s actually a really interesting kid. He wound up at DII school after high school weighing 170 pounds, but morphed into a 6’3, 230 pound beast at JUCO. He doesn’t have the biggest arm in terms of velocity, but the reports out of camp is he’s been our most consistent performer thus far. The hope is he’ll be the accurate option, and he’ll have good timing with the receivers. The other different thing about him is that he’s left-handed, which is always a bit odd to watch.
Duffey, on the other hand, is the former Elite 11 talent with all the athleticism in the world. Unfortunately, his time in Lubbock has been plagued by legal struggles (which you can Google if you’re curious), and inconsistencies on the field. Allegedly, he’d rip of a “Johnny Football-esqe” run, but couple that with an idiotic read that leads to a bad interception.
The other name you might see is true freshman Alan Bowman, who Ole Miss actually offered this past year. He was a four-year starter in high school and he’s got the best arm of the group. The rumor is his decision making isn’t quite quick enough to be named the starter, but he’s probably the future of the program. I wouldn’t be shocked if he played Saturday should things go poorly for the Red Raiders.
4. Who are two players Ole Miss fans probably don’t know about right now that we’ll know about Saturday afternoon, either for good or bad reasons?
I’m not sure how our leading returning receiver is unknown, but monitor the game T.J. Vasher has. He’s a beast of a receiver with great size and speed. He was inconsistent this past season, but still averaged close to 19 yards per catch and is a matchup nightmare for small defensive backs.
The other guy to watch is John Bonney. He’s a guy who came from Texas as a grad transfer in August, but started 15 games over three seasons in Austin at defensive back. Jah’Shawn Johnson also might be injured so a guy like Bonney is going to be thrown to the fire immediately. Hopefully, he’s digested the playbook well but it’s hard to expect much since he’s only been in Lubbock a few weeks.
5. What’s your prediction on how this game goes? Give a score and some information on how it gets there.
I know the over-under is in the 60s, but I wouldn’t take the over. Tech is oddly going to lean on our defense and running game this year—which is weird—and I don’t think you’ll see the typical Texas Tech. If Carter can’t stretch the field and the Ole Miss safeties can live in the box, we’re in some deep trouble offensively. I’d say that’s likely my biggest concern on Saturday, and I have absolutely no clue how effective we’ll be. Defensively, I think Ta’amu will have a statistically great game, but limiting the chunk plays will likely be the focus for our defensive backs. I haven’t watched a ton of Ta’amu film, but it looks like he takes care of the ball, which isn’t ideal because we’ll be baiting him into tough throws hoping he bites. My gut says the Red Raiders win, but I have no faith in that prediction. I’m actually banking on this game to give me a glimpse of what to expect this year.
Regardless, I’ve gotta predict something... so, give me 28-24 Texas Tech.