The start of the 2020 college football season is nearly upon us and we're going to be continuing the Pokes Report Big 12 preview. This time we're going to be taking a look at Texas Tech and what the Red Raiders look like entering the season.
We're going to be starting off with the offensive side of the ball as that's what the Red Raiders are known for, explosive and high powered offenses.
Back in May, ESPN put Texas Tech No. 7 in its Big 12 power rankings and I think that's pretty accurate going into the season. Tech, while they typically have a high-powered offense, struggle on the defensive side of the ball and just can't quite seem to get over the good to great hump.
Head coach Matt Wells is entering his second season at the helm for the Red Raiders and could potentially have a quarterback battle on his hands.
Wells returns starting quarterback Alan Bowman, who's been plagued with injuries over the past couple of seasons. Wells has also brought in Utah State transfer quarterback Henry Colombi, a junior out of Hollywood, FL.
"Yes, these are the coaches that I originally committed to coming out of high school so I felt comfortable committing to them once again," Colombi said of transferring to Texas Tech. "Relationships mean a lot to me because I am huge on family, and I have know this group of coaches for a few years now."
Bowman sustained a collapsed lung back in Sept of 2018 against West Virginia and that injury stuck with him throughout the remainder of the season. Fast forward to the 2019 season and Bowman was plagued by shoulder injuries. However, when not injured, Bowman is electric. He's thrown for 3,658 yards and 23 touchdowns through just 11 games. He's completed 328 of 481 passes and averages 332.5 passing yards per game.
As for Colombi, he was recruited by Wells at Utah State, so this is the second go around for the pair. Well at Utah State, Colombi served as back up to first-round pick Jordan Love and played very limited minutes in six games. In those games, he totaled 252 yards of total offense, 20 of 29 passing for 221 yards and two touchdowns and 14 rushes for 31 yards and one touchdown.
"I think that I’m definitely a dual-threat quarterback although I’m not always listed as one," Colombi said. "I know the game and I’m accurate with the football. I think a big thing for me as a player is I try to make the guys around me better as well. I’m a great teammate."
If Bowman can stay healthy, I'm not sure there's enough Colombi can do to win the starting job. Bowman has proven himself as one of the top arms in the Big 12 and has a real chance to make some national noise should he stay healthy.
Going into fall camp, Wells stated that it would be Bowman's job to lose and I think Bowman's going to be the guy going into the season.
Returning Running Back
Texas Tech found a rather surprise starting running back this past season in redshirt freshman Sa'Rodorick Thompson who returns this season.
He played in all 12 games last season, starting in seven of those and put up some impressive numbers in an air-it-out offense. He carried the ball 160 times for 765 yards and 12 touchdowns.
As a result, he returns as the starting back for the Red Raiders and even earned himself a spot on the Doak Walker Preseason Watch List.
Thompson does have some competition this season as former walk-on receiver Xavier White was moved to running back in the spring. This past season as a walk-on, White received some playing time inside before suffering a season-ending injury, but impressed the coaching staff. Before getting injured, White hauled in 10 receptions for 159 yards and one touchdown.
Receiver Threats Return
Other than quarterback, the Red Raiders are known for having talented receivers. Wells returns outside threat T.J. Vasher. 6-6, 215-pounds, the senior out of Wichita Falls, Texas hauled in 515 yards and six touchdowns this past season. He ranked in the top 10 of Big 12 receivers last years in receptions per game (4.2) and receiving touchdowns.
Vasher missed the first two weeks of fall camp, but is back and is getting back into shape.
"He's a little out of shape as you would expect from missing a couple weeks of practice, a little skinnier, but (strength coach Dave) Scholz will take care of that. TJ will take care of that," Wells said. "He looked good out there today. He caught the ball. His hands haven't changed. He's really got soft hands and I still think he's the best red zone receiver in the Big 12. I'll stand by that."
They also return slot receiver KeSean Carter. Carter saw action in all 12 games this past year as a sophomore and hauled in 27 receptions for 303 yards and two touchdowns. He was also one of the primary kick returns with 11 kickoff returns for 21,9 yards a return.
Questions at Tackle
Whoever starts at quarterback in the coming weeks is going to need protection and one of the biggest questions on the offensive line is at tackle.
"The biggest question is at tackle," offensive line coach Steve Farmer said. "We've got a really healthy competition going on right now between the two tackles, between Ethan Carde, Landon Peterson, Josh Burger and then Caleb Rogers, the freshman is really putting on a good camp. It's exciting as we've gotten into pads to watch them handle that."
Burger is a 6-3, 295-pound senior tackle who transferred in from Wofford. He started all 12 games this past season for Wofford at right tackle and recorded 115 knockdown blocks.
As for Carde, he's a big boy. He checks in at 6-8, 315-pounds and transferred into the program from Coffeyville C.C. in Kansas where he played in eight games in his one season there.
Peterson is a 6-6, 300-pound redshirt freshman who redshirted this past season and as Farmer said, Rogers is just a freshman. With not a lot of experience on the outside other than Burger, it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.
Questions on the Defensive Side of the Ball
The Red Raiders brought in a talented defensive tackle transfer from Texas A&M in Tyree Wilson, but it's unclear whether the NCAA is going to grant him a transfer waiver. Checking in at 6-6, 280-pounds, Wilson played in 12 games this past season for A&M and recorded 12 total tackles, seven of which were solo stops, three for a loss and 1.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman.
Leading the linebacker corps is senior Riko Jeffers. He finished the season ranked second on the team in total stops with 76 total tackles, 53 of which were solo stops and 9.5 tackles for loss. He's a big threat in the middle of the field and is going to give every offense he faces a lot of trouble.
The Red Raiders also added a talented JUCO transfer in Krishon Merriweather. Merriweather led the nation in tackles as a sophomore with 153 tackles over all games which earned him second team All-America honors.
On the back end, they return senior safety Thomas Leggett. Leggett finished the 2019 season seventh on the team in total tackles with 42 total stops, 32 solo and 6.0 tackles for a loss. He also recorded great games against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State combining for 15 tackles between the two, including a career-high nine against the Pokes. Leggett's poised for an even better senior season.
Conclusion: I think the Red Raiders have talent across the board, but they've got a lot to prove. The offense should be high powered, but Bowman has to stay healthy in order for that to happen.