The departure of Mike Leach has created a void at Texas Tech that has yet to be filled.
Surprisingly, this void doesn't have much to do with winning football games, or remaining competitive in the new Big 12. Rather, this void revolves around the personality and identity of the Tech football program.
We all know that Mike Leach lifted the Red Raiders to the national stage. He posted ten consecutive winning records and led Tech to their highest final AP ranking in school history. Also, his 84-43 record at Tech stands as the best of any coach in team history.
However, Mike Leach's greatest achievement was his ability to cultivate a certain kind of personality within the program and the school.
He made Tech into the dangerous Big 12 south dark horse that scored too many points and posted too many stats to ignore. He carved out a niche with his high-flying aerial assault, which brought something new to Lubbock and gave Tech a distinct personality among not only the Big 12, but the entire country.
His quirky but exciting, video game-like offense was embraced and continues to be loved in Lubbock. This is evidenced by the popular t-shirts seen around Jones Stadium that say "We Score A Lot" in black on the front.
So now, with Leach out of the picture, what happens to Tech's persona?
Tommy Tuberville takes over in 2010, bringing with him the defensive knowledge of a typical SEC coach. He's had his differences with the spread offense in the past, after failing miserably to make it work with his Auburn offensive coordinator, Tony Franklin, back in 2008.
That being said, it looks like (at least for now) Tuberville plans on keeping the pass-heavy tradition alive at Tech, bringing former Troy offensive coordinator Neal Brown aboard.
One must note that Mike Leach and the Red Raiders haven't been known simply for having a spread offense. They're known for perfecting the spread offense. For being the best in the country at it.
Plenty of teams run the spread: Missouri, Houston, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Arizona, BYU, Tulsa, Troy, and North Texas are a few that come to mind.
None, however, have been more successful than the Red Raiders.
For that reason, Neal Brown's hiring means a lot for this team, as he'll seek to continue Tech's offensive mastery with his own, slightly different, version of the spread passing attack. His task will be to continue the team's high-scoring ways, while simultaneously maintaining Tech's unique image in college football.
He has some big shoes to fill, as Mike Leach led the Red Raiders to a top-10 offensive ranking every year he was with the program. Throughout this time, Leach assumed the role of offensive coordinator, calling every play on every down.
So, not only will Brown be the youngest offensive coordinator in Division 1 football, he'll also be the first true coordinator for Texas Tech since 2000.
Unlike Franklin in 2008, Brown will have an experienced group of quarterbacks and wide receivers who have been groomed to play in the spread. He'll have the top six receivers from last year's squad, including two quarterbacks who are more than up to the job. And finally, he'll have more depth at running back than Tech has had in years.
It looks like it's all teed up for Brown. 2010 will be a great year for him to prove that he can keep this offense rolling like it has been for the past decade.
Defensively, Tech fans know what they're getting in Tuberville.
He'll install his own 3-4 defense, putting emphasis on fast, aggressive linebackers. He'll be more conservative than Leach, despite his reputation as the Riverboat Gambler. And finally, he'll have a hand in the offense, running some power plays and putting the ball in the hands of the backfield more.
What Tech fans are, or should be, anxious about is seeing the influence Brown will have on this offense, and his vision in terms of play-calling and strategy.
Brown's intentions for this offense will be revealed soon enough, at which point fans will be able to see how similar or different this team will be for years to come.
All in all, Mike Leach's Air Raid offense catapulted Texas Tech into the national spotlight, and set them apart from other teams who follow traditional offensive guidelines. The nontraditional way of doing things has defined Red Raider football for the past ten years. It's what Tech has grown into.
It will be up to Neal Brown to preserve the unique, somewhat rebellious personality of this football team, all while ensuring that Red Raider fans will continue to see their team light up the scoreboard week after week.
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