We sat down with Ryan Smith of Viva The Matadors to chat about today's game in Lubbock. For our side of the conversation click here.
WRNL: Kliff Kingsbury has the same golden boy image that Fred Hoiberg does in Ames, but Fred left to go to the NBA. Is there any fear that Kingsbury might move on to greener pastures eventually, or worse, get fired for not getting Tech back to the level that Mike Leach set?
VTM: Nothing he's said so far indicates he wants to go anywhere. He's said multiple times that while at Houston and A&M he was cringing at what was going on under Tuberville and the decline of the program. Furthermore, he's a Tech grad who has brought in a ton of Tech grads to coach and says it's his dream job. I think he wants to be not just a storied QB at Tech, but a storied coach. I think he will get Tech back if given enough time. He's a victim of his own success starting out 7-0 right out of the gate, but if he somehow doesn't it'll be a lingering reminder of Leach. Under Tuberville, I myself, said it was the curse of Mike Leach. Not only not winning, but not winning in Lubbock which was almost a guarantee from 2000-2009.
WRNL: Tech is without their top three receivers on Saturday. Are these all injuries, suspensions, or a mix of the two? Who fills in for them and what can we expect from the replacements?
VTM: Most are injuries, there were some early suspensions for not using stipend money properly (allegedly. Kingsbury isn't big on details) and you'll see lots of true freshman. Kingsbury is already pulling redshirts off of some receivers to give depth. You'll see true freshman Tony Brown who went 5-117-1 averaging 23.4 YPC and sophmore Zach Austin who went 8-110-1 against Baylor last week. You'll probably also see true freshman KeKe Coutee among others as well. Texas Tech has always been plug and play under Leach and Kingsbury is trying to get back to that. It doesn't matter who is in, execute and you'll win.
WRNL: Explain this rushing defense issue. Is this the result of 76 coordinators in less than a decade or is it more a talent issue? What will it take to fix it and get Tech to a respectable level?
VTM: A bit of both. Leach never had great defenses, but he did post the #42 defense in 2004 and led the Big 12 in total defense in 2008. Wasn't anything fancy, just good assignment football and swarming to the ball. The mindset was... stand up your man, hold on and let reinforcements arrive. In today's age of college football, its more about the hit than the tackle and a lot players are left in one on one situations. The turnover in coordinators has been a problem. Switching from 4-3 under McNeil (Leach), to 3-4, 4-2-5, and back to 4-3 under Tuberville, back to 3-4 under Kingsbury's first coordinator has been a back in forth for recruiting. If you don't know what you're going to be next year, how can you possibly recruit properly. So there were always depth issues to start under Tuberville, and attrition started to become a bigger issue. When Kingsbury took over, the program was in a horrible place. I think Tuberville knew it which is one of the underlying reasons he left. He jumped out to 7-0 in 2013 using mainly defensive stars who were recruited under Leach. When some of them went down due to injury, lack of depth really showed. Last year was a JUCO fill in recruiting to give the young guys time to develop, but it didn't work. This year is our first legitimate depth on that side of the ball for quite some time. And outside of Kaufman in 2012, only current DC David Gibbs has prior coordinating experience. Needless to say, its a whole mess of complicated.
WRNL: Did the TCU result surprise you? Not so much the loss, but more that the game was a complete opposite of last year's performance in Ft Worth.
VTM: Not really. I think the main surprise was last year and how out of hand it got. In 2012, we won in OT in Fort Worth. In 2013, we won 20-10 at home. So we were looking for a close matchup regardless of points. When Webb went down with a fractured ankle and a couple of other injuries early on really put TCU in the driver seat. People forget that game was 24-17 after the 1st quarter. So we were on our way to the same type of shoot out, it just didn't go our way. Same could be said this year with Mahomes injuring his knee on the second drive. I think you'll be hard pressed to find a Tech fan who thinks that if he was 100% the full game we don't run away with a win in that one.
WRNL: Q: Tech wins if...?
VTM: If Mahomes is healthy. I don't think Iowa State can contain him if he's 100%. That's not a knock against ISU, but from what we've seen in his short career I think he's the difference maker.
WRNL: Iowa State wins if...?
VTM: They win the turnover battle. I think if they can force turnovers like you saw Baylor do against Tech last week... put themselves in short fields and make Tech play catch up they can leave Lubbock with a win. However, won't quite be the 41-7 route in 2011.
VTM: In all of these I'm keeping with my pre-season predictions. I have Tech winning Texas Tech 56 - ISU 24 .
I think Sam Richardson gets into some ugly down and distances and forces some passes when he shouldn't and Tech gets some keep turnovers to separate themselves.