Philadelphia, PA – 2011 SEASON IN REVIEW: The second year of Tommy Tuberville's tenure at Texas Tech began well enough, as the team won its first four games, which included a double-digit decision at Kansas in the Big 12 Conference opener.
From there however, the wheels came off as the Red Raiders suffered losses in seven of their final eight tilts, ending the season on a five-game slide. The one win during that run of futility however, happened to come against the mighty Oklahoma Sooners, in Norman no less, giving the team at least one reason to celebrate.
Still, Texas Tech's 5-7 mark (2-7 in conference) resulted in its first season without a bowl invite in 12 years, and that certainly didn't sit well with Tuberville, the fans and the administration, setting the stage for what could be another stressful year in Lubbock.
Despite the added pressure, Tuberville is excited about the prospects for turning things around.
"We've had a good spring, good off-season recruiting. Two good recruiting classes back to back."
OFFENSE: The Red Raider offense certainly did its part in 2011 by averaging 470.6 yards and 33.8 points per game. With the pass once again being the preferred mode of attack, Tech rolled up 345.4 ypg through the air, with 28 of the 50 TDs scored by the unit coming from the arm of now senior QB Seth Doege. A 68.5 percent passer last season, Doege threw for just over 4,000 yards, and was intercepted only 10 times in 581 attempts.
Junior WR Eric Ward is back after leading the team with 84 receptions for 800 yards and 11 TDs in 2011, as are seniors Alex Torres (51 receptions, 616 yards, 4 TDs) and Darrin Moore (47 receptions, 571 yards, 8 TDs).
As for Texas Tech's run game, that is somewhat questionable at the moment as senior Eric Stephens (565 yards, 8 TDs) makes his way back from a serious knee injury suffered in the first half of last season. If Stephens can't find his footing early on, expect to see either Kenny Williams or DeAndre Washington getting the bulk of the carries, provided the former has worked through some off-the-field issues, and the latter is feeling better following a knee injury of his own.
The offensive line boasts three returning starters, but the one to keep an eye on is Texas A&M transfer Brian Thomas.
DEFENSE: The Red Raiders really struggled on defense last year, allowing just shy of 40 ppg. Their effort against the run was abysmal, as foes churned out 258.8 ypg -- the worst yield in the country -- scoring 33 TDs along the way.
Tuberville was clearly not happy with the way his defense played, so he brought in former North Carolina defensive coordinator Art Kaufman to help implement a new scheme. Additionally, he wanted his team to get stronger at the point of attack and spoke recently about the transformation his players are going through.
"We are not that big, but we've gotten bigger. That happens in the weight room," He continued, "The area we were lacking a lot at last year was people ran the football right at us. And we were a non-factor with our front four."
The fact that at least a half dozen guys with starting experience are back isn't exactly a bonus for a group that had so much trouble last year, but there is something to be said for familiarity. Still, a lot will depend on how well the guys in the trenches perform, and whether or not the linebackers can be effective in helping stop the run.
Expect junior DT Kenny Hyde and junior LB Terrance Bulitt to put their best foot forward, and for some talented juco transfers to make an impact as well.
The secondary boasts a pair of solid safeties in seniors Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson, the two ranking atop the team's tackles list in '11 with 93 and 83, respectively. Davis also led the club in PBU with 5, while Johnson paced the team in INTs with 2.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Sophomore Ryan Bustin is expected to handle kicking duties this year, while junior Ryan Erxleben serves as the team's punter. Erxleben averaged a lackluster 41.7 ypp in '11, and he dropped 20 of his 57 boots inside the 20- yard line.
OUTLOOK: The Red Raiders open the season with winnable games against Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico, but once the Big 12 slate gets underway at Iowa State on Sept. 29, the road will get pretty bumpy.
Following the clash with the Cyclones, Tech faces a slew of tough teams in Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU, Kansas State and Texas before hosting Kansas on Nov. 10. The Red Raiders close out the regular season against Oklahoma State and Baylor.
It will be interesting to see how much leeway Tuberville gets should the team falter for an extended period of time this season. The guess is, not much.