Texas Tech football: Players the Red Raiders need more from

Texas Tech football: Players the Red Raiders need more from
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Texas Tech’s head coach Joey McGuire walks on to the field before the game against Oregon, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, at Jones AT&T Stadium.

An 0-2 start is not what anyone envisioned for the Texas Tech football program in 2023.  However, that’s the reality Joey McGuire’s team faces ahead of this week’s annual game against an FCS opponent with Tarleton State fitting the profile of this year’s sacrificial lamb from the lower division of the sport.

However, McGuire was his usual upbeat self earlier this week when speaking to the media.  In fact, he praised the way his team has handled this unexpectedly poor start.

“I was proud of the way the guys came in,” he said on Monday.  “Going 0-2 and the expectations, sometimes teams come in and they’re hanging their head and they can feel sorry or we can feel sorry for ourselves.  This is not the time to feel sorry for ourselves.  This is the time to correct the things we can control, the things we can correct, and get a win.”

Pulling out a win this week is essential, of course.  If Tech can’t find a way to beat an FCS program in Lubbock, then the noise around the program will be deafening heading into the Big 12 opener at West Virginia.

Fortunately, Tech has never dropped a game to an FCS opponent.  That doesn’t mean that it can’t happen though.

Already this year, FBS teams Nevada, Buffalo, and Northern Illinois have fallen to FCS opponents.  What’s more, in recent years, Power 5 teams such as Northwestern, Washington, Vanderbilt, Florida State, Arizona, Baylor, Virginia, and Iowa have also suffered the same fate.

Tech has had its share of close calls against FCS teams with Stephen F. Austin in 2021, Houston Baptist in 2020, and Central Arkansas in 2014 all nearly stunning the Red Raiders in Lubbock.  While few people expect the Texans to threaten to hand the Red Raiders a third loss on the season this Saturday, it will be important for the Red Raiders to take this game as seriously as they did last week’s showdown with Oregon.

The effort the Red Raiders displayed in that 38-30 loss was back to the level we’ve come to expect from a McGuire team over his season-plus in charge.  However, what we saw out of Tech in the season opener at Wyoming didn’t meet that standard.  Which team will show up Saturday night?  That will be one x-factor to keep a look out for.

Interstingly, McGuire is going to have to win this game to be able to stay above .500 as the Red Raiders head coach.  His record stands at just 8-7 overall thanks to his 0-2 start, a mark that doesn’t seem to correlate with the vibe that still surrounds his program, a vibe that was greatly improved this week by the commitment of 5-star 2024 wide receiver, Micah Hudson.

All of that goodwill could fly right out the window this week, though, if Tech stubs its toe against Tarleton.  That shouldn’t happen but still, this game is an important opportunity for the Red Raiders to iron out the wrinkles before conference play arrives.  Perhaps, part of that process could see struggling players find a way to give this team what we have expected them to since the offseason.

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So far, reality hasn’t matched that hype.  With only seven tackles to his name this season, Linton isn’t looking like a potential 2024 NFL Draft pick, which many thought he might become this year.

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Most disappointing is that Linton has only one tackle for loss and no sacks thus far.  Of course, some of that has to do with the fact that he has been playing more coverage from his outside LB position than most of us expected.

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Still, Linton is expected to get to the passer this year and he’s not done so yet.  In fact, this entire defense is struggling in that regard.

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Only two teams in the conference, Oklahoma and BYU, have fewer sacks on the year than the three Texas Tech has managed.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma State, Cincy, and Kansas State have all already racked up eight sacks.

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“Both (Linton and Cole) we believe have a lot of talent,” DeRuyter said Monday.  “They’re playing well within the scheme but they’re not productive enough and in our defense, our edges, our star, those players have to make a lot of plays for us to be as good as we should be on defense. I think both of those guys are a little bit disappointed in their production…”

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Texas Tech’s Loic Fouonji runs with the ball during football’s Spring Game, Saturday, April 22, 2023, at Lowrey Field at PlainsCapital Park.

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Loic Fouonji and Jordan Brown gave Texas Tech no production against Oregon

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It is safe to say that the two outside receivers playing the “X” position, Loic Fouonji and Jordan Brown, are yet to make the type of splash that many anticipated they would.  In fact, that duo was shut out against Oregon.

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Fouonji dropped the only pass thrown his way while Brown was open on a few routes only to have Shough go elsewhere with the ball or fail to pull the trigger at all.  Tech needs more than that from the weapons playing opposite of Jerand Bradley to provide balance to the passing game.

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Thus far, Fouonji is off to the slowest of starts with only one catch for 20 yards.  Brown hasn’t performed much better, though, as he has only two receptions for 45 yards.

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Much of the offseason talk from the coaching staff centered on the great strides Brown had made.  In fact, McGuire himself repeatedly praised the former Kansas transfer for dominating both fall scrimmages.

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Meanwhile, Fouonji was poised for a strong year after hauling in 34 catches for 451 yards and 3 TDs in 2022 despite playing much of the season injured.  That included 16 catches for 213 yards over the final four games of the year, a stretch that culminated in a 100-yard game in the Texas Bowl.

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So far, Tech’s only consistent receiving threats have been Bradley and inside receiver Myles Price.  Of the 620 yards the offense has thrown for, 267 have gone to that duo.  That’s 43% of the passing offense going to just two players.

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Like the rest of the players on this list, Brown and Fouonji will be looking to take advantage of Tarleton State this weekend and start to get right against a team that should not be able to match them physically.  So let’s keep an eye on all of these players this weekend to see if they can start to step up after getting off to slow starts.

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