2024 Summer Magazine: Texas Tech Preview

Photo by JR Flores

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No coach in the modern era of Texas Tech football enjoyed a better two-year start than current head coach Joey McGuire. The former state champion head coach at Cedar Hill High School is 15-11 overall and 10-8 in the Big 12 after two seasons as a collegiate head coach. 

Mike Leach won 14 games overall and was 7-9 in the Big 12 in his first two seasons on campus. Spike Dykes won 11 games and was one game above .500 against Southwest Conference foes in his first two seasons as the head coach in Lubbock. Tommy Tuberville and Kliff Kingsbury couldn’t top 12 overall wins or post a winning record in conference play over their first two seasons in charge. 

But don’t expect McGuire to celebrate. He saw the 7-5 2023 season as a letdown. 

“Last year was really hard,” he said. “Part of me died a little bit last year because we had such high expectations. You never want to make excuses, but there’s always reasons why things happen.” 

Those reasons include starting three quarterbacks for the second straight season. The defense played eight inside linebackers. In the eight-win 2022 campaign, the Red Raiders were 4-0 in one-possession games. Last year, the team was 3-3 in close games, including an 0-3 start in one-possession games in early season losses to Wyoming, Oregon, and West Virginia. Win one of those games and Tech matches its 2022 win total. Win all three and the Red Raiders post a 10-win season for the first time since 2008. 

Close games are determined by coaching, McGuire said. He made his entire staff, including himself, rewatch every game from the 2023 season this offseason with a simple goal – find out why they won the games they won, and find out why they could’ve won the games they lost. No one was safe from criticism and self-reflection. 

“I allowed my frustration from losing close games to create negativity when there was already frustration in the building,” McGuire admitted. “There were times I needed to say, ‘Hey, we’re doing it this way, or I want this done.’ I’ve always wanted my assistants and players to come around to my suggestions on their own, but there are times I need to be more forceful with what the best route of action is.” 

Anyone who knows McGuire describes him as an optimist. Ask him about conference realignment and he’ll speak about the new and exciting challenges ahead in the Big 12 more than what Texas and Oklahoma leaving does to the conference. Ask him about NIL or the Transfer Portal and he’ll tell you about their benefits, not their detriments. The same is true about his football team. 

“I believe we’re heading in the right direction,” he said. “I’m not a coach-speak guy. If I believe we’re good, I’m going to tell you. I think we’re going to be good. We’ve recruited well and we’re starting to see a more talented roster.” 

Anything less than Big 12 contention would be viewed as disappointment. The Red Raiders signed the top recruiting class in the new-look Big 12 and brought in instant-impact transfers at need positions such as wide receiver and offensive line. The defense is deeper and playing faster due to familiarity with the system. The team knows who the starting quarterback will be, and who the offense runs through – running back Tahj Brooks. 

The changing sands of the college football landscape mean the winner of the Big 12 makes the expanded 12-team playoff. Texas Tech wants to be included. And McGuire feels like everything can still run through Lubbock, especially because of the resources at his disposal. A quick start and success on the road are the missing ingredients in McGuire’s tenure. His team was 1-4 on the road in 2022 and 2-4 in 2023. They started 1-3 with three one-possession losses last year.  

“The excitement, support, and resources pumping into this program eliminate excuses, and I like that,” McGuire said. “We’ve put ourselves in a position to compete from a facilities and collective standpoint to make a real run as a football program. Now, it is my job to make sure we’re putting that product on the field.” 



When you think of Texas Tech and offensive coordinator Zach Kittley, the brain populates with images of high-flying offensive attacks predicated on throwing the football. But that won’t be true in 2024. Around Game 5 last season, Kittley said he was hit with a realization – running back Tahj Brooks is the offensive identity of the Red Raiders. 

“I wish I had figured it out by Game 1,” Kittley admitted in the spring. “I want to win more than I want to throw it 40 or 50 times a game. Our strength is Tahj, so that’s where we’ll start offensively.” 

Brooks, a Manor product entering his super senior season, was Kittley’s first 1,000-yard rusher when he ran for 1,538 yards in 2023. Bailey Zappe started every game at quarterback in Kittley’s four years as the play-caller at Houston Baptist (now Houston Christian) and Western Kentucky. In each of his first two seasons at Texas Tech, Kittley started three different quarterbacks due to injury. 

There isn’t a quarterback competition at Tech in 2024. Behren Morton is the guy. He played in the first half of spring before being shut down to protect his throwing arm for the season. That allowed reserves like Jake Strong, Cameran Brown, and Will Hammond to get more snaps in the spring. 

A line shift occurred at wide receiver, but the staff feels like the overall talent in the room is higher thanks to the additions of Josh Kelly and Caleb Douglas through the portal, as well as five-star freshman Micah Hudson.

The offensive line added three potential starters through the portal in Sterling Porcher, Vinny Sciury, and Davion Carter. Caleb Rogers is the only returning starter up front. The staff wants to move him inside to center if the Red Raiders find two starters at tackle. 

MVP - RB Tahj Brooks led all of Texas in rushing yards in 2023. 

Position Group Ratings

QB: B- 


WR/TE: A- 

OL: C+ 

Breakout Candidates

WR Micah Hudson – The highest-rated recruit in Texas Tech history begins his anticipated career with the Red Raiders in the fall after missing spring camp due to injury. He’ll become a starter if he’s not already by Week 1. 

RB – Cameron Dickey – The freshman from Austin Crockett wowed the staff in spring and earned himself a role in 2024. He is referred to as “Captain America” in the football building.  

TE Johncarlos Miller II – Miller, a junior transfer from Elon, impressed the offensive staff in the spring. Texas Tech also added Jalin Conyers from Arizona State to a talented tight end room. 

OL Sheridan Wilson – The staff feels like Wilson is on the cusp of breaking out as a stalwart of the interior of the offensive line. He’s competing at center and guard with veterans. 

Keep An Eye On

Protecting the quarterback was an issue for Texas Tech the past two seasons and that played a part in why the Red Raiders started three different quarterbacks in 2022 and 2023. They allowed 1.85 sacks per game last year, which ranked 53rd nationally. It was an improvement from 2022 when Tech allowed 3.15 sacks a game – 112th in the FBS. A reshuffled offensive line must protect the quarterback and keep Morton healthy for the Red Raiders to compete for a Big 12 championship in Year 3 of the Joey McGuire era.  

Projected Starters 

QB: 2 Behren Morton Jr. 

RB: 28 Tahj Brooks    Sr. 

WR: 8 Coy Eakin        Soph. 

WR: 5 Caleb Douglas             Jr. 

WR: 18 Josh Kelly      Sr. 

TE: 80 Mason Tharp  Sr. 

LT: 79 Sterling Porcher          Sr. 

LG: 71 Vinny Sciury   Sr. 

C: 76 Caleb Rogers    Sr. 

RG: Davion Carter Sr. 

RT: 75 Ty Buchanan  Jr. 



Tim DeRuyter’s defense improved from 90th nationally in points allowed per game in 2022 with 29 to 63rd in the country last year while allowing 26. The Red Raiders won’t have the star power of Tyree Wilson in 2022 or Jaylon Hutchings and Tony Bradford in 2023, but the staff believes the team is deeper and more talented across the board, even if some of that talent is unproven. 

“The dropoff from our front-line starters to the reserves isn’t steep like it was the first two seasons,” DeRuyter said. “We’re more physical and playing faster because of the familiarity heading into Year 3. That’ll help us hunt as a pack better than in previous years.” 

Defense begins up front and Texas Tech has a solid rotation building in the middle with E’Maurion Banks and Quincy Ledet Jr. named as the favorites to start post spring. Transfers De’Braylon Carroll and James Hansen are also in the mix. Finding a pass rush off the edge falls to players such as Joseph Adedire, Dylan Spencer, Charles Esters III, and Isaac Smith. 

The linebacker room is the strength of the defense. Ben Roberts emerged as an all-conference player as a redshirt freshman. He’ll be flanked by Jacob Rodriguez. Bryce Ramirez, who is described as the spiritual leader of the team, and John Curry are also names to know.

The secondary is filled with young potential. C.J. Baskerville, a senior with the most experience in Tech’s secondary, moves to boundary safety from nickel. Free safety is a battle between Chapman Lewis and Jordan Sanford. Sophomore Brenden Jordan and Baylor transfer A.J. McCarty are slugging it out at nickel (STAR). Senior Bralyn Lux will start at one cornerback spot. The other likely falls to sophomore Maurion Horn or transfer Devynn Cromwell. 

MVP - LB Ben Roberts exploded onto the scene as a redshirt freshman.

Position Group Ratings

DL: C+ 

LB: A-



Breakout Candidates

DL Jayden Cofield – The redshirt freshman from Manor is growing into a contributor for the Red Raiders. He’s a plus athlete on the interior at 6-2 and 305 pounds.  

LB Justin Horne – A freak athlete with unlimited potential, some of the staff feel like Horne can explode onto the scene as a redshirt freshman similar to how Ben Roberts did at linebacker in 2023. 

DB Jalon Peoples – A big spring puts the Cedar Hill product in line for more snaps as a sophomore. Peoples played in three games as a redshirt freshman in 2023 after entering the year as a backup cornerback. 

DB Miquel Dingle – A hybrid defender with ability to play linebacker or safety, Dingle might be too talented to keep off the field as a redshirt freshman. 

Keep An Eye On

Texas Tech ranked 72nd nationally last year with 2.08 sacks per game. Five players on the roster recorded at least three sacks, but only one – Charles Esters III – returns. Departing defensive tackles Jaylon Hutchings and Tony Bradford combined for 7.5 sacks from their interior d-line positions. Edge rushers Steve Linton and Myles Cole are also gone after recording at least 3 sacks each. And while sacks can be a misleading stat, causing pressure remains a key philosophy to DeRuyter’s defense. More pressure on the opposing QBs would help a younger and more inexperienced secondary, as well.  

Projected Starters 

DE: 14 Joseph Adedire          Jr. 

NT: 5 Quincy Ledet Jr.           Sr. 

DT: 8 E’Maurion Banks          Jr. 

Edge: 17 Isaac Smith             Jr.  

LB: 13 Ben Roberts   Soph. 

LB: 10 Jacob Rodriguez        Jr. 

STAR: 7 Brenden Jordan       Soph.  

CB: 0 Bralyn Lux        Sr. 

CB: 4 Maurion Horn   Soph. 

FS: 25 Chapman Lewis          Soph. 

SS: 9 C.J. Baskerville             Sr. 



Texas Tech offensive coaches Zach Kittley and Josh Cochran rarely feel short. After all, Kittley, a former college basketball player, is 6-foot-7 while Cochran, who played offensive line for the Longhorns, was also listed at 6-7 in his playing days. But neither is the tallest person in any meeting room for the Red Raiders. That distinction falls to the 6-foot-9 Mason Tharp. 

“He’s a monster,” Kittley said of his tight end. “He’s an NFL player, no doubt, so I'm hoping he can stay healthy and make a consistent impact. He’s a true tight end because he can put his hands on you and block. He’s fun having him out there because he’s hard to cover.” 

Tharp, a towering tight end from Klein High School in Spring, Texas, was a first-team all-district player on the gridiron in college. He was also a solid basketball player in his first three seasons of high school before he gave up the sport to focus on football for an ironic reason – he was too short. 

“At my height, you need to dribble and have an outside shot and that wasn’t my game,” Tharp said. “I was a true post player. My first love was football and that was where all my offers to play were, so I decided to concentrate on it and I’m happy it led me to Lubbock.” 

Tharp arrived at Texas Tech in 2021. He earned immediate playing time for then-head coach Matt Wells, playing in all 12 games while starting eight times. He caught 14 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown. He stayed when Joey McGuire took over for Wells. Tharp started seven times in 2022 and 2023. 

Tharp has all the tools needed to be a Sunday player. He’s big. He’s a mismatch. He doesn’t mind blocking. The only thing holding him back is his body. Tharp missed one game to injury in 2021, three in 2022, and five in 2023. In 30 career games as a Red Raider, Tharp has 44 catches for 476 yards and seven touchdowns. Four of those scores came in 2023 before injuries cost him a five-game stretch in the middle of Big 12 play. 

“The injuries are frustrating, but this is a violent sport,” Tharp said. “Missing those games gives you a different perspective and reminds you how much playing with my teammates is an important part of my life. I can’t wait to get back out there.” 



Ceiling – 10-2 

Competing for the Big 12 championship is a legitimate goal for Joey McGuire in Year 3. Texas Tech can win 10 games and be in the College Football Playoff discussion if the offensive line improves and the defense finds replacements for lost production. The run game should be top notch. 

Floor – 5-7 

Like every other Big 12 team, most of the schedule is a coin flip, at least on paper. The Red Raiders haven’t started well or won games consistently on the road under McGuire. Add in injury questions at quarterback and a losing season becomes possible. 



Texas Tech hopes to shake a budding trend of shaky starts with a non-conference schedule of Abilene Christian, Washington State, and North Texas. A 3-0 start would set the Red Raiders up for a real run in Big 12 play. Road games were a struggle for Joey McGuire’s squad in his first two seasons. They travel to Arizona, TCU, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State during conference play. A new-look Jones Stadium will host Big 12 contests against Arizona State, Cincinnati, Baylor, Colorado, and West Virginia. Four of the team’s first five games are in Lubbock. 



DATE                      OPPONENT     RESULT

Sept. 2                  at Wyoming      L, 35-33 (2OT)

Sept. 9                  Oregon                 L, 38-30

Sept. 16               Tarleton State W, 41-3

Sept. 23               at West Virginia              L, 20-13

Sept. 30               Houston              W, 49-28

Oct. 7                    at Baylor              W, 39-14

Oct. 14                 Kansas State   L, 38-21

Oct. 21                 at BYU L, 27-14

Nov. 2                    TCU       W, 35-28

Nov. 11                 at Kansas           W, 16-13

Nov. 18                 UCF       W, 24-23

Nov. 25                 at Texas                L, 57-7

Dec. 16                 Cal (Independence Bowl)       W, 34-14

Record: 7-6 (5-4)



DATE                      OPPONENT     RESULT

Aug. 31                 Abilene Christian          W

Sept. 7                  at Washington State   W

Sept. 14               North Texas      W

Sept. 21               Arizona State  W

Sept. 28               Cincinnati          W

Oct. 5                     at Arizona           L               

Oct. 19                 Baylor                    W

Oct. 26                 at TCU                   L

Nov. 2                    at Iowa State   L

Nov. 9                    Colorado            W

Nov. 23                 at Oklahoma State      L

Nov. 30                 West Virginia   W

Record: 8-4 (5-4)


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