Life throws you curve balls. Be it a twist of fate or a run of Indian casino dream catcher luck, sometimes things don’t go the way we anticipated. Sometimes you find yourself clinging to a dusty cotton fiber in the South Plains of Texas in an effort to salvage your career and live to punch another paycheck – your impressive résumé be damned. Despite having the last name of a crooked, 1000 person town between Snyder and Post, Thomas Tuberville finds himself at a career crossroads. Long forgotten are the stingy defenses in college football’s best division as well as 13-0 in 2004 to go with a commendable 7-3 War Eagle record in Iron Bowl appearances.
In 2012, Tuberville needs to make lemons out of arid soil, cheap whiskey, and JUCO bitters if he wants to see 2013 in Hub City. Youth is the fermented hope in Lubbock, and there is reason to think that Tech might play football again. If you dig in the well, you’ll find speculators tossing out anything from five to nine wins. Tech was always the riverboat gambler with no river and this year should be no different.
Let’s roll, 'Merica.
My how things can change in a scant two-year window. With management oversight akin to the Greeks trying to run a space program, the Tech brass ran off the most successful coach in program history. That man also happens to have a second-to-none cult status in modern sports. Mike Leach shattered a glass ceiling that Tech fans didn’t know existed and yielded a nine-year streak of bowl appearances. But as is human nature, complacency and ego become the barnacles of success on the pirate ship and an ugly divorce ensued to appease the wants of Student Council Senator James.
In enters a coach with the cult-like personality of a CPA on Klonopin to fill a pirate’s boat slip in the cotton sea. Seamless transition, imo. Tommy Tuberville is the T-Bond of coaching – safe, won’t screw you over, matures in 10-year tenure increments, and considered exotic investments for Asian cultures. If I know West Texans, they take their oil with roulette and leave bonds for the stooges in Dallas.
2011 spun a despicable tale for the Red Raiders. In typical Tech fashion, their two league wins were against the best and worst teams in the conference. The Kansas victory was to be expected, but this Hefty bag of dirty syringes had no business strolling into Norman and getting a W. Especially after getting stoopsed to the tune of 45-7 the year before in Lubbock. Texas Tech is used to churning out atrocious defenses at the same clip as girls whose first names end in "i", replete with surprise viral genital ornaments -- also known as engagement rings in Lubbock. Even still, 2011 might have been the worst of the flare ups. The 2011 Tech defense had as much interest in protecting the dignity of its own end zone as a Zeta coed fueled up on Chili’s mojitos and a 50 Shades of Grey audiobook. We’ll perform an ample autopsy on this corpse of a unit in a jiff, but first – hope.
Offense is still played in Lubbock. And not just by the opposition. This is an uncomfortable situation for Tubs, but the Raiders can still light up the scoreboard. Senior QB Seth Doege can flick it all over the yard and did so in 2011 to the tune of 28 TDS/10 INTS/4004 YDS. That’s useful. Doege accomplished this line despite tough injuries to the backfield in the form of Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington. These backs bring a helluva lot to the table and can make an already productive offense lethal – not to mention the load they can take off of their slack jawed kin on defense. Word is that Washington still might shirt if not 100% in which case look for Kenny Williams.
Like surprisingly stunning sunsets, the South Plains continues to usher out depth in the receiving corps. Doege’s top three targets return in Eric Ward, Alex Torres, and Darrin Moore. Sophomore TE Jace Amaro has the athleticism and frame to see the league. As to be expected, guys named "Jace" all have a bit of a checkered relationship with law enforcement, and Amaro is no exception. He is packed with potential and should be a wide open safety valve if the pack of receivers is somehow covered in a league that views defense as a menial check box. There are another three or four receivers not mentioned that will tally more receptions than your team’s third option. They’re the deepest in the league by a mile. The guy you’ll know well by October is Bradley Marquez. If anything, he has a stage name appropriate for an Orlando boy band. Or an Austin DUI cop. Two paths diverged into a wood...
The offensive line has been battered by injuries and attrition in just the past few weeks. A unit that looked to be sound in its depth is now a teetering house of cards. All-league LT LaAdrian Waddle is back to protect Doege’s backside and is nearly certain to play on Sunday’s. I’ll leave the idea of a 300 lb. man with the last name "Waddle" for you cretins in the comments. You’re welcome.
Points, points, and more points. Fun, right? Well…
As was hinted at earlier, this unit isn't so bad with the exception of the personnel. Tech gets their fourth defensive coordinator in four years with the acquisition of Art Kaufman from North Carolina. Lubbock would be a nice place to cool the heels for a spell in the wake of an NCAA mess in Chapel Hill if it wasn't for the total rebuild of a defense. To give some proper context to the mess, in nine 2011 league games, Tech surrendered over 30 points in each. Six of those games they gave up more than 40. For round numbers’ sake, they generously gave up 66 points twice in the final three weeks of the season. This prideful effort earned the Raiders the 117th best scoring defense in FBS even with the inclusion of their junior varsity non-conference schedule. It was also the worst defense against the run in all the land. These dudes couldn't tackle chlamydia in a grain silo full of Lubbock townies.
So are things going to take a turn for the better, or do we get 11 more turnstiles on the way to the end zone? The good news is that there is some seasoning on this tough steak and a dash of new blood. Like any desperate coach in the cruel vacuum of coaching, Tubs has sought help from the JUCO ranks. The new JUCO’s are sure to enjoy the lightened academic curriculum. This is still Tech, after all, where "literature" is Greek lettering on the ass of a dame’s shorts and "research" is Tech bros clicking through a Bleacher Report slideshow on "MMA’s Hottest Babes". The most prized incoming JUCO is Man in Black and renowned Scientologist Will Smith at linebacker. Smith comes to Hub City from Riverside Community College and will fill the role of MLB that typically tackles in most defenses.
Kaufman brings a 4-3 to what was a 4-2-5 scheme. And a 3-4 the year before that. And a 4-3 the year before that. You get the idea. The front four is anchored by true sophomore Delvon Simmons (6’5", 290). If anything, he and Kerry Hyder added some much-needed size to their frames for a front that managed to be awful against the run in a pass-happy league. Redshirt freshman Branden Jackson (6’5", 260) won a DE slot, and I’m told he has the most promise at end in Lubbock since Brandon Williams. Opposite Jackson on passing downs is Pete Robertson. Robertson is making the switch from OLB to end and is still a mighty lean 225 lbs in the uniform. Tech only registered 15 sacks last season, so plugging some speed anywhere into a pass rush effort seems to be the goal here.
Speaking of position changes, Terrance Bullitt moves from safety to an OLB slot aside the aforementioned Big Willie Style. He added some good weight and will bring a knack for playmaking and hitting to the position. The other OLB role is flanked by true sophomore Blake Dees "Nutz" has the look of a man that eats vegans – a look that I cherish so dearly despite his smaller size. Moreover, Daniel Cobb is still around and he tallied a hearty 7.5 TFL last season. Potential is there, and one would think even a slight uptick in commitment to tackling in the new scheme would be considered a success this season.
The secondary is a tragic comedy in its own right. Cornelius "Corndog!" Douglas is no longer playing bi-fense and will focus solely on his task at cornerback. He brings all the swag and athleticism you’d expect for a guy named after deep fried pig guts and penis. The other corner in this comedy will be played by Eugene Noah, but competition beckons in the form of JUCOs (4 new ones!) not bright enough for Tech on their first crack. The safeties are manned by Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson who are soft, but at least can’t cover.
The defense was super young last year and fought some injuries. Tuberville is a man of habit, and the 4-2-5 just never seemed to suit his pleated khakis too well. Five of the six top returning tacklers return and there is added experience and depth in the secondary.
For the seventh season in a row, the Red Raiders won’t be playing a non-conference team from a BCS league. Three freebies await to start things off, including a trip to San Marcos. If you’re a UT engineering student down on your luck with the ladies, take a roadie down to river country for this game and just exist. Things might turn in your favor. As for the game, you might recall talk of this being picked up by the LHN. I was proud of Tech for putting the kibosh on this nonsense. Far better for everyone that this is on ESPN3. Kind of amusing that two former Iron Bowl coaches are squaring off in what is essentially a high school stadium. Fran vs. Tubs might as well be a race to see who finds EBITDA the fastest.
League play will be a challenge, as always. Tech starts with a trip to Ames to face a Tuberville protégé in Paul Rhodes who has whipped his master’s ass the past couple seasons. That tilt is followed by visits from OU and West Virginia. As someone who endured a 77-0 sodomizing from Stoops, I can tell you that he relishes in revenge. Loves it. Probably his best quality. As for West Virginia, well Tech, you’ll hate them. You’ll hate them because they’re you. Their cotton is coal. Their whiskey is shine. Their couches are your tortillas and batteries. One of your most favorite students wrote "Take Me Home, Country Roads." This rivalry will result in either an unsettling kinship between two institutions of "higher learning" or widespread sanctions for all of college football due to the chaotic tailgating when Raiders and Mountaineers meet. I can’t wait.
A stretch of @TCU, @K-State, vs. Texas follows. A breather with Kansas at home is sandwiched between with a final stretch that reads @Okie State and Baylor in Arlington.
Do you see two or three league wins? If not, you’ll start hearing Sonny Dykes name kicked around – maybe even a former Arkansas coach. The coach you really need is coaching those Mountaineers. Alas, timing is a bitch. A bitch whose net worth is tied up in her bellybutton jewelry and is dating a guy who is upside down in jetski leases.
Despite all of this, I still think Tech goes bowling this year. There is a lot of interesting youth on the defense. Doege will throw up silly numbers, and maybe the running attack even stays healthy. Surely the defense doesn’t get worse. Tubs will live to see a couple more years on the South Plains.
Techies, thanks for letting a Notre Dame Texas Aggie writing on a Texas site feebly break down your team and take some shots. I pull for the two most underachieving teams of the past 15 years. Return the shots in the comments. There were recent years when I thought the Ags would never beat Tech again. Y’all are a helluva lot of fun to party with and are some of the best people around when the football blood isn’t running too hot. Despite what anyone might say, the College Station students loved the parties when Tech stopped in for the weekend. Best of luck this year, and Wreck ‘em out there.
Just don't forget to lube the goalpost first. Rick Perry's ass is still sore.
Be sure to check out the virtuous SB Nation blog Double T Nation for all things Red Raiders.