LUBBOCK, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 07: Running back Ta’Zhawn Henry #26 and head coach Matt Wells of Texas Tech stand in the tunnel before the college football game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the UTEP Miners at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo […]
Yes, I just used optimism and Texas Tech in the same sentence. A headline, nonetheless. Before you ask, no, I am not talking about baseball or basketball. I am talking about the big one: football.
No, Mike Leach did not return when you were sleeping overnight. But, since the last time the Red Raiders took the field, a potential first-round quarterback decided to call Lubbock his home.
While Tyler Shough alone cannot change Tech’s recent performance on the gridiron, he is a start. Combined with the other reasons for optimism, the Red Raiders are looking for their first winning season since 2015.
For the half-glass empty crowd: do not worry, your story will come on Friday. However, for now, let’s take a look at the top five reasons for optimism surrounding Texas Tech football heading into the 2021 season.
There is no beating around the bush here. The Red Raiders suffered their worst passing season of the millennium in 2020. Therefore, the timing of Shough’s addition to the team could not have been better. The projected first-round pick led the Pac-12 in passing efficiency while finishing 2nd in total yards a season ago.
The Red Raiders return 99.2% of their rushing total, losing only three yards from Alan Bowman and ten from KeSean Carter. The three-headed monster of SaRodorick Thompson, Xavier White, and Tahj Brooks has the potential to be the best running back trio in the league. The key will be if they can stay healthy, which was a problem for 2020. If all three are available, that’s when the unit shines the most as each brings a different skill set to the table.
Field position game
With all the ongoing position battles taking place this spring, one thing remains certain: Austin McNamara. The punter landed 27% of his kicks inside the 20-yard line while only four ended up in the endzone for a touchback. McNamara found himself near the top of every category including finishing 5th in the FBS in punting average and booting the longest punt of the college football season at 87 yards.
Favorable non-conference schedule
The first goal for Texas Tech this fall is to play in the postseason, a feat they have yet to accomplish under Matt Wells. This year’s schedule may offer the best chance of any to reach the 6-win plateau. The Red Raiders, who typically face at least one Power 5 conference team outside of Big 12 play each season, do not have one on their schedule for 2021. Instead, the toughest contest will be a matchup against Houston at NRG Stadium. While the Red Raiders should be able to take care of business against the Cougars, the other two matchups, at home against Stephen F. Austin and Florida International, offer a pair of wins early in the campaign.
The return of the crowd
While Texas Tech was fortunate enough to play in front of a crowd for the 2020 season when many others were not, the capacity was limited. Teams coming into Jones AT&T Stadium did not have to worry about the potential sell-out crowds and black-out conditions. However, things are looking optimistic for all 60,454 seats to be available when September rolls around. Texas Tech baseball has been operating at full capacity for the majority of their season, so there should be no reason to think the football team will not do the same.