It’s been a long time since an upcoming Texas Tech Red Raiders football season had so much excitement and optimism surrounding it.
After the October firing of Matt Wells and the temporary promotion of offensive coordinator Sonnie Cumbie last season, Tech finished with a respectable 7-6 overall record and a 34-7 Liberty Bowl victory over the SEC’s Mississippi State Bulldogs.
But Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt also saw the 3-6 Big 12 mark and decided more permanent changes needed to be made.
Enter new head coach Joey McGuire, a former assistant at Baylor who has a long and deep history embedded in Texas high school football.
McGuire has built an impressive staff too, hiring former Western Kentucky offensive coordinator Zach Kittley and his Air Raid offense.
McGuire commented on his choice of Kittley at Big 12 Media Days.
“It’s interesting, whenever I talked to him, the one thing about Kittley is he’ll say we have air raid concepts but we’re not a true air raid,” McGuire explained.
“Where I fell in love with him, in the interview, he said, ‘Coach, I’m going to find our best 11 players, I’m going to get them on the field, and we’re going to score a lot of points.’
“He said, ‘You know, whenever I was at Western Kentucky, it was our best 11 players. We had four really good receivers.’ At Texas Tech, we have three really good tight ends. So it’s going to look a little bit different.”
He’s also brought in former Cal and Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter to rebuild a defense that has consistently been one of the worst in the nation.
The university has also committed $200 million to improve the stadium and the football facilities to attract an even higher level of recruitment to Lubbock. And the timing couldn’t be better.
The Red Raiders should improve in a number of different areas this upcoming season, but the goals should remain simple for the program. That 3-6 conference record should be first on the agenda.
Tech most likely won’t be in the running for a Big 12 title or anywhere near it, and that’s ok. It’s Year 1 of the McGuire era, and baby steps should be expected.
Being competitive in the conference should be McGuire’s first goal. There is no such thing as “good losses” in any sport, but there certainly can be “bad” ones. And last year, the Red Raiders suffered a few.
Tech lost to Texas, Oklahoma State, and OU by a combined 145-56. But, the team played well in a three-point loss to Baylor near the end of the season and in a convincing Liberty Bowl win over former Tech frontman, Mike Leach.
Which Red Raiders will show up in 2022 under first-year coach Joey McGuire? Will it be the squad that lost 70-35 to a struggling Longhorns team or the Tech unit that barely lost to the eventual Big 12 champion Baylor Bears?
Either is possible. Which is likely? Probably a combination of the two. But with a new staff and McGuire’s recruiting class still a year away, don’t look for improvement via a stronger record. Look for it on the field during play.
Regarding the upcoming season, McGuire said he likes the way Tech is positioned for the future in the Big 12.
“Yeah, I think — I said in my opening statement, I think I work for the best AD in the country, and I think the way he approaches things puts us in a really good position. So we’re excited. Whatever happens, I heard — I listened to everybody’s press conference yesterday, and of course, I heard our new commissioner that we’re open for business.
“I do think that the Big 12 will look different. I think we have a great opportunity to just make our conference even stronger. I think we’re going to put ourselves with the facilities, with the amount of different degrees and the different things you can study at Texas Tech, we’re going to put ourselves in a really good position to be a part of something special in the Big 12.”
The Big 12 is a tough conference. But McGuire should be able to get them there. Just not in 2022.
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