I’ve avoided this topic for the better part of two weeks because I’ve had an incredibly difficult time figuring out how to put into words. The topic: the continuing trend of high profile players transferring from Texas Tech. That list includes Breiden Fehoko, Jonathan Giles and the recent departure of Tony Brown.
This is problematic.
See Ya Later and Good Riddance
A popular, but not wrong sentiment, is something to the effect of “see you later and good riddance” and there’s nothing wrong with that way of thinking. We like for our guys to always be our guys. We are incredibly loyal to Texas Tech because this is where we graduated or grew up being fans of this institution. It’s natural to treat those that don’t feel the same way as you as simply not good enough to be part of the club. That’s understandable.
For me, I’m always a bit disappointed when there’s a transfer. Not disappointed in the player, just the situation overall. This gets into “feelingsball” and we’re probably going to talk quite a bit about feelingsball because I think that’s part of the problem here, which is that our emotions are somewhat wrapped up in this situation and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.
It’s More Than a Trend
The biggest thing for me is that this is more than a trend. Some of the folks at Inside Red Raiders looked at the attrition numbers for Texas Tech in terms of recruiting classes. The retention rate is the worst in the Big 12 and it’s really not all that close. Just 35% of Texas Tech’s 2014 and 2015 classes are currently on the roster and the next closest is Iowa State at 50%. That’s not the way to run a program.
We can discus the idea that this doesn’t seem all that bad and that there’s nothing to worry about. There’s a reason why Texas Tech has one of the worst APR scores in the Big 12 and it’s because of the transfers (basically it is because players are transferring and not graduating). These scores are combined into a rolling average and Texas Tech has a 941 multiyear average and an APR score of 946.
This Isn’t a Mere Flesh Wound
When players transfer to the extent that Texas Tech has, you end up with a continually young team and young teams typically don’t do very well because they’re . . . well . . . young. And these defections collectively make a big difference. We can say, “good riddance” but truthfully there’s only so many defections that you can take before it’s problematic and we’re probably there. We’re probably at the point where it is problematic.
The inside receivers are really down to just a real two-deep in terms of scholarship players, one of them is a former walk-on.
H-Receiver: Cameron Batson and De’Quan Bowman
Y-Receiver: Keke Coutee and Zach Austin
After that it’s just walk-ons. What was a position of strength is now a position of some concern. And yes, there are some guys that you could move to inside receiver, a guy like Justin Stockton or Demarcus Felton (I think Stockton has a much better chance than Felton). Donta Thompson could be switched back to inside receiver, although I wonder if he’s a true tweener in that he’s not fast enough to play outside and doesn’t offer enough of a match-up problem to play inside. Xavier Martin seeing the field as a true freshman at inside receiver (No, I really don’t think that happens, but you get the idea)? We’ll see, but you get the idea here. It’s a bit problematic because you’ve lost both talent and depth at inside receiver.
And at offensive line, where you could maybe have a handful of seniors that are playing, you’re left with only one senior, Tony Morales, three junior college players, Jacob Hines, Paul Stawarz and Jack Reichel, and the rest of the eleven offensive linemen are sophomores and freshmen.
Who’s To Blame
This is the $64,000 question isn’t it? Is it the player who is demoted and therefore unhappy that he has to earn his spot.
Or is the coach who is unable to keep players happy because if it’s a problem, and I think that it is, then some of it falls on the head coach. It should fall on the head coach because it’s the head coach’s team. Kingsbury does have responsibility and there is a line where he has to placate players a bit. And I’m not talking about placating players that have broken rules.
How much fault do you put into the coach who has players that are unhappy? He can’t control them, it’s completely out of the coach’s hands! Right? Well, again, at some point the coaches have to look themselves in the mirror and take some responsibility for the players that are defecting. And again, it’s not that players don’t transfer. That happens. The problem is that it is happening at an alarming rate, the highest rate in the Big 12. Only a 35% retention rate. Maybe 60% is acceptable?
After Tony Brown announced his transfer, Keke Coutee tweeted this and Nic Shimonek replied.
And Derrick Willies sought out a tweet that looked to dispel that anything was wrong.
That’s two receivers and your starting quarterback opining on the matter. Keeping their mouths shut, to an extent, and dispelling any issues. I’ll let you be the judge.
Kingsbury’s Hot Seat
The real thing that I’m starting to feel is just really unsettled and what happens this year, 2017, is going to tell us a ton about where the program is headed. If Kingsbury wins, then I think he gets extended. And I’m not sure that 7 wins does it.
We talked earlier about *feelingsball* and I think this is where our emotions get the better of us, me included. The problem is that Kingsbury is eternally attached to Texas Tech and there is nothing more that we’d like to see than Kingsbury succeed. He’s been given every opportunity and the state of the program as it sits today sits with Kingsbury.
I’ve thought that Kingsbury’s seat was hot last year. After the West Virginia loss. After the Iowa State drubbing. I thought that Kingsbury’s tenure would be short-lived. There was discussion at the end of the year about how some higher-ups within the program wanted to see Kingsbury replaced, but Kirby Hocutt fought for Kingsbury for at least one more year. The money for the buyout isn’t the problem. That can be paid.
The problem is that if butts aren’t in seats and buying tickets then this money train that is Texas Tech football comes to a complete halt. Any thoughts about retaining Kingsbury are wholly dependent on winning because winning, or at least the prospect of winning (i.e. hiring a new coach). And honestly, I am pretty sure, if there are not a huge number of defections on defense, that next year will set up to be one of significant improvement for the defense and the offense should still be pretty good. I think we’ll see more JUCO receiver transfers to replenish the ranks, but I don’t expect the offense to fall significantly from Shimonek to whoever is next.
I really do think that we’re at a “prove yourself in 2017” moment for Kingsbury. I’ve felt that way for a long time and with everything that’s happened, I’m firmly planted in that camp. I’m hoping for the best here. I love that Kingsbury is Texas Tech’s head coach, but he’s got to win.