Red Raiders Boast Experience
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When you look at the numbers the Red Raiders put together on both sides of the ball you realize they are a very well-coached and talented team. The Red Raiders returned 10 players on defense and they are loaded with great play-makers.
They also return a very productive offense which can blow a game wide open quickly and easily. While they did have to fill some gaps left in the offense from 2017 they have a lot of experience and quite a few key players on both sides of the ball.
Key Red Raiders On Defense
On the defensive side of the ball they are solid at every level. On the defensive line the Red Raiders have a very solid front four with one of the best young DE’s in the Big12. At 6’4 and 274 lbs sophomore Eli Howard is a beast at SDE. In 2017 Howard played in 13 games making 7 starts and finished the season with 27 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3 forced fumbles and 1 sack.
At the linebacker level the Red Raiders boast two very good experienced players. Seniors Dakota Allen and Kolin Hill are both very physical players who play with chips on their shoulders. Allen at will linebacker finished 2017 with 102 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. Allen also had 2 sacks and 2 INTs. At rush linebacker Hill enters 2018 off a season which saw him finish with 44 tackles, 6 TFL, 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery. Hill also had to sacks in 2017.
The Texas Tech secondary returns solid experience, talent and depth throughout. However, they have two very good and very talented players at the safety position. Senior Jah’Shawn Johnson and Vaughnte Dorsey are both playmakers in the secondary. Johnson returns from a 2017 season which saw him record 97 tackles, 4 TFL, 5 pass breakups and 1 forced fumble. Dorsey finished the 2017 season with 59 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. Dorsey also had 4 pass breakups and 1 INT.
Key Red Raiders On Offense
One major question in 2018 for Red Raiders fans has been at the starting quarterback spot. Kliff Kingsbury has yet to officially announce it publicly but the likely starter at QB is expected to be junior McLane Carter. Carter, who was the primary back-up in 2017, played sparingly seeing action in only 4 games. However, Carter did make the start against Texas and went 16 of 37 for 237 yards and 2 INTs. Carter had 1 TD on the ground.
Regardless of who may start at QB there will be weapons for him to utilize in a very good wide receivers corp. At 6’6 and 190 lbs TJ Vasher is a very dangerous WR in the open field because of his size and speed. In Vasher’s freshman season he finished with 29 receptions for 554 yards and 6 TDs. Another wide receiver to watch is junior Antoine Wesley who is also tall and rangy at 6’5 and 200 lbs. Wesley finished the 2017 season with just 10 receptions for 137 yards but is set to have a breakout year.
Kliff Kingsbury, like Matt Luke, also had a few surprises with the release of his week-one two-deep depth chart. While many Rebels and Red Raiders expected to see senior Tre King start at running back, instead we will see sophomore Da’Leon Ward. Ward, who red-shirted the 2017 season was impressive as a freshman in 2016 when he 103 carries for 428 yards and 3 TDs. King who finished the 2017 season with 131 carries for 633 yards and 5 TDs will be splitting time with senior Demarcus Felton who had 22 carries for 104 yards in 2017.
The real eye-opener is the fact the Red Raiders return 10 starters on defense who played relatively well last season. Also there is the obvious fact the offense has some major issues in some skill positions. Texas Tech had to fill five skill positions which could play a huge factor for the Red Raiders Saturday. However, the Red Raiders do have a huge offensive line and are trying to establish a stout running game in 2018. We’ll see how the matchup of the Tech running game and the Rebels defense who is trying to establish a run defense plays out. Right now, from an experience level the Rebels defense matches up the best.
On paper the Texas Tech defense looks really good. In 2017 they had moments of stellar play which might be followed by a series or game in which they would bleed huge chunks of yardage. However, with 10 returning starters they have had an entire year to work out the inconsistency they saw last season. Playing together and working together for an entire year has likely made this defense much better. Matt Luke and Phil Longo want to establish a better running game and if they can do it and do it early against this defense it will be huge. This should definitely show us where we stand running the ball in 2018 with a young backfield.
The Texas Tech secondary is experienced and the secondary/wide receiver matchups we see Saturday could some of the best in the country. Do I believe this secondary will be good? No I believe they will be very good but I’m really not even sure Kingsbury likes the way they match up against AJ Brown and Co. I’m not seeing an easy game for the Jordan Ta’amu and the NWO but I’m not sure if the depth exists on the Tech secondary to keep the Ole Miss wide receivers at bay for 60 minutes.
I’m really anxious to see just how Texas Tech attempts to stop the Ole Miss WRs and secure the defense against the run. I have a really good feeling about JUCO transfer Scottie Phillips and with junior Eric Swinney now out for at least three weeks we will certainly see freshman Isaiah Woullard. I would really like to see some of freshman Tylan Knight out of the backfield. I also believe we could see junior tight-end Dawson Knox have a really good game.