Head coach Joey McGuire injected much-needed life and optimism into the Red Raider football program last season. This included some school-record victories on the field and its best recruiting class since 2011. In this business though, any coach is only as good as his next season. There is plenty of reason to believe this program will continue to trend upward, but that can only happen if this team addresses its most pressing concerns. With Texas Tech spring football underway, what are the three most critical questions this team faces?
Texas Tech Spring Football: Three Questions
What Will The QB1 Race Look Like?
Texas Tech’s battle for the starting quarterback position is an actual competition, unlike what many coaches might say around the country. The reason is both quarterbacks have proven themselves. The presumed starting entering camp is Tyler Shough. After all, Shough won the job heading into last season before an injury cost him (again) for most of the season. That said, Shough was a perfect 5-0 in games he started in 2022. This also included a four-game winning streak to close out the season, which culminated with a dominant win in bowl season over Ole Miss.
However, Behren Morton showed flashes that suggest his ceiling is higher than Shough’s. Morton, who is the highest-rated quarterback recruit in the program’s history, threw for 1,117 yards and seven touchdowns in nine total appearances in 2022 (three starts). He also added two rushing touchdowns to boot. With unsung hero Donovan Smith transferring to now conference-foe Houston, and given Shough’s extensive injury history, will it matter who the starter is when Texas Tech spring football ends?
Will Continuity Be An Issue On The Offensive Line?
Yes, offensive coordinator Zach Kittley will have to try to decide on a quarterback to run his offense. But possibly even more critical is getting his offensive line re-shuffled and gelling. Every single position on the offensive line will have a new starter. Yes, three of them were starters last year and moving positions. But two former Western Kentucky starters will round out the unit. The good news is all five of them are very familiar with the offense. However, that doesn’t guarantee that they will all thrive in their new positions. Nor doesn’t it mean they will be able to play as a collective unit efficiently in their new positions. Whether it is Shough or Morton, this unit will play a major factor in deciding how many points this offense can put up this year.
Who Can Emerge As A Gamebreaking Playmaker Out Wide?
Returning production at the wide receiver position isn’t a problem as Texas Tech spring football rolls into high gear. After all, 87.8% of their receiving production is back for 2023. Headlining the receiving corps is freshman All-American Jerand Bradley. Bradley finished the 2022 campaign with 51 receptions for 744 yards and six touchdowns. However, if this offense is going to take the next step, there has to be a second wideout who makes the defense pay attention to both sides of the field. Some potential options include Xavier White, Loic Fouonji, Myles Price, and Nehemiah Martinez. White, Fouonji, and Price are all entering their fourth season with the Red Raiders.
In his first year as a full-time wide receiver and after transitioning from running back, White had 45 receptions for 572 yards and three touchdowns. Price had 51 receptions for 513 yards and two touchdowns. However, based on Price’s previous two seasons, it appears he might be playing at his ceiling. Fouonji is a big receiver (listed at 6’4″) who finally got more involved in the offense last year but didn’t really have a breakout game until the bowl game. He did end the year with a seven-reception effort for 100 yards and one touchdown against Ole Miss. Kittley’s offense has shown that it can feed more than one receiver, but which one will step up?
Bonus Question: Can Team Handle National Expectations?
It has been a full decade since Texas Tech had any sort of national relevance. And that predominately had to do with their head coach’s charming good looks more than their actual wins and losses. Really, we would have to go back to the end of the Mike Leach era when the Red Raiders had the attention of the college football world. But after an eight-win campaign, and 16 starters coming back (including 10 on the offense), this team is getting some notice in plenty of spring edition top 25 polls.
Action Network ranked the Red Raiders 14th nationally, while Bleacher Report (19), 247 Sports (20), and ESPN (23) all have Texas Tech ranked in the top 25. If they are able to enter the season healthy, they will likely secure a spot in the opening top 25 polls for the 2023 season. Assuming they do so, it will be the first time Texas Tech makes an appearance in the opening top 25 of the season since 2008. It would also mark the first time the Red Raiders appear in the top 25 since September 23rd, 2018. They also will face what should be a top 15/20 team for their home opener in week two when Oregon visits Lubbock. With an upward trajectory, McGuire will face his next new challenge as head coach: lofty expectations.
Photo courtesy: Annie Rice/Avalanche-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK