Texas Tech football: Senior Red Raiders on offense that we will hate to see go

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A flyover is seen before the Texas Tech game against TCU, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, at Jones AT&T Stadium.

Saturday is one of those bittersweet days that we have to endure each year as the Texas Tech football program celebrates Senior Day as part of the season’s final home football game.  It seems as if it was just days ago that Tech welcomed Oregon in the most anticipated home opener in memory and now, we will see the lights at Jones Stadium turned out for the final time in 2023 on Saturday evening.

Of course, the next time the Red Raiders take the field at The Jones, the massive south endzone construction project will be complete, and the home of the program will have a vastly different look.  That should give Tech fans plenty to look forward to when the 2024 season kicks off in September.

This year, 24 players will be going through the Senior Day festivities in the pre-game but in the odd post-pandemic world of the NCAA, several could decide to return to Lubbock for one more run through the Big 12.  Still, there will be many who will take to Cody Campbell Field for the final time as members of the program and some will be tough to see go.

Today, we’ll look at the players on offense who we hate to see depart.  And what a strange season it’s been on that side of the ball for the Red Raiders.

This year, Texas Tech has been far from elite on the side of the ball that the program has been synonymous with for over two decades.  What’s more, it has been the ground game that has carried the offense for the first time since the Spike Dykes era.

Right now, Joey McGuire’s team ranks only 7th in the Big 12 in scoring offense (29.1 points per game) and total offense (399.9 yards per game).  Those numbers are unusually low for the Red Raiders who also sit at No. 9 in the league in passing yards per game (230.9).

What’s more, it is still odd to see the Red Raiders running the ball more than throwing it.  Yes, we are all fairly accustomed to the reality that the rushing game is what this team does best on offense but for those of us who grew up as Tech fans and alums over the past 24 seasons, seeing the program that made throwing the ball trendy run the ball 38 times per game while throwing it 35.6 times per game still short-circuits our brains.

Necessity is a powerful motivator though and much credit has to be given to the coaching staff for leaning on what the offense proved that it could do with consistency.  While the passing attack has been derailed by another season of QB injuries, the ground game has been a life raft for the team and though it has seemed strange at times, the only reason the Red Raiders are knocking on the door of another bowl game appearance is because everyone in the football program committed to the change in strategy that took place in the middle of the season.

So while the Red Raiders haven’t been the offensive juggernaut this season that we all want to see it be because a high-scoring offense is essentially a Red Raider’s birthright, this is a unit that has some nice individual pieces that will be missed when they leave the program.  Here is a look at the players on that side of the football that we will remember fondly.

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His arrival from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas made zero news in the spring of 2022.  That’s because it was assumed that New Mexico transfer Cade Briggs would be handed the starting job at center.

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However, Briggs would miss all of spring football with an injury allowing Wilburn to take just about every first-team practice and scrimmage rep.  As a result, Wilburn had drawn even with Briggs when fall camp began and by the time last season kicked off, he was the clear-cut choice to start.

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This year, Wilburn opened the season at right guard after Rusty Staats arrived from Western Kentucky.  However, following the loss to BYU, Wilburn and Staats swapped places due to a shoulder injury that made snapping the ball difficult for Staats.

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Since then, Wilburn has been excellent in his return to the middle of the O-line and he is stabilizing that unit for the stretch run.  It’s a testament to how smart and versatile he is as a football player and it shows why Wilburn will be missed.

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A former JUCO walk-on who took advantage of his opportunity and became a very good player against all odds?  Doesn’t that sound like he’s perfectly cast as a Red Raider?

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This program has been populated for years by players who have risen above their pedigree and become excellent contributors and that’s what Wilburn has done.  Next year, Tech will have to replace at least three offensive line starters and he will be one of them.  So give a big round of applause to Wilburn when he’s announced on Saturday before the UCF game because he’s embodied everything that it means to be a Red Raider.

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Oct 14, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats defensive safety Marques Sigle (21) tackles Texas Tech Red Raiders wide receiver Xavier White (14) in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium and Cody Campbell Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

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WR Xavier White has done his hometown proud while at Texas Tech

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Former Monterey Plainsman Xavier White will be playing his last football in Lubbock on Saturday as well.  Over the past four seasons, he’s done his hometown proud while going from a JUCO walk-on to one of the Red Raiders’ most reliable receivers.

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In 2019, White was an unheralded addition to the roster in the offseason only to earn a spot on the two-deep at inside receiver by the time the season arrived.  Then, he went out and caught five passes for 107 yards and a TD in the week-one win over Montana State.  However, that season would end for White due to injury after just four games.

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2020 would see the Red Raiders move him to running back where he would appear in eight of the ten games played that year.  Racking up 436 yards and a pair of TDs, he finished as the team’s second-leading rusher.

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As a junior in 2021, he carried 68 times for 310 yards and three touchdowns while also catching 18 passes for 133 yards and another touchdown.  However, last season he moved back to inside receiver where he would amass 572 yards and three TDs on 45 receptions.  This year, White has caught 28 balls for 393 yards and one score.

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White is the definition of unselfish.  During his Red Raider career, he’s moved wherever the team asked him to and done whatever was necessary to help his team win.

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Unfortunately, the bevy of QB injuries that the program has suffered through during his career has limited what he could do as a pass catcher.  Ultimately, he likely would have been more productive had he been able to stay at wide receiver and had he played in a program with a more settled QB situation.

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Still, it has been great to see another Lubbock product achieve success with the Red Raiders.  That’s why this Saturday will likely be especially meaningful for White and many people in attendance.

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