There weren’t a ton of bright spots in Matt Wells’ first season as Texas Tech’s football coach. The Red Raiders went 4-8 last year, and only 2-8 after wins over UTEP, which finished 1-11, and Football Championship Subdivision team Montana State.
Last season included a pair of three-game losing streaks, broken up by one of those bright spots, and a disappointing result for West Virginia University.
Of those four wins, one came against WVU in Morgantown, a 38-17 drubbing that was 35-10 in favor of Texas Tech at halftime. It also marked TTU’s last win of the season.
The Red Raiders are hoping for more results like that one in Morgantown in 2020, but there are plenty of cogs in the machine that need to be replaced.
They should be fine at quarterback, as long as Alan Bowman stays healthy. He tore through opponents at 340 passing yards per game in the first three games of his sophomore season before injuring his shoulder against Arizona. He elected to redshirt and sit out the rest of the year.
The man who would have been his toughest competitor for the starting job, Jett Duffey, is gone. Duffey led Texas Tech with 2,840 yards and 18 touchdowns in the 10 games he played, then decided to transfer out. He tried to enroll at Central Michigan, but was denied due to two Title IX complaints filed against him.
Bowman will have some new faces on the starting offensive line. Three of the five exhausted their eligibility, including 2019 All-Big 12 second-teamer Travis Bruffy. Dawson Deaton and Jack Anderson should be able to help bolster that group.
Texas Tech returns last season’s leading rusher SaRodorick Thompson (765 yards, 12 touchdowns) but will miss its next best three. Armand Shyne (374 yards) graduated, Ta’Zhawn Henry (370 yards) transferred to Houston and Duffey departed.
If there’s anywhere with a good mix of experience and depth, it’s at wide receiver. The Red Raiders return six of their top eight pass-catchers from last year, including receiving yards leader Erik Ezukanma (664 yards) and receiving touchdowns leader T.J. Vasher (six TD catches). Thompson was a popular target out of the backfield, too, with 39 catches.
Defensively, Texas Tech needs help. The Red Raiders finished 84th in the Football Bowl Subdivision allowing 30.3 points per game and finished 127th in allowing 480.3 yards per game. Making matters worse, their best defensive player last season, All-Big 12 first-team linebacker Jordyn Brooks, was a first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks. Another All-Big 12 first-teamer, defensive back Doug Coleman, signed with the Denver Broncos as a rookie free agent.
The leadership mantle on defense likely will fall on the shoulders of senior defensive end Eli Howard. He was a second-team all-conference pick in 2019 after finishing with six tackles for loss, five sacks and seven quarterback hurries. He should be able to get some help from sophomore Jaylon Hutchings, who chipped in with 3½ tackles for loss and 1½ sacks.
Linebacker Riko Jeffers returns after finishing second on the team with 76 tackles and should see some assistance from Evan Rambo. Coleman may be gone from the secondary, but Demarcus Fields is back and should be able to anchor that group. He finished 2019 with three interceptions and five pass breakups. Zech McPhearson (51 tackles, five pass breakups) is another player to watch.
Even with that experience returning in the defensive backfield, the Raiders need to do a much better job of defending the pass. Texas Tech finished third to last nationally in allowing 307.8 passing yards per game. Opposing quarterbacks had a 148.53 passer rating against the Red Raiders, 106th-best in the FBS.
Trey Wolff will be back to handle place-kicking duties for the Red Raiders. He made 20 of 22 field goals and 40 of 41 extra points last season. All-Big 12 first-team punter Austin McNamara is back, too.