Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
2013 SEASON IN REVIEW: The first year of the Kliff Kingsbury (coaching) era at Texas Tech got off to a storybook start, as the Red Raiders shot out to a 7-0 record, which included victories in their first four Big 12 bouts.
From there however, the shine came off as Tech dropped five in a row to close out the regular season. That second-half fall from grace coincided with the tougher part of the schedule as those setbacks came against Oklahoma (38-30), Oklahoma State (52-34), Kansas State (49-26), Baylor (63-34) and Texas (41-16).
Despite the collapse, the Red Raiders were offered a chance to play Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, and the team responded to the challenge by earning a 37-23 victory.
It wasn't the season Kingsbury had hoped for, but one he fully expects both himself and his team to grow from.
"I think consistency as a program and particularly for myself, each and every day making sure you're bringing the same energy, the same positive message, and you gotta provide the stability especially when things aren't going well."
He continued, "And year one I probably didn't do a great job of that, and hopefully we learned from that and can build. I think our team learned how to handle adversity. If you continue to work, continue to stress doing things the right way, then in the end you're going to have success."
OFFENSE: The pass-happy attack that Texas Tech has been synonymous with for so many years was once again evident in 2013, as the Red Raiders led the Big 12 and ranked second nationally with 392.8 ypg. As a result, their scoring average came in at 35.8 ppg (third, 23rd) and they ranked second in the conference and eighth in the country in total offense (511.0 ypg).
Quarterbacks Michael Brewer and Baker Mayfield both transferred, leaving sophomore David Webb as the man Kingsbury and the Red Raiders will go into battle with when the season kicks off on Aug. 30 versus Central Arkansas. Webb threw for more than 2,700 yards with 20 touchdowns and 9 interceptions as a rookie in 2013, and he will need to count on a revamped receiving corps to help him and the rest of the offense improve across the board. The loss of standout pass catchers Eric Ward and Jace Amaro means guys like senior Bradley Marquez and junior Jakeem Grant could step out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Grant is the top returning receiver (65 receptions, 796 yards, 7 touchdowns).
Historically, the run game has been little more than an afterthought in the Red Raiders' high-octane aerial assault, and it will likely be junior DeAndre Washington or perhaps freshman Justin Stockton who make it their mission to improve a ground attack that ranked last in the league and 111th in the nation last year with a mere 118.2 ypg.
DEFENSE: The Texas Tech defense had its share of difficulty last season, particularly when it came to stopping the run. The unit ranked a disappointing ninth in the conference and 98th nationally by allowing 201.5 ypg on the ground.
An influx of big, able-bodied juco transfers could help stabilize things up front, but it will likely take time for the unit to come together.
One guy who could make a real name for himself on the defensive side of the ball is former running back Kenny Williams, who made the move to linebacker in the offseason. Utah transfer V.J. Fehoko along with top returning tackler Sam Eguavon (70 stops) should give the Red Raiders a solid linebacking corps.
The university recently reinstated highly-touted freshman defensive back Nigel Bethel II after he was dismissed from the team earlier in the summer for his role in a physical confrontation with Texas Tech women's basketball star Amber Battle. Bethel, however, is suspended for the first three games of the season. The rest of the secondary is rather unproven, although big things are expected from sophomore corner Justin Nelson and junior safety J.J. Gaines.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Senior Ryan Bustin is coming off a record-setting season as Tech's placekicker, and it will likely be junior Taylor Symmank who will handle the punting duties. There is no shortage of speedy options to take on return responsibilities, but the Red Raiders will need someone to step up in those roles as they try to secure the best field position possible to help take some of the pressure off Webb and the offense.
OUTLOOK: There are some definite winnable games early for Tech (Central Arkansas, UTEP), but its final non-conference tilt against Arkansas will be tough.
From there, the pitfalls of Big 12 play are plentiful. The league lidlifter at Oklahoma State on Sept. 25 could be very telling -- win and the Red Raiders will be a confident bunch. Lose and a downward spiral like the one suffered last year could ensue.
Another brutal final month (vs. Texas, vs. Oklahoma, at Iowa State, vs. Baylor) won't make securing a bowl bid easy, but Kingsbury's crew will surely battle tooth and nail to make it happen.
"I think last year it was what it was, but in our conference you have to play everybody every year. Doesn't matter when you play them; you gotta gear up and be ready for it."