What strange times we are living in as Texas Tech football fans. After decades of annually trying to fix the defensive side of the football each offseason, now, Joey McGuire and his coaching staff have to feel great about that aspect of the roster. However, in the ultimate twist of fate, the Red Raiders must completely overhaul their offense if they are going to take a step forward in 2024. The good news is that everyone in scarlet and black should welcome the opportunity to partake in or witness a changing of the guard on offense.
That’s because this year’s offense was the worst since the program went to the spread offense in the 2000 season. Tech is averaging only 386.9 yards per game to rank 61st nationally in total offense. What’s more, at 26.8 points per game, Tech is only 68th in scoring offense.
Those numbers are the continuation of a downward trend that has been evident for several years on that side of the ball. Of course, most of the offensive struggles have been tied to this program’s instability at quarterback.
It has been since Nic Shimonek in 2017 that a Red Raider QB has made at least 10 starts in a season. What’s more, Patrick Mahomes II in 2016 is the last Tech signal caller to make every start for the year. The reality is that few programs are going to be elite on offense when having a revolving door at the game’s most important position.
However, the Red Raiders’ offensive issues go beyond just the QB spot. The receivers have also failed to live up to the tradition that was established in Lubbock in the 2000s.
The last time a Red Raider pass catcher posted a 1,000-yard season was in 2018 when Antoine Wesley stunned everyone by going off for 1,410 yards and 9 TDs after doing almost nothing in his career prior to that.
This year, no Red Raider receiver was able to even crack the 500-yard mark in the regular season. Taking that a step further, since 2019, the Red Raiders’ leading receiver each season has averaged just 671.4 yards per year (including the yet-to-be-completed 2023 season).
Now, there is a direct correlation between Tech’s QB injury issues and the productivity of the wide receivers. We learned that again this season when the shoulder injury that Behren Morton played through kept him from being able to get the ball to his receivers downfield on most Saturdays.
However, in 2018, when Wesley went nuts, he did so despite having to catch passes from three different starting QBs (McLane Carter, Alan Bowman, and Jett Duffey). It was proof that an elite receiver can make plays regardless of who is taking the snaps. The problem is that no Red Raider receiver since has played at that level.
Of course, protecting the QB has also been an issue in recent years. Tech has failed to field the type of offensive lines that can dominate the line of scrimmage, a huge contributor to this program’s offensive decline.
This program hasn’t produced a first-team All-Big 12 offensive lineman since Le’Raven Clark in 2015. It also hasn’t had a second-team All-Big 12 offensive lineman since Dawson Deaton in 2021.
In other words, the offenses in Lubbock have become the definition of pedestrian. That’s why the massive turnover Tech is going to experience before next season is nothing to fret over.
Since the end of the regular season, Tech has seen starting wide receivers Jerand Bradley and Myles Price along with starting left tackle Monroe Mills declare their intentions to enter the transfer portal. What’s more, first-team All-Big 12 running back Tahj Brooks is expected to head to the NFL instead of playing out his final year of eligibility in Lubbock.
As a result, Tech will likely enter the 2024 season with four new starting offensive linemen (after graduating three starters), three new starting wide receivers, and a new starting running back. Of course, Morton is also expected to be QB1 to start the season for the first time as a collegiate.
While conventional wisdom suggests that continuity is to be valued in sports, that’s not the case for an offense that has failed to be elite for years. None of the players who have entered the portal played anywhere near well enough to be even considered for all-conference honors. Did anyone actually shed a tear when Price, Bradley, or Mills entered the portal?
In fact, outside of Brooks (who still may come back), none of the departing players should be that hard to replace. Mills and Price were just honorable-mention All-Big 12 performers this fall and players of that caliber are not going to sink a program by leaving. The rest of those leaving proved to be just guys, not stars.
Rather, by vacating their scholarships, they provide the coaching staff with the opportunity to churn the roster and dramatically improve the talent on the depth chart. There was a time when defections of this number would have been devastating but in the era of the transfer portal, each scholarship that unexpectedly opens up becomes an opportunity for an upgrade.
Some teams across the country are going to have to replace potential All-Americans and figure out how to compensate for their departures. That’s not Tech’s situation, though.
An offense that has been as ordinary as Tech’s shouldn’t be brought back in tact anyway. There isn’t a position on the offense, other than running back, where McGuire’s squad can’t improve next season.
Prior to next fall, McGuire will have plenty of room to add new pieces and that should excite fans. While it is strange to think about how to fix the offense in Lubbock, and not the defense, that is McGuire’s top task and that process begins in earnest this week as the portal officially opens. If McGuire can upgrade the talent on that side of the ball, 2024 could be the year that he and the Red Raiders take the next step toward climbing the ladder in what will be a wide-open and revamped Big 12.