A Clearer View of Matt Wells’ Coaching Philosophy

Let’s talk football.

Spring break was one of the best things for me because I really needed to take a 1,000-foot view of the football program. As fast as things happened for Wells and recruiting, I think things happened fast for us as well. Trying to wrap your and my head around what Wells is about and trying to figure out what the football program is about.

A few things happened that I thought were good looks into what I think that Wells is about.

Tommy McVay Buys In

One of the first things that I noticed when Wells was hired was that long-time Texas Tech proponent and member of the football program, Tommy McVay, was there standing next to Wells. And of all things, as part of the presentation of the Double-T letter jacket. One of the first things that Wells has said as he wants the Double-T to mean something. These gestures are largely symbolic. Kingsbury tried to do the same thing with the tiered workout shirts, having to earn the Double-T workout shirt. This may be slightly different because earning a letter jacket is something that eventually the entire team isn’t going to just “do” because it would seem unlikely that Kingsbury or Whitt would continue to dress a player in the brown shirt while everyone else had the Double-T shirt, but who knows. Regardless, maybe this means more coming from McVay, who has spent more time with this program than maybe anyone else, he’s spanned Dykes, Leach, Tuberville, Kingsbury, and now Wells.

I’ve been here for about 23 years. Been through five head coaches. And to make this presentation to you is the first time I’ve ever seen. You know how long it took me to get on board with these guys? Five minutes. Because they’re doing everything right. We’re going to win football games and that’s what this is all about. So it gives me a lot of pleasure to present these jackets to you right now.

An Ultimatum

This is from a short snippet from what is to be a behind-the-scenes look at the football team. The episodes will appear on TexasTech.TV on Monday evening (that’s tonight), and then be released to the other social networks stations on Tuesday (this is an incentive to get you to buy TexasTech.TV). I suppose that this was maybe the last speech that Wells gave before the team went to spring break. And there were actually two snippets, one appeared from the last practice perhaps, and the second was one of the earlier practices.

We’re going to build a championship level program and we’re not deviating from it. You’re either all on board or don’t come back after spring break. That’s not a threat, I’m just telling you that’s where we’re going. Hop on and let’s ride.

Since these weren’t too long, I actually transcribed them and I think that the thing that we’ll notice about Wells is that we won’t have to decipher how he feels about things. He’s pretty black-and-white in terms of emotion. It is clear that he wants you on board or he wants you to leave.

I’m going to tell you this. We’re going to win sooner the quicker we come together. The standard is here and we will not lower it for you.

Wells said during signing day that he wouldn’t lower what they think about players in order just sign players, and he repeats that same thought here in that he has a very high standard and he won’t lower that standard in order to accomplish his goals. I think Wells is going to be incredibly consistent and easy to read.

Player Development

Wells was a guest on Dave Campbell’s Texas Football with Greg Tepper last week.

These aren’t actual quotes, I didn’t have time to get these down, but the general idea when asked about what Wells will do at Texas Tech, there are three things that stand out to me: 1) Wells very much believes in the development of his players, particularly the strength and conditioning coach David Scholz; 2) Wells is not only drawing comparisons to Chris Beard, but maybe inspiration as well; and 3) Wells knew that he was behind the 8-ball with the 2019 class and zigged when others zagged.

Wells discusses that the offense is going to score points and push the ball down the field. He wants the team to take on a blue collar and he thinks that the program will be a developmental program. Wells points to the success that Chris Beard has had and wants to be similar to how he’s developed players. Wells says that he thinks that the program prides itself on being very developmental. Investment in coaching, strength and conditioning, training, and nutrition.

Just roll through the photos and media Twitter feed of Scholz and you’ll see what he’s talking about. Lots and lots of photos of players before and after. This isn’t revolutionary, players making gains are part of strength and conditioning, but one of the first, if not first, hires were Scholz to go along with Wells to Texas Tech. I know there was a lot of hand-wringing when Rusty Whitt wasn’t retained, but if this is a core belief for Wells, that his development of players and his ability to identify a S&C coach that can actually give him an edge on the field, then no amount of Whitt-love would have kept him here.

The other key here is Wells’ comparison to Beard, who has one of the best S&C coaches in John Reilly and has demonstrated the ability to physically change players. Norense Odiase is Exhibit 1. Davide Moretti is Exhibit 2. Both of their bodies changed significantly since Beard arrived and I’d bet if you ask Beard, he absolutely believes in player development being one of the most important factors in his success at Texas Tech. I don’t pay enough attention to other players, but by the time that these guys graduate from Texas Tech, most of these players will probably look like football players than basketball players physically.

I think Wells has recognized that having an edge offensively or defensively is incredibly difficult. Schemes are schemes, everyone runs a version of the spread, how can you gain an advantage over a program when the schemes may be similar? Be great at player development. I think that Kingsbury recognized this the last two years of his head coaching tenure, perhaps too late, but at least I think that Whitt was headed on the right track for sure. I think that TCU has been terrific at player development for Patterson’s tenure at TCU and if you want to point to one thing, I’d say that’s been the biggest advancement for the Horned Frogs and make no mistake, they’ve had the same S&C coach in place for 18 years, the same number of years Patterson has been the head coach.

We talked a lot during National Signing Day about how Wells may have missed the boat on recruiting some players and the more than we think about this, I think that Wells’ priority was to recruit the best he could, but his emphasis was on retaining the players on the team. Wells made it clear that he wanted to earn the trust of the players and that it takes time and heart. He said that he focused on the players and was quite proud of the fact that 100 days in and there hasn’t been had any scholarship players leave. Wells understands that at some point there will be, there’s going to be attrition, but he believed that there’s going to be very little attrition.

So, as a head coach walking into a situation where he has little time to go in and recruit players, Wells and the staff decided it would be more detrimental to the program if Texas Tech was to lose a player, who is already maybe physically and mentally ready to play or at least contribute to the football in 2019. That certainly makes sense and I understand the logic behind making that decision. Not recruiting a player that may not contribute for two years would have a lesser impact on the 2019 season and 2020 seasons than a player that leaves, creating immediate issues with overall depth.

So, Wells did exactly what he said he would do, which is focus on the players who were already in Lubbock, realizing that their importance to the team was greater than a commitment who will most likely take two years to develop. That’s pretty sound logic.

There were a couple more items from the Texas Football interview, which is that Wells made it a big deal to say that before the Friday night before Lubbock scrimmage, he will have a coaches clinic. Wells said that this would be the first time to have a coaches clinic in Lubbock in a “long, long, long time”. I don’t think that was a dig at Kingsbury, but a recitation of the truth. And I am almost all but certain that Wells used three longs when describing the length of time as to when a coaches clinic had been held in Lubbock. We’ve all wondered how Wells would connect with high school coaches, but he’s opened the indoor facilities to the high school programs during the playoffs that needed a place to practice when the weather didn’t cooperate and now he’s holding a coaches clinic.


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