1. Quarterback Competition: This will no doubt fill the Texas Tech internets with all sorts of speculation. I’ve in fact opined that if it isn’t Jett Duffey as the quarterback by the end of the spring, then I think Texas Tech is in a world of trouble. That discounts the progress that could be made by McClane Carter, but I’ve written before that Duffey has the pedigree and it would seem that Duffey is the favorite. There has to be a reason why Kingsbury decided to allow Duffey to come back when he very easily could have jettisoned Duffey. Regardless, it seems that more words will be written about Duffey and Carter and maybe Alan Bowman, with the bottom line being that without better quarterback play in 2018, then you can probably expect more of the same from 2017.
2. Returning from Injury. Just off the top of my head, I’m really looking forward to some of the guys returning from injury. Lonzell Gilmore was a guy that was seemingly coming on pretty quickly before an injury derailed his season. There needs to be a better pass rush and he could be a big part of that moving forward. I also think this team really missed fullback Mason Reed, who was out for the year with concussion issues. You wonder if that’s something that can be corrected or if he can return to full form. I’d certainly think that depending on how the offense will shape out as far as an offensive coordinator, a better than average fullback with good receiving skills could be incredibly important. Houston Miller was injured early and he had so much promise. I’m interested as hell as to how he’s progressed rehabbing and maybe he has also transition to a very quick defensive tackle that can really rush the passer. Oh, and how can we forget about kicker Clayton Hatfield, who should be escorted through the fall with an armed security force protecting his kicking leg at all costs.
3. Returning from Suspension. Too similar categories and although we can’t really call these suspensions, they really are suspensions. Noseguard Joe Wallace and running back Da’Leon Ward will hopefully be back and ready to earn some sort of spot in the rotation. We’ve discussed before the situation at running back and a guy like Ward returning would do wonders for the offense. With Wallace, there’s an open spot at defensive tackle and I wonder how defensive line coach Terence Jamison will add Wallace, he seems like a natural noseguard, but Broderick Washington played there all of last year besides Mych Thomas. I would think that those two spots are a bit interchangeable. Oh, and it was interesting that Kingsbury mentioned Wallace in the bowl game preparations as a guy that played really well while getting redshirted last year. And I wonder if that also means that Ward would be redshirted too, making both he and Wallace sophomores. That would be fan-freaking-tastic.
4. Who Arrives at Inside Receiver. It seems that there are only question marks at inside receiver and that’s a bit bothersome, at least for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure someone will step up and it will be fine, but I’m interested as hell to see how it all shakes out. The options are somewhat limited, at least they are at this point and you really can’t forget about some of those true freshmen who might step up and get some playing time. Sterlin Galban and Kisean Carter athletically are already there, but it’s a matter of getting in the system and getting those reps. I also think that guys like De’Quan Bowman, who has been in the system for two years would seemingly make a move. He’s always been blocked by some pretty talented players like Cameron Batson and Keke Coutee or Jonathan Giles. Opportunity is knocking right now. Oh, and I think that Xavier Martin is my guy to surprise us all next year and it would make me so happy to see him utilize those talents. He’s a helluva shifty guy and he’s one of those guys that made people miss in space as a quarterback (truthfully, I’d love to see him at quarterback too, but I know that’s not going to happen).
5. Marked Improvement of the Offensive Line: Nothing would make me happier than to see the offensive line take a step forward and remove the one thing that I thought just killed them last year, the speed rush. There were times that that outside pass rush just completely destroyed the offense. Yes, it will help to have a more mobile quarterback (I think regardless of who wins between Carter or Duffey, the quarterback will be more mobile), but the tackles need to be better. And I’m also pretty excited about the interior of the line improving. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought it was pretty good. Year two of Brandon Jones should help quite a bit too.