Red Raiders Enter 2008 with Texas-Sized Expectations

Andrew GloverCorrespondent IAugust 29, 2008

The Texas Tech Red Raiders enter the 2008 season with great expectations. Tech returns 10 starters from last year’s Gator Bowl winning team on offense and defense. Starting senior quarterback Graham Harrell is up for at least three awards including Heisman.

In addition, Harrell can break former Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan’s record for most career touchdowns at 131. Michael Crabtree had an amazing freshman season winning the Fred Biletnikoff award for best wide receiver. The defense should be stronger in Ruffin McNeil’s second full season as the defense coordinator.

The Red Raiders should breeze through the non-conference schedule with three of four games at home. Tech opens the season with Eastern Washington on Aug. 30. Then the Red Raiders go on the road and face Nevada before coming back to Lubbock to host SMU and Massachusetts.

October will be the test for the Red Raiders as three of four games will be at Big 12 opponents. Tech goes to Kansas State after a bye then return home to play Nebraska. For the only time during the season, the Red Raiders will play back-to-back road games at Texas A&M and Kansas.

Tech closes the season with three of four games at home. The Red Raiders will look to get their first victory against Texas since 2002 on November 1st. The following week Tech hosts Oklahoma State in what could be the last game played at someone’s home turf.

There is still talk of the Tech-Oklahoma State game being played in Dallas as early as 2009. After a week off Tech plays their last road game at Oklahoma before closing out the season at home against Baylor.

Senior quarterback Graham Harrell returns with high expectations. Tech’s senior quarterback is listed as a candidate for Unitas and Davey O’Brien awards. In addition, Harrell is a hopeful for the prestigious Heisman trophy. Taylor Potts, Stefan Loucks, Steven Sheffield and Seth Doege will look to step up when they get playing time. As they will compete to be the starter in 2009.

Texas Tech will have options at running back. Senior Shannon Woods showed some improvements during the off season and looks to regain the starter role after being demoted to scout team last season.

Baron Batch showed he can make plays in his freshman season but the question will be whether he can be consistent. Aaron Crawford emerged as the starter at the end of the season with a great game at Baylor. The running backs could be an open competition for Tech.

Harrell will have another strong cast of wide receivers to throw the ball to. After putting up phenomenal numbers during his freshman season Michael Crabtree will gain more attention from opposing defenses. That will open up the other receivers.

Senior Eric Morris looks to take over the return duties and to be involved with the offense more. Especially in his new Elf Formation. Todd Walker could be the slot receiver for Tech and should play a bigger part in the offense other receivers as Detron Lewis and Tramain Swindall should see more catches.

The offensive line was strong last year as they kept Harrell upright most of the time. With Rylan Reed’s return and leaders like Stephen Hamby and Shawn Byrnes, they should be stronger than last year.

Since Ruffin McNeil took the reigns as defensive coordinator, the defensive line has improved tremendously. They came up with nine sacks in the spring game and have been intense in practice.

They should be even better this season with all the starters returning. Junior Rajon Henley and sophomore Cody Whitlock look to be the leaders on the defensive line, as both had strong performances in last season’s Gator Bowl. Brandon Sesay and Brandon Williams could also be threats for opposing offensive lines. Look for the defense to stop more runners in the backfield and produce more sacks.

The linebackers look to be strength for the defense. Junior Marlon Williams and sophomore Brian Duncan look to keep opponents from gaining first downs. Freshman Sam Fehoko should have more playing time this season. Fehoko came up with an interception in the spring game.

Opposing wide receivers could see less catches with Tech’s secondary. Sophomore Jamar Wall showed he could make plays in his freshman season and should be a bigger force in 2008. Senior Darcel McBath looks to be the leader for secondary at safety. Receivers and running backs should expect to be hit hard by McBath.

The Red Raiders special teams will have mostly new faces this season. Clutch kicker Alex Trlica graduated after two game winning field goals in his last two seasons and the game tying field goal in the Insight Bowl. Senior Cory Fowler and freshman Donnie Carona competed for the job in the off season.

Jonathan LaCour returns as starting punter and showed his determination after getting a punt off after a botched snap in last season’s Gator Bowl. With Danny Amendola, graduating and walking on with Cowboys look for Eric Morris to return punts. Edward Britton and Detron Lewis should be returning kicks again for the Red Raiders.

Therefore, if the Red Raiders are going to have a big season, this is the year to do it. After this season, it could be tougher with lots of key talent graduating or leaving early for the NFL Draft.