For all the changes that have been made on and off the field at Texas Tech since Matt Wells took over as head coach, what will look the most familiar to everyone is the offense.
“There’s some philosophies and there’s some schemes that are absolutely carry-over from the previous staff, from Kliff (Kingsbury), and even going back to coach (Mike) Leach,” said Wells, who had his own high-scoring offenses at Utah State.
Wells will also put plenty of emphasis on defense, an area where the Red Raiders have long struggled.
“You’ve got to feel good about that,” senior defensive lineman Broderick Washington said. “Having coach Wells come in and defense automatically already seems important to him, it’s a confidence booster. It makes you want to be great for him.”
Utah State was second nationally scoring 47 points a game last season, behind Oklahoma and just ahead of Alabama. The Aggies’ 497 total yards per game ranked 11th, just ahead of the 485 averaged by the Red Raiders. On defense, the Aggies of the Mountain West gave up only 222 yards per game — half of what Tech gave up last season, largely against its Big 12 foes.
“The biggest thing to consistently winning in the Big 12 for my tenure here at Texas Tech is we have to play championship-caliber defense,” Wells said. “There is not a time that is ever more challenging than to play that in the Big 12 than right now.”
After six seasons at his alma mater, Wells left for the Big 12 to replace Kingsbury, the record-setting Red Raiders quarterback-turned-coach who was fired by his alma mater after a third consecutive losing season before becoming an NFL head coach.
“Hard worker, straight-up forward, means everything he says,” Washington said of Wells. “If he says he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it, and he means it. … He’s very consistent in everything he does. We’re not getting mixed messages, like within the staff.”
The Red Raiders will play their first game under Wells at home Aug. 31 against Montana State. Their Big 12 opener is Sept. 28 at Oklahoma, which has won the league title the last four seasons.
Wells described sophomore quarterback Alan Bowman as a football junkie. Bowman was the first player Wells met after touching down in Lubbock, and the quarterback immediately wanted to watch video of Utah State and what the Aggies did on offense. As a true freshman last season, Bowman completed 69% of his passes (227 of 327) for 2,638 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions, including a 605-yard game with five TDs against Houston. He missed four games because of a collapsed lung.
“Completely cleared, healthy,” Wells said. “I respect his grind, he’s got a great attitude. … I think Alan’s better days are ahead of him. He’s talented.”
Four graduate transfers could impact Wells’ first season: Utah running back Armand Shyne, Louisiana-Monroe receiver RJ Turner, Penn State defensive back Zech McPhearson and Cal linebacker Evan Rambo.
“My expectations first and foremost from them is that they come in and help solidify our culture,” Wells said. “They’re all young men that I respect the programs that they came from, and the job that they had done.”
Receiver McLane Mannix, a Texas native and transfer from Nevada, obtained an NCAA waiver to play immediately as a junior.
NOT ALWAYS IN TIGHT
While Wells utilizes a tight end on offense, that player won’t always line up right next to a tackle.
“You’re going to see our guys flex out, where it looks like a wide receiver and wide receiver formations. You’re going to see him in line, in the backfield,” Wells said. “They’re multi-facetted guys. They’ve got to be extremely smart, be able to run, be graceful, catch balls. Hopefully their speed mismatches for linebacker and size mismatches for safeties.”
Four of Texas Tech’s six Big 12 losses last seasons were by fewer than 10 points. That included back-to-back home games against Oklahoma and Texas by a combined 12 points.
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