Matchup: Week 9 vs Texas Tech

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By Ian Boyd, Inside Texas Special Contributor
Posted Aug 20, 2014
Copyright © 2018

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Texas special teams vs Tech. (Will Gallagher/IT)

There’s a great diversity of opinion about Texas Tech’s chances for success in 2014. New head coach, old Raider hero, and recruiting heartthrob Kliff Kingsbury did an undeniably great job in Year 1 with Tech.

Kingsbury and his DC, Matt Wallerstedt, were unable to turn the wreckage Tuberville left behind into a worthy defense and brought in several JUCOs for 2014 to attempt to rectify the situation.


However on offense, they had immediate success leveraging the presence of steady outside receiver Eric Ward and stud TE Jace Amaro into a very effective unit, despite relying on walk-ons and freshmen (albeit, talented ones) at QB.


Both of those pieces will be gone in 2014 and Kingsbury will have to show further flexibility on offense in piecing together something out of the new unit. All signs, including his own words, indicate that Tech will be a more vertically inclined passing offense in 2014 while continuing to push tempo.


If Texas is efficient on offense, they’ll say “thank you!” for the extra possessions and calmly roll over Tech to the tune of something like 52-34. If Texas is inefficient on offense, then Tech’s aggressive strategy and home atmosphere could make this a trap game.


In other words, same ‘ol Tech.

Red Raider offense: Match-up challenges for Texas


I’m with Camp Nahlin in believing that Davis Webb is the real deal at QB. After battling sickness early in the year as a freshman and losing his job to the surprisingly brilliant Baker Mayfield, Webb locked down his future in Red Raider grey by eviscerating the ASU Sun Devils in the Holiday Bowl for 403 passing yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions, and 9.8 yards per attempt.


The Raiders have a solid collection of weapons for him to utilize, starting with inside receiver Jakeem Grant, a classic Tech waterbug receiver. Despite his diminutive size (5-foot-6, 169), Grant had 796 receiving yards last year and is a big time weapon in the screen game, on sweeps, or on quick passes in space.


On the outside they replace Eric Ward with DJ Polite-Bray and Reginald Davis. Neither have exceptional size but neither did Ward, while both are fast and effective on deep routes.


They have some strengths along their OL as well, believe it or not, and their starting lineup is a classic Leach collection of tall athletes who struggle to get leverage in the run game but are effective in vertical pass sets or blocking on screens.


With JUCO left tackle Dominique Robertson coming in they are moving Le’Raven Clark inside to left guard in the hopes of being able to run inside zone or draw behind their athletic behemoth. With that adjustment, their line goes as follows (from left to right)


6-foot-5, 315. 6-foot-5, 315. 6-foot-3, 285. 6-foot-5, 272. 6-foot-5, 294.


All of them move reasonably well in space and can be dangerous for unprepared linebackers and safeties trying to track down ball carriers in space.


Given UT's youth in the secondary and Tech’s solid cast of deep threats, there is a danger from Tech’s aggressive strategy punishing the safeties with deep throws and well-timed screen passes.


Best 5-man skill player lineup:


10 personnel (1 RB, 0 TEs)


This is one game where Texas will want a 1st down dime package of some kind in order to handle the speed of the Raider offense. What’s more, there’s not much threat from a run-game to discourage Texas from fielding four cornerbacks and playing man coverage against the Raiders.


Texas has to have two to three players in the middle of the field who can track the ball, beat blocks in space, and make tackles. If they have that, they can match up with Tech athlete for athlete and squeeze the life out of that offense. If not, things could get really interesting.


One possible solution could be a 3-2-6 package with Reed, Bluiett, and Davis rotating at end with Malcom Brown and Tank rotating at nose tackle. Hicks and Edmond would stay in the box as inside linebackers who could track runs and blitz up the middle while Texas could play Thomas, Diggs, Echols, and Thompson underneath with Hall and Haines playing deep.


That group could bring a lot of pressure even with a three man rush while eliminating Tech’s potential for beating Texas over the top.


Red Raider offense: Match-up advantages for Texas


The book on how to stop this offense has already been written. Man coverage, two deep safeties, and pressure up the middle. For too long teams tried to beat the Lubbock Air Raid with stunts and edge blitzes that needed a fortnight to get home.


Diaz was one of the wiser ones in recognizing that pressure up the middle is the better strategy for messing up the passing game and creating turnovers. Robinson picked up on this as well and unleashed Jeffcoat up the middle in his “spinner” package that set Jeffcoat up for a 3-sack evening. You can bet Strong and Bedford will pick up on this strategy.


Malcom Brown could see his NFL stock rise by abusing the Raiders’ smaller center and getting into the backfield all day. If he wins match-ups with Clark, he will effectively block the middle of the field from the Raider run-game.


The major advantage for Texas is that Tech has a very weak running game and simply doesn’t have the horses up front to match Texas’ DL or to withstand Texas’ pressure. At 6-foot-5 but only 209 pounds, Webb can’t change directions in the backfield easily and can be tossed like a rag doll when caught. If the Longhorns can consistently bring the heat up the gut with only four or five rushers, they can erase deep passing game from Kingsbury’s arsenal and make this an easy win.


Worst 5-man skill player lineup


20 personnel (2 RBs, 0 TEs)


The Raiders really only alternate between four-wide formations and three-wide sets with two running backs. The 2nd running back is generally a true RB or a scat back who can motion wide to catch passes, not someone who can add any added oomph to their inside running game.


Assuming that Bedford and Brian Jean-Mary can finally teach the Texas LB’s to handle a 2-back running game without wetting themselves, going to this set only removes a vertical threat for Tech without doing anything to command more attention from the Texas defense to stopping the run.


Red Raider defense: Match-up challenges for Texas


Tech has a lot of movement, stunts, and blitzes in their package, which is always at least somewhat concerning for an inexperienced OL.


The Raiders play a hybrid 3-4 defense that puts a lot of speed on the field and frequently sends linebackers like Robertson, Fehoko, or Eguavoen into the backfield. If Texas can’t stop the Raider stunts from creating negative plays then a ball control strategy will be a risky venture in a game that could quickly become a shootout.


A 2nd complication in this game is from JUCO nosetackle Rika Levi, 340-pound monster that stands 6-foot-2 and is remarkably quick for his size. Tech has had interior DL that were completely unable to stand up to legit interior OL for the past few years and this may be the first time they’ve had anyone who could cause Texas problems up front since Colby Whitlock graduated.


Athletic running back Kenny Williams has moved to the defense to shore up their “Raider” nickel position and he’s quick enough in open space to be a problem on the edge.


Tech does have some experience coming back at safety and one corner they like in Justis Nelson. If Nelson can man the boundary corner spot without the need for deep help and Tech can bring their free safety into the box, the Raiders could outnumber the Texas run game.


From that look, they could still double Texas’ 2nd receiver while trusting Nelson on an island.


Best configuration:


Base 3-4 defense playing bend don’t break coverages and stunting up front


The temptation for Texas will be to steadily pound the ball from bigger formations that attempt to plow over the smaller Tech front and protect Ash from blitzes.


That approach may very well work but it could take time and will depend on Dom Espinosa to make great line calls and handle Levi up front. Tech would almost certainly gameplan to stop this approach and look to stop Texas early, put points on the board quickly with their own offense, and then dare Texas to mount a comeback running against numbers.


If Nelson can’t handle Marcus Johnson without deep help, this game is over before it begins.


Red Raider defenseMatch-up advantages for Texas


This Raider secondary is not one for locking down multiple vertical threats and a well-executed passing game could find big opportunities on the Raiders’ 2nd cornerback or against the Kenny Williams/Keenon Ward combination on the slot receiver.


There’s also the fact that Tech hasn’t been unable to stop the run in many, many years. Will returning starters at inside linebacker and bringing Levi aboard fill some holes in the pirate ship? Possibly, but even then Tech might only have an average run-defense.


Texas has a major benefit going into this game in that the OL will have had a lot of snaps against much more dangerous 3-4 blitzing teams such as OU, BYU, and UCLA. They will be more than prepared for what Tech brings to the table and may find multiple ways to attack and out leverage the Tech defense.


Worst configuration:


Base 3-4 vs 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs)


If Texas can spread the field, then Tech will be forced to put some DBs on the field that are either very young or not very good. That said, Tech will be most vulnerable against Texas if the ‘Horns can run them over from bigger sets.


If Texas can’t put an H-back or TE on the field who demands attention in the passing game, then an 11-personnel group with a slot on the field is the answer. Balance between run and pass will mean a huge game for the Texas offense.


However, provided that Texas got a strong defensive performance, there’s a chance that Texas could defeat the Raiders without Ash by playing Heard in a zone read-heavy offense.


Lubbock’s edge players would be unable to handle beating bigger blockers on the edge or in space in order to reach and tackle players like Brown, Gray, and Heard. An option run game with those runners on the field running behind big formations would be too much for Tech.




Texas Tech’s long-term prospects with Kingsbury are very good. He’s adding talent the likes of which Leach rarely had access to and has signed arguably the top offensive tackle and top quarterback in the state for 2015.


That said, they are looking at a tough 2014 in which they have to replace the comfort of their quick passing game to Amaro without a replacement in the form of proven possession receivers or a run-game that will alarm real defenses.


Meanwhile the defense continues on its trek towards legitimacy with several steps remaining in the process. This is a trap game because Webb is very good, the offensive has explosive potential, and it takes place in Lubbock. However, as long as Texas is prepared with a strong gameplan and isn’t unlucky with injuries, it should be aLonghorn victory.

8/19/14 Texas 2015 Week 8 matchup: Kansas State LINK

8/13/14 Texas 2015 Week 7 matchup: Iowa State LINK

8/05/14 Texas 2014 Week 6 matchup: Oklahoma LINK

7/23/14 Texas 2014 Week 5 matchup: Baylor LINK 

7/14/14 Texas 2014 Week 4 matchup: Kansas LINK 

6/27/14 Texas 2014 Week 3 matchup: UCLA LINK 

6/17/14 Texas 2014 Week 2 matchup: BYU LINK:

6/11/14 Texas 2014 Week 1 matchup: North Texas LINK

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