It's been seven months since Mike Leach was fired, enough time for the dust to settle and allow people to see what hasn't changed: Texas Tech is a very good football team.
The Mad Man of West Texas is gone, but his creation is still thriving.
People talk about teams "never rebuilding, just reloading" often enough. If that phrase were to perfectly describe anybody, it would be the Red Raider offense.
Upon the departure of Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, Tech slid back down the totem pole in the minds of critics and fans. The year 2009 was sure to be a rebuilding one for the Red Raiders.
And it was...kind of.
Texas Tech finished the season ranked fourth in the country with 470 yards per game, which was also the highest in the Big 12.
Not impressed by yards?
They finished ranking seventh in the country in points per game, averaging 37, second only to Texas.
This all happened without Michael Crabtree, without Graham Harrell, and while shuffling between injured quarterbacks. This offense is, and always will be great. It's not going anywhere.
I'm not surprised that Tech wasn't the most talked about prior to last season, especially with the amount of talent returning elsewhere in the conference. I do, however, find it surprising that Tech isn't mentioned as a legitimate contender in the Big 12 South.
I do understand the uncertainty.
The coaching change might slow down Texas Tech this season, but I doubt it.
I doubt it because I watched a Leach-less Texas Tech team put up 41 points and amass 579 total yards against a respected Michigan State defense. To know how impressive that is, consider the fact that for the past 10 years, Tech didn't have an offensive coordinator.
Mike Leach called every single offensive play from 1999 to 2009. Former wide receivers coach Lincoln Riley, who was recently hired as the offensive coordinator for East Carolina, was forced to step in and call the shots. Prior to the game, Riley had never even seen a game from the sidelines.
Yet, the offense exceeded both its total yards and points average, amidst all the drama and heartbreak going on at the time.
Tommy Tuberville, along with new offensive coordinator Neal Brown, has had six months to get this Tech team in gear. Lincoln Riley had one week. Unless the offense is undergoing a complete transformation, Tech's offense will still score. A lot.
What's even more encouraging for Tech fans is the amount of talent returning, especially on the offensive side. With a total of 15 starters returning, the Red Raiders won't be short on talent, especially at skill positions.
Every wide out that made a catch in 2009 is back, including Detron Lewis, who will be among the elite receivers of the Big 12. In addition, an entire core of running backs, led by dependable two-year starter Baron Batch, will be back for Tuberville to work with. Among these is the electric Eric Stephens, whom Tuberville has labeled as "the best-kept secret in the country."
As usual, the Red Raiders will have plenty of playmakers. As usual, they will score plenty of points.
As for the defense, most Raider fans should have faith in the SEC-style of defensive play Tuberville and former Alabama linebackers coach James Willis will bring.
Given all this, this Red Raider football team can and will win some big games this seasons.
An upset win over Texas in Lubbock is entirely feasible. Big wins may also come against Missouri and Oklahoma State in Lubbock, and against Texas A&M in College Station. The real test for Tech will come on Nov. 13, when they enter the black hole known as Norman, OK.
Given all that has been said, Texas Tech returns the talent and personnel necessary to be a threat in the Big 12 South.
They haven't gone anywhere, they aren't rebuilding, and they will surprise opposing teams and fans...as usual.
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