To put it kindly, Texas Tech did not have the season they planned on in 2014. After finishing with an 8-5 record and a Holiday Bowl victory in 2013, no one expected Tech to have the disappointing season they did last year. The Red Raiders finished with an unimpressive 4-8 record while winning just two conference games against lowly Kansas and Iowa State. Quarterback uncertainty, coaching dilemmas, and overall inexperience played major roles in the outcome of Tech’s forgettable 2014 campaign. Even though the Red Raiders took a step back last year, 2015 has a chance to restore the winning culture Tech has been accustomed to.
Tech made some changes this offseason that should make some immediate impacts in 2015. None was bigger than the hiring of former Houston Cougars defensive coordinator David Gibbs. Tech finished the year as one of the worst FBS defenses in the country. The hiring of Gibbs should immediately help the Red Raiders’ defense. Gibbs has a resume that can compare with almost anyone the past couple of years. Gibbs spent nine years in the NFL as a defensive backs coach and was also the Minnesota defensive coordinator from 1997-2000. He led the Cougars defense to a top-20 FBS ranking this past year and they have led the nation with 73 turnovers over the past two seasons. In comparison, Tech has been among the bottom 10 in the nation in turnovers over the past couple of seasons. Gibbs brings an attacking and creative style with him to Lubbock that often confuses offenses and leads to mistakes. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury had nothing but praise for Gibbs and his defensive mind. “With stops in both college football and the NFL, coach Gibbs will bring experience and ingenuity to our defensive unit.” The one thing that stuck with me from that quote was ingenuity, something Tech has lacked in many years and has sought for awhile. Gibbs will be the eighth defensive coordinator for Tech since 2007. Gibbs style and scheme should bring the best out of Tech’s youthful defense.
When I first started writing this article I was curious about who the last college team was that took a huge leap in victories from one year to the next. I didn’t have to look too far as they resided in my backyard here in the DFW Metroplex. That team is TCU, and they had a stellar 2014 season. I witnessed this personally when I saw them hang 82 on my Red Raiders in Fort Worth. However, they did not have a great 2013 season. They had a record of 4-8, which matched Tech’s win output this past season. It made me think, how similar were these two teams? TCU has always had a pretty stout defense, but their offense often left much to be desired. After the 2013 season TCU wanted a more balanced team so they added two bright offensive minds in Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham as co-offensive coordinators. This year they added imagination and that magic word ingenuity to the playbook which created an extremely potent TCU offense. This resulted in TCU being more of a complete team and one of the best overall in the country.
If you ask a random person about what comes to mind about Texas Tech football over the past decade, most would say offense. The Red Raiders have always been proficient on this side of the ball and it often leads them to being one of top offenses in the nation. If Gibbs can mold this defense to compete and fly around with the superior offenses in the Big 12, Tech can be a very dangerous out. If Texas Tech accomplishes these feats why can’t they be 2015’s version of TCU?
The outlook isn’t just optimistic with the defense. The team is returning two experienced quarterbacks, in high-ceiling prospect Patrick Mahomes and Davis Webb. Seven of their top eight pass-catchers will return, and if All-Big 12 tackle Le’Raven Clark decides to return they will have four starters back on their offensive line. On defense they will potentially have Big 12 sack leader Pete Robertson back, while adding inside linebacker Mike Mitchell, a top-60 recruit from Ohio State, who sat out after transferring this past year. The returning secondary is young and skilled with all-conference honorable mentions J.J. Gaines and Justis Nelson. This gives Gibbs plenty of pieces to work his magic with.
After a disastrous season, I have hope that 2015 will be different. Kingsbury will only be entering his third year as a head coach, so there are plenty of things he can still learn and improve on. As a famous quote states “It’s always darkest before the dawn”, and for Tech this has certainly been the darkest season in a very long time. So in conclusion, I once again ask the question: why not us?