Well, I’m somewhat glad this is over. I was definitely ready to put this to bed yesterday when the game was over and I’m probably not going to look back at this game as anything more than a game on the schedule and the end of the season. Of course, I had ideas of an upset and I thought for sure that the 10 points given by Vegas were enough given how this team played, but perhaps the short week and the injuries left this team absolutely battered. Off the top of my head, I think the biggest things to “fix” in the offseason would be the pass defense, red zone offense, and the coverage units on special teams need some fixin’ as well.
I honestly don’t know what we’ll be at quarterback next year. Same time next year, I’m simply not sure what we’ll be. I’d have to guess that someone will transfer, but I’m not sure who it will be. I go back and forth about who it could be and then I change my mind. Jett Duffey will be a senior, Alan Bowman will be a sophomore, Maverick McIvor will be a redshirt freshman, and incoming freshman quarterback Donovan Smith will be a true freshman. What does the offense lack? For me, the offense lacks explosiveness. There’s not a ton of punching up and just popping on an opponent and yesterday was a good example of that in that Duffey had 399 yards, but he also averaged 6.9 yards per attempt. I think the biggest part of the offense, other than figuring out something in the red zone other than a fade route on 4th and goal, is to get the offense more vertical.
3. Running Backs
God bless Sarodorick Thompson. The last running back standing and he’s going to be good. He went as far as he could and I’ve got a ton of respect for him, a respect that his teammates already figured out as they named him and Ta’Zhawn Henry as captains before the year. For the year, Thompson had 144 carries for 679 yards and 11 touchdowns. I’ll take that for sure and add a healthy Henry along with one of my favorite recruits in Tahj Brooks and the running back room looks quite a bit more healthy. It’s incredibly thin right now and I think that the staff could consider adding another piece at running back, more of a Henry-type of player than a Thompson type of player, that wouldn’t bother me in the least.
4. Receivers and Tight End
I would not have guessed at the beginning of the year that RJ Turner would be the leading receiver in terms of catches and yards, but he was and I thought that generally speaking he was at times the best player on the offensive side of the ball. Other than Donta Thompson, who I also have a tremendous amount of respect for, everyone else returns. I should mention that Thompson went from 1 catch last year to 25 for 300+ yards. I think the one other part of the offense that is something that goes along with fixing things in the red zone is getting the tight end more involved in that respect. No tight ends had any touchdowns and that should be something that’s fixed next year. But back to the receivers, everyone else returns and I think there’s some real talent at receiver, but it’s about consistency. Erik Ezukanma, Dalton Rigdon, T.J. Vasher, McLane Mannix, Savier White, KeSean Carter, Travis Koontz, Myller Royals, etc. all return and all did a bit of something, but they need to be better. Texas Tech needs more days like what Carter did against Texas, 11 catches for 150 yards, but Carter only had 16 catches for the year, so this was the one game he went off.
5. Offensive Line
The offensive line is going to have to get re-worked pretty significantly this offseason. I don’t know if Jack Anderson will return for his senior year, but not having him for the year was significant, and other than yesterday, I thought the line preformed okay. I think they need to be better at the point of attack and be better run blockers, but it’s difficult to complain too much. There’s a lot of seniors on the line, Travis Bruffy, Terence Steele, and Madison Akamnonu, so that’s three starters that need to be replaced. I thought that Dawson Deaton played very well his first year at center and he’s going to be an anchor. If Anderson returns, that helps quite a bit because I thought that Weston Wright played decent enough as well. My guess is that Casey Verhulst and Will Farrar will get the first cracks at the offensive line spots, but you could need at least one or two more and I’m not sure who that is going to be. From a development standpoint, we don’t know if guys like Demarcus Marshall or Trevor Roberson or Clayton Franks or Zach Adams or Hakeem White or Landon Peterson will be signifiant players, but those are your options as well as any incoming offensive linemen (I know the staff is hot after a JUCO offensive lineman).
6. Defensive Line
I’m definitely going to pour one out for Broderick Washington. I thought he was really good for the better part of the year, but the entire defensive line needs to take a step. In fact, after the game, head coach Matt Wells said that the offensive and defensive lines need to be stronger:
We’ve got to get more physical. We’ve got to be more physical on the offensive line, on the defensive line. I think that’s a big part of it. Skill development is a big part of who I think we are. Our skill development, whether it’s running backing, whether it’s DB skill development, we’ve got to improve and we’ve got to recruit. So the guys coming in have got to be the guys, some of them are going to be ready to play right now, be real frank with you and some of them, I think will have bright futures. But I think that’s the biggest key is we have to get bigger and stronger and get more physical in my opinion on both sides of the ball.
I’d agree, there were times that a three-man front was simply not enough to put any sort of pressure on Texas and youd like for at least one player to slip free to make a play. I’d like to think that Jaylon Hutchings, Nelson Mbanasor, Eli Howard, and Tony Bradford all get better because I think pressure on the quarterback is a significant thing to improve, 70th on the year. And right now, there’s only 2 defensive linemen in the class, LB Moore from Amarillo and Philip Blidi from New Mexico. I think the staff is definitely lookin for additional JUCO options here. I’d also add that the hope that the guys that redshirted, Quinton Williams (he’s a player that I hardly think about, but I believe the staff loves his potential), John Scott III (how has he recovered from his gunshot situation is obviously a big question), and Gilbert Ibeneme. So there’s a decent group here, we just don’t know, a lot like the offensive line, how they’ve responded this year on the scout team.
There will not be bigger shoes to fill moreso than Jordyn Brooks. Not enough praise for him, he was absolutely amazing. Riko Jeffers was very solid, but his consistency I think needs improvement. We’ll see how guys like Braden Stringer, Tyrique Matthews, Bryce Robinson, Patrick Curley and Kosi Eldridge have improved. I’d add that I thought that Evan Rambo played well at times, but was not healthy and Xavier Benson showed flashes, but he’s got to add weight to be a bonafide pass rusher because at 220, that’s not going to cut it. Derrick Lewis, II is the only linebacker 2020 commit so not a lot of help on the way, but there is seemingly enough bodies, we largely don’t know if they can play. And I don’t know if Adam Beck is a linebacker or a safety or the hybrid, but he should be more hybrid than anything else. Just not enough size to play linebacker and he was asked to fill in when asked so it’s not his fault he’s filling in and I think the staff wanted to reserve some redshirts.
Yeah, I simply do not understand how this group can be this bad. Historically bad. I think there are good players here, but there’s a significant disconnect and they are continually playing behind receivers. Continually. Either that or it’s an interference situation. Alex Hogan got the start yesterday at cornerback with Demarcus Fields at the Spur, Douglas Coleman and Adrian Frye at the other safety. That’s some good athletes there and this was still one of the worst pass defenses in the country, 126th to end the year, and it was 129th last year, and 123rd the year before that. Someone definitely needs to hit the “upgrade” button here because that needs to happen. And I really do think that the entire secondary, from top to botton needs to be re-thought. Every position, how things are being taught, etc. There’s plenty of numbers here, so that’s not a problem and there are four high school commits on the way, but it would be difficult for them to make a huge impact given the current depth chart unless they simply ball-out in the spring and fall. I will say that it was probably good that guys like Hogan and Dadrion Taylor got their feet wet and played this year because they now know how that Big 12 football is played at an entirely different speed.
9. Special Teams
I think that the punt coverage unit is fine, 38th overall. That’s good enough, but Texas Tech was 125th in kickoff returns. That’s a huge problem and although they only gave up one touchdown, it was a touchdown that was maybe the difference between a win and a loss. I’m completely happy with the kicking situation and I don’t think that there’s much room for improvement. Texas Tech was 7th in field goal percentage and 17th in yards per punt in the nation. That’s fantastic and I’ve got no issues there.
Q. Do you ever have time for reflection, or is it just kind of a 365-cycle?
MATT WELLS: I think it’s important to take time to reflect. I think that’s healthy. You have to know what worked, what — you know, where your struggles are. I think we already know some of the answers in both that we did well and we struggled with. I think it’s always important to take time and reflect over the next few weeks we’ll do that as a staff, and you know, as a program.
I do hope that Wells does reflect a bit after the recruiting period ends, which is December 18th. Basically Wells and the staff need to add 8 more players to the 2020 class. From a reflection standpoint, the defense was ranked 125th in total defense, one of the worst pass defenses in the nation, and has to be great punching the ball in the end zone when you’re in those 4th and goal situations like yesterday. If this is a re-building year, then 2020 needs/must be a bowl-game or bust situation? That needs to be the lowest of expectations.