Texas Tech Red Raiders Spring Practice Preview: 3 Storylines To Watch

    The Texas Tech Red Raiders kick off spring practice on March 4 understanding that head coach Kliff Kingsbury is facing a win-or-else scenario in 2017.

    March 2, 2017

    Texas Tech Red Raiders spring practice preview with one of the main storylines to watch being that head coach Kliff Kingsbury is facing a win-or-else scenario in 2017.


    The bloom is off the rose for Kliff Kingsbury. Is it too late for the once-trendy coach to recapture the momentum he had when he returned to his alma mater in 2013?

    Remember when Kingsbury debuted by winning his first seven games as a head coach? Feels like a lot longer than four years ago. Since that sizzling start, Texas Tech has gone 17-26 overall and 9-23 in Big 12 play. The program reached rock bottom with a 66-10 loss to Iowa State last Nov. 19. If not for a lucrative $9.4 million buyout, Kingsbury might be coordinating someone’s offense today.

    Without an abundance of returning stars, the Red Raiders must somehow find a way to chart a new course in 2017. If they continue lingering at or below .500, AD Kirby Hocutt could be shopping for a new leader by Thanksgiving.

    Texas Tech Red Raiders Spring Practice Storylines

    1. Heir to Mahomes

    The Red Raider brand, going back to the Mike Leach days, has been inexorably linked to the pass-happy Air Raid offense. But while gaudy numbers are already baked into the equation under Kingsbury, it doesn’t mean quarterback Patrick Mahomes won’t be sorely missed in Lubbock.

    Mahomes was a special talent, much better than the garden variety compiler who thrives because of the system. And it’ll become more evident once he gets to the NFL. In the meantime, Kingsbury must decide on a successor out of last year’s backup, Nic Shimonek, and Tyler (Tex.) Junior College transfer McLane Carter.

    Shimonek has the early edge based on experience in the program, but Carter was recruited to compete for this job from the moment he steps foot on campus.

    2. Is There Any Realistic Hope On D?

    Defense has been the obvious Achilles’ heel for the Red Raiders, who’ve inexcusably yielded more than 40 points per game in each of the last three years. But unless a handful of defensive playmakers suddenly emerge, no amount of staff shakeup will markedly impact the end results.

    Tech has high hopes for linebacker Jordyn Brooks and S Jah’Shawn Johnson. Otherwise? Meh. Brooks was the only player to earn honorable mention All-Big 12 in 2016, and the graduation of nose tackle Ondre Pipkins and transfer of defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko will leave the Red Raiders more vulnerable than ever up the middle.

    Texas Tech isn’t shutting opponents down this fall. Not in the Big 12 and not with the current personnel. Instead, coordinator David Gibbs must develop the right formula for creating sacks and takeaways, which were far too scare in 2016.

    3. All Eyes On Brandon Jones

    Jones, like Kingsbury, is returning to Lubbock to coach at his alma mater after spending the past two seasons at Cal. His task will be to coach up a Red Raider O-line that played poorly in 2016 and must now replace reliable LT Baylen Brown.

    Despite the quick trigger and pocket presence of Mahomes, Texas Tech’s quarterbacks got bounced around last season to the tune of 30 sacks. Unacceptable for an attack predicated on speed and tempo. Not only has Brown graduated, but C Tony Morales has as well, as the Red Raiders attempt to put Shimonek and Carter in the best possible position to succeed.

    Tech made the offensive line a priority on National Signing Day, headlined by the addition of four-star guard Jack Anderson. Those newbies better be ready to play early on, because they’ll likely be needed in the rotation.

    MORE: Big 12 Predictions, Storylines For 2017 Season

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