As was the case with Baylor, we thought we'd bring in an outside voice for our early look at the Texs Tech Red Raiders. Regular readers of this site know that this is the conference game I'm most concerned about; perhaps, even, as much as Oklahoma. Playing in Lubbock at night is a very, very difficult thing to do. There's no guarantee that we'll escape alive.
For today's preview we bring in regular reader and commenter Red Blooded, a Tech alum and die hard fan. NFL and Washington Redskins fans will also want to check out his SBN blog Hogs Haven, one of the best around.
Burnt Orange Nation: Everything starts with what Mike Leach wants to do with the passing game, as we all know. This is the first time that Leach will be gunning with a highly prized recruit, though. Talk to us about Graham Harrell.
Red Blooded: It's extremely exciting to finally have a national recruit throwing the ball for our football team. Keeping in mind that Cody Hodges could conceivably be considered a "bust" for this football team (I mean he only threw for 4300 yards, the bum), I have to imagine that Graham Harrell has a brighter future. If former walk on Sonny Cumbie can put up 4,742 yards - good for 7th in NCAA history - then I think the most prolific High School QB in Texas Football history could very well put us over 5k in the air.
Burnt Orange Nation: Harrell's not the only weapon, though. The Texas Tech wide receivers are drawing a lot of praise. Can you tell us about them?
Red Blooded: Our receiving unit is finally starting to garner the attention it deserves. The attitude around the league is that Tech receivers are a product of the system, and that's been true for many years. But the current crop is the natural recruiting result of years of a successful pass offense. Jarrett Hicks is one of the best receivers in the Big 12, if not the nation, though I'll let his play on the field speak for itself. Joel Filani came out of nowhere last year to lead the Big 12 in receiving yards, and converted JuCo quarterback Robert Johnson likewise surprised many by his stellar performance. Mike Leach has to compete with larger programs and thus always suffers a skill deficit, but the one skill he places a huge premium on is speed. Unless a receiver is fast, he cannot play at Texas Tech. Yet somehow Tech also has 3 physically monstrous wide receivers: Filani is 6-3 216, Hicks is 6-3 212, and Johnson is 6-1 218. That's three tall, physical, powerful, and fast guys on offense which should translate into many YAC. To contrast receiving units -- and UT has one of the best in the nation -- Sweed is 6-5 219, Pittman is 6-0 198, and Shipley is 6-0 184.
Taking the Tech receivers lightly is a mistake.
Burnt Orange Nation: Texas Tech struggled against the two best defenses it faced last year - Texas and Alabama. Why weren't the Red Raiders successful in those games?
Red Blooded: There's zero shame in losing to the National Champion Longhorns last year, as they bulldozed virtually every team they faced. But Tech's offense had no trouble moving the ball in that game. Tech won the yardage battle - though that's hardly surprising since a team constantly playing from behind throws the ball up more. But Cody Hodges, who I do not think Texas Tech football history will look kindly upon, still put up 370 yards with 2 TD against 1 pick. He completed 65% of his passes which was barely below his season average. As for Alabama, we played a great team close. It's difficult to score more than 10 points if you only complete 15 passes - especially if your immobile quarterback leads the team with 17 rushes (Taurean had 4) for 66 yards. A lot of credit needs to go towards the Alabama defensive game plan, which played our offense to perfection. I worry that Big 12 opponents will effectively emulate that strategy; then again, I also know that Mike Leach is a crafty devil and won't be licked so easily next time.
Burnt Orange Nation: What are the expectations among Tech fans for this team?
Red Blooded: It should be an exciting year. Our annual expectations are neither National Championship, nor BCS-Bowl-or-Bust, but we hope to solidify our ever increasing position in the Big 12. On any given year Tech fans truly believe that we can beat UT and/or Oklahoma to secure a conference championship. That said, until Tech consistently beats the teams it should then we will remain below the Big 2 in the Big 12. We cannot keep losing to Oklahoma State (2005) or New Mexico (2004).
Burnt Orange Nation: Any predictions on the upcoming season?
Red Blooded: Tech destroys A&M at Kyle Field quashing any doubts as to where the Aggies sit relative to Texas Tech in the Big 12. As if we hadn't already.
Burnt Orange Nation: Terrific answers. Thanks for chatting with us.