The Joey McGuire era officially began for Texas Tech with the start of spring practice. The Red Raiders closed out 2021 with a bang, knocking off former head coach Mike Leach's Mississippi State program in emphatic fashion. Reaching a bowl game remains the floor for Texas Tech heading into year one under McGuire, who is already doing an excellent job building excitement within the fan base and on the recruiting trail.
1. Does Texas Tech use multiple quarterbacks?
A day spent at Texas Tech gathering quotes for our upcoming magazine revealed an interesting plot twist: The Red Raiders might utilize more than one quarterback rather than naming a full-time starter. McGuire wants his team to play “11-man football”, meaning the quarterback can be substituted out situationally no different than a running back. Texas Tech feels good about its three quarterbacks currently locked in competition.
“We think we’ll have packages for all three of them,” McGuire said. “If a guy can help us in a certain situation, we’re going to exploit it.”
Tyler Shough, an Oregon transfer who started early in 2021 before injury, is the favorite to lead the Red Raiders into 2022. It does sound like Behren Morton and Donovan Smith are showing flashes and making it hard to name a starter. Even if Shough does emerge as the clear-cut starer, packages could be created to feature the skill sets of the other two quarterbacks.
Let’s take Smith for example. The sophomore from Las Vegas is nearly 240 pounds. McGuire said his team would be crazy to not find a way for him to carry the ball in short-yardage situations and near the goal line. Shough is a senior, so keeping Morton and Smith engaged is important with the transfer portal looming.
2. Who steps up next to Myles Price?
New offensive coordinator Zach Kittley threw the ball a ton in his previous two stops. Two wide receivers in his Western Kentucky offense caught over 100 passes during the 2021 season. His quarterback, Bailey Zappe, broke records last season. The Red Raiders will be more balanced than Kittley’s previous two offenses because of the running back tandem of Tahj Brooks and SaRodorick Thompson, but they’ll still throw the ball plenty. Price is poised for a big year as the go-to slot receiver. But who emerges as the No. 2 target?
“We have a lot of young guys around Myles Price, who was phenomenal at the end of last year,” McGuire said.
The two biggest options, literally, are Jerand Bradley and J.J. Sparkman. Bradley is a 6-5, 220-pound redshirt freshman who played high school football at DeSoto. Sparkman, a Pine Tree graduated from Longview, stands at 6-4 and 225 pounds. Junior Loic Fouonji was a highly touted recruit out of Midland Lee. The Red Raiders also added Minnesota transfer Brady Boyd.
3. Can the defense become a strength of the program?
McGuire believes in tough, physical football. It was his calling card at Cedar Hill, and he helped build a roster at Baylor that bullied its way to a Big 12 championship in the 2021 season. McGuire wants to follow that same blueprint in Lubbock, but defense was never considered a strength at Texas Tech even in the glory years of Mike Leach. It won’t happen overnight, or in one offseason, but McGuire wants his team to become a hard-nosed group capable of winning with the run game and defense as much as with flash.
“There’s a reason there are weight classes in boxing,” McGuire said. “For the brand of football, we want to play, we better be good up front. We need big guys on both sides of the ball to achieve those goals. Any good team I’ve ever been on was good up front.”
To fix the offense McGuire and his staff added four transfers to the offensive line. The task of turning the defense into more than a liability falls onto the shoulders of defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, who spent time at Texas A&M and was most recently at Oregon. DeRuyter brings a multiple defense that will utilize a four-man front as well as an odd-man front. Texas Tech was running a three-man front in 2021, but a move to a four-man front allows players such as Tyree Wilson to play in more natural positions. McGuire believes the shift in philosophy should create more pressure on the quarterback, which takes pressure off the rest of the defense.
“We’re going in a good direction defensively,” McGuire said. “It’ll be interesting to see if any of the freshmen can provide some help in year one.”
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