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Texas Tech Spring Game Recap: Great Expectations, Change

Updated: May 2


Texas Tech Spring Game
© Annie Rice/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal/USA TODAY SPORTS

The Texas Tech Red Raiders held their annual spring game on April 20, and with the new season comes new expectations. These expectations seem plenty reasonable for the Red Raiders given the talent they have coming back with quarterback Behren Morton and star running back Tahj Brooks among others.


However, there are still plenty of questions for coach Joey McGuire and this Red Raider squad with such things as the offensive line and other positions that have seen a lot of change and turnover over the past year. What can be determined from what we've seen so far from Texas Tech?


Texas Tech Offense: Who is Supporting Morton and Brooks?

Morton and Brooks broke out last year as two players who carried the Texas Tech offense. Morton would find his way to the spotlight after initial starting quarterback Tyler Shough went down with a season and unfortunately college career-ending injury. Morton would start 10 games and throw for 1,757 yards, 15 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Brooks started as the star of the offense this past season and would prove why he was labeled as such, getting 290 carries, for 1,541 yards (5.3 yards/carry) and 10 touchdowns.



With this new year and both Morton and Brooks returning, expectations are high for the Texas Tech offense. However, they can't do it alone, and while those two are returning, this Red Raider offense has seen a ton of change and turnover. The projected receiving corps includes Florida transfer Caleb Douglas, Washington State transfer Josh Kelly, who was one of the more highly touted transfer targets, freshman Micah Hudson, and senior tight end Jalin Conyers, a transfer from Arizona State.


Douglas did not see a lot of playing time with Florida but is young and shows a high ceiling. With a bigger role and an experienced quarterback, Douglas could certainly have a breakout year. Kelly was far more productive as a starter with Washington State, reeling in 61 catches for 923 yards and 8 touchdowns over 12 games. He will be a huge asset in building the young receiving corps' chemistry, as will Conyers, the lone senior. If this receiving corps can gel with Morton and each other well, this could be the most talented corps in the Big 12, but they will need time to bond and mesh.



The offensive line seems to be in the same boat. No starters return to the offensive line at the same position, with Caleb Rogers being the only returning starter, but moving to center from tackle. Ty Buchanan, Vinny Sciury, Davion Carter and Maurice Rodriques round out the projected starting offensive line. With this inexperienced line, can they create the momentum and space for Brooks to get free? While Brooks is known for breaking tackles, no running back in the country can do it without a competent offensive line. Can this group grow and develop into what the Red Raider offensive line was last year, where Brooks ran for over 1,500 yards? It's perhaps the biggest question of the upcoming season, and with a new offensive line coach in Clay McGuire, there is a lot of skepticism behind the position group.


Texas Tech offensive line
© Annie Rice/Lubbock Avalance Journal/USA TODAY SPORTS

Overall, the Texas Tech offense has a ton of new faces that will need time together to grow, but that is partly what spring practice is all about as well as preseason sessions. There is little doubt that the Red Raider offense will be as ready as they'll ever be come August, however, will it be enough to compete with more experienced squads that have been together longer?



Texas Tech Defense: Rebuilding the D-Line

For the Texas Tech defense, their bread and butter is in their linebacking corps this year. Junior Jacob Rodriguez leads the front seven, being one of the most instinctual players and likely one of the best defenders in the Big 12 Conference this year. While he only played five games last year due to injuries, he will be back with a vengeance. Sophomore Ben Roberts also built a reputation last year, recording 105 tackles and was named Big 12 Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year. The heart and soul of the defense is alive and well with the Red Raiders, but what of the other position groups?



In the secondary, the Red Raiders need to find a way to replace four starters. They have a ton of production to replace with Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, Tyler Owens and Malik Dunlap departing for the NFL Draft. They have done so in part with Baylor transfer AJ McCarty, who was a starter with the Bears in 2022 and recorded 37 tackles for them that year. McCarty had to sit out 2023 due to the now-defunct transfer eligibility rules, so that may play a part in his development. Brendan Jordan and Chapman Lewis will need to take a step up as sophomores this season though to continue the production replacement. Overall, the secondary certainly went through a decent amount of turnover and will need young guys to step up but have a lot of depth at the position group and a lot of promise.


The major question mark for the Texas Tech defense though is the defensive line. By far the strongest position group on the defense for the last 3 years, the last of the stalwarts in guys like Tony Bradford Jr., Jalon Hutchings, and others have left and the position group must rebuild, especially given the talent the Big 12 has at running back and quarterback this season. Young guys will have to prove themselves very quickly, and with the projected starting interior line group mustering just 1 sack amongst themselves last season, there is cause for concern. Luckily, there is a high ceiling and high potential, as well as talent coming like Amier Washington, who had 3 sacks in the bowl win over Cal in a breakout game. He will certainly find work along the line in one way or another. Finally, the Red Raiders brought in transfers like De'Braylon Carroll from Rice and James Hansen from Nevada, both are seniors who will help this young group build. Overall, while there was a great loss along the defensive line, there is also reason for hope and the building blocks to rebuild, much like the secondary.


Texas Tech Defensive Line Applies Pressure
© Annie Rice/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal/USA TODAY SPORTS

If the secondary and defensive line can replace the production they lost, this Red Raider defense should be one of the better units in the Big 12 once again. The defensive line will most certainly have to develop quickly, but Tech has the tools to make that group strong once again. Defensive line coach Zarnell Finch is experienced and is one of the best assistants in the country, so this unit should see continuity in production build steadily throughout this season.


Conclusion

While there are a lot of new faces with this Texas Tech squad, they have one of the best transfer and recruiting classes in the country for 2024. There is a ton of promise, but building chemistry, fluidity and overall cohesion will be the name of the game. Finding who will be the best-supporting cast for Morton and Brooks while also rebuilding the defensive line into a force to be reckoned with once again will be the most pressing needs for this team. Once those two things are accomplished, the sky is the limit for the Red Raiders. They will be competing for the Big 12 title and the College Football Playoff should all go well.


Check out more on Texas Tech's spring from 247Sports's Joe Yeager and Jarrett Johnson here.



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