Even though the smoke is far from clearing, and Texas Tech fans are far from coming to terms with the sudden dismissal of Coach Mike Leach, the Red Raider Nation can’t help but wonder about Tommy Tuberville .
The hot days of summer can culminate only one way. Nature dictates that ultimately, the steamy hours of August will be defeated by the changing winds of autumn. The subsequent turning of leaves and cool breezes are far more than mere climatic indicators, they mean the college football season is drawing near.
The Red Raiders can continue to stew about Mike Leach, but, as the summer peaks and begins to fizzle out, they can’t help but realize that they must first accept and then get acquainted with the man who will stalk the Tech sidelines when September comes.
So, who is Coach Tommy Tuberville, and, more importantly what can the Red Raider nation expect from him?
There has been much conversation about the man, his background, his honorable intentions, but, what will happen when he finally leads the brave boys clad in Scarlett and Black out of the tunnel and onto the field of honor?
Indeed, what will really happen when Tommy Tuberville straps the headsets on and starts calling the plays, making important in-game decisions; ultimately directing the destiny of a great football people anchored in dusty Lubbock?
Mike Leach’s high powered offense has put up some phenomenal numbers at Texas Tech. Nationally ranked in scoring and passing each year, the Red Raiders have scored a huge amount of points on a very large proportion of their opponents.
That said the one thing that seems to have prevented Tech from completely breaking through is its play on defense.
A high scoring offense combined with a defense that gives up a lot of points can equal some close games, which is exactly what has happened over the last ten years at Tech.
Tech’s defense has definitely improved in the last two years, but, it has still fallen short of completely delivering, especially in big games.
The Red Raider nation, if nothing else, can look forward with excitement to an improved defense under Tommy Tuberville.
Tuberville’s entire football career has been about defense; playing Safety at Southern Arkansas, serving as a Defensive End and Linebacker Coach at Arkansas State, Defensive Coordinator at Miami and Texas A&M and finally as a defensive minded coach at Ole Miss and Auburn.
Numbers are only a partial indicator of what might happen in the future, but, if we compare points scored by opponents of Mike Leach and Tommy Tuberville we see a definite, marked difference.
In Leach’s 10 years at Tech, opponents scored an average of 329.7 points per season on Tech’s defense.
Alternatively, in Tuberville’s 14 seasons at Ole Miss and Auburn combined opponents scored an average, per season, of 226.2 points against Tuberville coached defenses.
That is 103 less points allowed by the defense, per season. In terms of touchdowns, that is approximately 15 fewer touchdowns given up, again, per season.
Now, how many more games would have Tech won with those numbers?
Obviously, these numbers don’t take into account how many more points Tech scored on offense than Tuberville’s teams did (which is a substantially more), or, the fact that the Big 12 is more likely to produce high scoring opponents than is the SEC.
But, if Tuberville can manage equipping Tech with an offense that can score a considerable number of points and a supply a stifling defense to go along with it, what happens at Texas Tech?
Well—I can feel the hair rising on the necks of people in Austin, College Station, Stillwater and, yes, Norman.
Tommy Tuberville has a solid record against top ranked opponents.
At Auburn, he led the Tigers to victories in nine of his last 15 games vs. top 10 opponents. In 2006 alone, the Tigers recorded wins over two Top 5 teams, both who went on to play in BCS bowl games.
Overall, Tuberville has a 5-2 mark against Top 5 teams.
Texas Tech has improved over tough conference foes Oklahoma and Texas, but, still lacks the ability to beat these teams consistently, especially on the road.
Will Tuberville be the guy who can finally lead the Red Raiders to wins in Norman and Austin?
In ten seasons, Mike Leach led the Red Raiders to a Big 12 record of ten consecutive bowl appearances. Of these 10, Tech won six times, or held a 60 percent winning percentage in bowl games.
Alternatively, Tuberville, in his 14 seasons as a head coach at Ole Miss and Auburn, appeared in 10 bowls and won seven times. This nets in a 70 percent winning percentage in bowl games (obviously this number does not account for the four season that were “bowl-less”).
Bowl eligibility is obviously driven by regular season wins; this might lead some to argue that Mike Leach had a more difficult task in winning Big 12 South games, but, this line of reasoning could be easily negated by the fact that Tuberville teams played both played daunting schedules in the SEC West.
If past performance is any indication of future success, Tech fans can expect the Tuberville led Red Raiders to be bowl eligible, and, to win bowl games.
It would be fair to say that Mike Leach wasn’t a guy who was known for running the ball. Though Leach did run the ball more frequently towards the end of his tenure, as recruiting strengthened and the offensive line improved, overall, Leach wasn’t a rushing minded pirate.
Tommy Tuberville is certainly expected to run the ball more than Leach did. Much has already been made of the type of season Tech backs Baron Batch and Eric Stephens will have in an offensive that features far more runs than those in recent Tech campaigns.
So, how much will Tuberville really run the ball at Tech?
In 2009 Leach’s Red Raiders (9-4) ran the ball 319 times for 1,092 yards (while attempting 669 passes for 5,028 yards).
Looking back to 2005, Tuberville’s Auburn Tigers (also 9-4) ran the ball 481 times for 2329-yards (attempting a measly 339 passes for 2589-yards).
Therefore, strictly based on numbers, and, obviously far from comparing “apples to apples." In this instance Tuberville ran 162 more run plays than Leach, while, on the other hand, Leach opted to throw the ball a mind blowing 330 more times than Tuberville.
But, we know that Tuberville has hired Neal Brown from Troy as Tech’s new offensive coordinator. So then, what do Neal Brown’s numbers look like?
Troy, in 2009 (also 9-4 overall) ran the ball 444 times for 1,939-yards while passing 529 times for 437 yards.
Interestingly, Neal Brown’s offense in a way, numerically speaking, bridges a gap between Leach’s pass driven offense and Tuberville’s running dominant attack.
If the numbers mean anything all, it would be reasonable to assume that yes, Tuberville’s Red Raiders will indeed run more, and, pass less.
But, with Neal Brown on board (and given the proper authority) the differences might be more subtle, though, still apparent to the Red Raider faithful.
During his tenure at Auburn, Tuberville coached 19 players who were drafted by NFL teams—four of these players were first round selections.
This lends solid evidence to the claim that Tuberville is an effective recruiter. Recruiting at Tech (were Texas, A&M and Oklahoma pick up top recruits more easily) is no easy task, but, Tuberville had similar tasks at Auburn recruiting against the top SEC teams.
It would be reasonable to expect that Tuberville will, given the time to do so, bring more NFL caliber personnel to Lubbock.
Tuberville has verbally committed to running a “form of the spread offense” at Tech. The big question looms as to whether Tuberville has said this to appease Team Leach supporters, or, if he is really committed to keeping a high powered offense in Lubbock.
The hiring of offensive coordinator Neal Brown would seem solid evidence that a spread offense is indeed in the cards, at least for the short term, at Texas Tech.
Furthermore, at Tech’s Spring Game a no huddle, up tempo spread offense was run throughout the game.
But, Red Raiders who have become accustomed to a quirky, high powered, yard explosive offensive machine are understandably nervous about the direction of the offensive scheme at Texas Tech.
Much has been made about Tommy Tuberville’s attempts at the spread offense that flopped during his final year at Auburn in 2008.
Ironically, the offensive coordinator responsible for the spread at Auburn, Tony Franklin, lists as one of his followers Neal Brown, who is now that offensive mastermind at Tech.
To be fair, it would seem to have been premature to declare the attempts to convert the offense at Auburn a total failure, as, not even an entire season was dedicated to the new offense. This combined with the fact that personnel wise the Tigers were not staffed for a faster offense makes it seem absurd to claim that the Tommy Tuberville cannot be successful with a spread type offense.
Tech has the personnel on board, today, to run the offense; therefore, the next two seasons should lend a lot more credibility to whether or not Tuberville can be affective at leading a different type of offense to victory.
While the head coach at Ole Miss, Tuberville picked up the nickname “The River Boat Gambler” for his aggressive play calling.
After being named the new Tech head coach Tuberville himself claimed and referred to this nickname while fielding questions from the press regarding differences between himself and Leach.
But, can the Red Raider faithful, who, are certainly accustomed to the insistent aggressive (almost fanatical) play calling of Captain Leach really expect Tuberville to be on his River Boat wildly spinning the roulette wheel?
In 2009 the Red Raiders went for it on 4th down 32 times and were successful 22 times, or, 68.75 percent of the time.
Conversely, in 2005 at Auburn, Tuberville attempted 13 fourth down conversions and were successful nine times, or 69.23 percent of the time.
Therefore, according to the numbers, the Red Raider faithful can expect a marked decrease in 4th down attempts (by at least 1/3).
On the upside, when the new Red Raiders line up and go for it, Tech fans can expect to convert these attempts at about the same rate of success.
Gone are the days of sweatshirts, scruffy hair and poor posture. The pirate is gone at Jones Stadium, and, in his place Tech fans can expect a well groomed, neatly dressed Coach Tuberville on the sidelines.
Clad in Scarlett and Black, displaying some degree of southern decorum, Mrs. Tuberville’s boy, raised in Arkansas, can be expected to dress the part of a spruced up leader.
Tech fans can also expect tucked in shirts, belts and a regular dry cleaning van delivering outside of Jones Stadium. Also be on the lookout for neat hair, combed to perfection, sprayed, coiffed and in its place.
So, will this fashion shift be embraced by change the Tech faithful?
Well, I’m no style expert, but, if Texas Tech wins football games under Tuberville; tidy hair, sweater vests and neatly pressed khaki pants will be all the rage among the membership of the Red Raider nation.
Tommy Tuberville’s resume is filled with a wide array of impressive stats from his 14 years as a college head football coach.
His resume does not though include a section entitled “Games We Didn’t Win, Even Though We Should Have.”
To be fair, every coach in the land has a list of games they “should” have won, those they got lucky to win, and, those that just went as planned.
Tuberville, at Auburn, did develop a bit of an unsavory reputation for losing games that should have been won.
Case in point was Auburn’s 2001 loss to Vanderbilt which was the first time the Commodores had defeated Auburn in 50 years.
Additionally, a certain string of SEC loses in 2003 led to an attempted coup to relieve Tuberville of his coaching duties. The scandal was referred to as “Jet Gate."
At first glance it would seem that Tuberville and Tech will fit together very nicely, as, it could be argued that Texas Tech is also known for a bit of a tendency for losing games they were expected to win handily.
Truthfully, all coaches and teams lose games they absolutely should have won. But, really that’s the beauty of sports, the game is not decided until the yapping is over and the teams actually take the field and play.
The Red Raider nation can only hope that Tommy Tuberville’s reputation while at Tech will not include a string of losses in games in which they were heavily favored.
The reasons that Tuberville left his successful tenure at Auburn are cloudy at best. Did he want out, did Auburn want him to go, or, was it the two combined that made him go after 10 seasons and an impressive 85-40 record?
Of note to Red Raider fans is the way that Tuberville handled his exit from the job that preceded his run at Auburn, the four seasons he spent as the head man at Ole Miss.
Two days after declaring to the Rebel faithful “they’ll have to carry me out of here in a pine box” Tuberville was on his way to Auburn. Not surprisingly, this left an unpleasant taste in the mouths of the people of Oxford, Mississippi.
If Tuberville can win at Tech, and, barring any bad feelings with University brass, he could be in Lubbock for the long haul.
Expectations for Tuberville are obviously higher than those for any incoming football coach in Tech’s storied history, but, Tech can be expected to be patient. That said, eventually the Red Raiders will demand the championship caliber teams he has promised.
Whether or not Tuberville will want to stay in Lubbock is a complete unknown. Is the Red Raider job a spring board for a position at a higher profile institution, or, is the situation at Tech exactly what he is looking for?
One would surmise that Tuberville, with a proven track record in a major conference, would have waited around a little longer for a higher profile job this time around if that is what he wanted.
The shelf life of the Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech marriage is anyone’s guess; but, it is the hope of the Red Raider nation that this union will produce the variety of wedded bliss that only an abundance of victories can bring.