Texas Tech football: Why we should have tapped the breaks on 2023 hype

Texas Tech football: Why we should have tapped the breaks on 2023 hype
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July 13, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire speaks with 365 Sports on the second day of Big 12 Media Days in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, July 13, 2023. Mandatory Credit: Sara Diggins-USA TODAY Sports

It is easy for anyone to suggest now, after a 1-3 start, that the offseason hype surrounding the Texas Tech football program was unwarranted.  However, as we look back at where things went so horribly wrong, it is clear that we all overlooked warning signs that could have tempered our expectations heading into 2023.

Remaining realistic in the face of such blatant hype, though, would have taken the type of clarity that almost no fan possesses.  After all, when the hype is being driven by your school’s head coach himself, it is hard not to get swept up in the rush, especially when that hype man is the effervescent Joey McGuire who was coming off of an 8-5 debut season.

Remember, as early as the start of spring practices in March, McGuire was telling the media that his current team would beat the 2022 team by two touchdowns.  That’s an unusually brash statement from a head coach.

Normally, head coaches go into an off-season program trying to keep their team and the fan base level-headed.  That’s the play most expected from McGuire given the surprising success of his first year in Lubbock.

However, McGuire seems to be the type to speak his mind freely.  That appears especially true when he is excited (which, with McGuire, is most of the time that he’s awake).

Also, hyping up the 2023 team was a calculated strategy from the head coach.  Trying to generate buzz and garner attention from those outside of West Texas, McGuire made remarks that were intended to draw attention to what he was trying to build on the South Plains.

Initially, his plan worked.  Tech opened the year ranked in the coaches poll and was a trendy darkhorse pick to not only win the Big 12 but to make a run at the College Football Playoff.  That type of attention would not have happened had McGuire played it straight with his remarks prior to the season.

Also, what was he supposed to say?  Isn’t a coach supposed to have supreme confidence in his team?  If he doesn’t, especially before any games are played, then it is an awful sign of what’s to come as coaches set the tone for their team.

College head coaches, after all, are as much salesmen as anything else.  They have to generate buzz to help ticket sales and bolster program-building efforts such as recruiting and fundraising.  So in a way, by overhyping his team, McGuire was doing exactly what his job called for.

With that said, many remain bitter toward McGuire for the fact that the on-field product has not matched his preseason bravado.  Just weeks after he took shots at Texas at the Red Raider Club Kickoff Luncheon, his team is now one of the biggest disappointments in the nation and fans aren’t going to quickly forgive him for that.

However, had we looked at the state of the program with clear eyes rather than through scarlet and black lenses, we would likely have seen some signs to sober our expectations.  Let’s take a look at some realities that had we been honest about would have told us that the offseason hype we all bathed in was full of bacteria.

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So why would we all assume that a roster built on the back of players brought in by the worst coach in the modern era of the program would be able to compete for a Big 12 title?  While McGuire seemed to wave a bit of a magic wand last year and get the most out of a roster full of Wells’ players, the reality is that talent acquisition was what Wells was worst at so it would stand to reason that a roster depending on his players to play half of the starting positions would still be lacking.

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Don’t forget that in the three recruiting classes Wells brought in (2019-21), Tech was ranked 65th, 47th, and 55th respectively by 247Sports.com.  Recruiting classes of that caliber just are not going to form the foundation of a championship contender.

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What’s more, in those three classes, Tech had a total of two high school 4-star signees.  Two!  In the class of 2023 alone, McGuire signed five.

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Because of the failures that Wells had on the recruiting trail, many of McGuire’s signees are already being pushed into action despite being underclassmen.  Players such as DE Joseph Adedire, DL E’Maurion Banks, OLB Dylan Spencer, LBs Ben Roberts, and Miquel Dingle, and DBs, Brenden Jordan, Jordan Sanford, and Maurion Horn are all appearing on the Red Raider depth chart and being asked to play meaningful snaps.

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While this team came into the year old and experienced at the starting spots, the depth of the team was extremely green.  That’s because the 2019 and 2020 classes produced only eight current players who are either starting or contributing in significant ways.

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We should have known that it would take more than two years for McGuire to disinfect this program from the residue left behind by his predecessor.  However, because McGuire seemed to be able to turn chicken spit into chicken salad last year, we assumed he’d be able to do so again in 2023.  However, the mess that Wells left behind will take another year or two to fully flush through the Red Raiders’ system.

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Sep 22, 2018; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys defensive end Mike Scott (91) sacks Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Alan Bowman (10) during the game at Boone Pickens Stadium. Texas Tech won the game 41-17. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

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A decade-plus of struggles will take Texas Tech a while to remedy

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Programs the caliber and pedigree of Texas Tech don’t just go from well over ten years of irrelevance to title contender status in two seasons.  We should have realized that heading into 2023 and adjusted our expectations accordingly.

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Prior to McGuire’s arrival, Tech had managed only three winning seasons since 2013 and had not topped eight wins since 2009.  So why did we all think that in just his second year, McGuire would buck the college football trend and turn a program that has never contended for anything on the national level into a darkhorse playoff hopeful?

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Just look at what it took programs of similar status in the sport to gain national relevance.  It took Mike Gundy three seasons to get Oklahoma State to nine wins despite the fact that he was taking over for the successful Les Miles.

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In Waco, Art Briles didn’t get Baylor past seven wins until his fourth year.  Of course, prior to his tenure, the Bears had 12 straight losing seasons, a run that makes Tech’s recent struggles seem far less egregious.

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It even took an established Gary Patterson three years to field a team with a winning Big 12 record at TCU after the Frogs joined the conference.  It was tough for him to turn a program that he had led for 11 years into an immediate Big 12 force so the same should have been expected of McGuire.

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At Utah, it took Kyle Wittingham four years just to win his first Mountain West title.  Imagine how tough it would have been for him to build an immediate title contender in a Power-5 league.

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It took Texas Tech a decade or more to bottom out as a program under Wells.  The fall was slow (but painful).

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So it should have been reasonable to expect McGuire to need more than just one season to fix everything that has been wrong with this program since the end of the Mike Leach era.  However, most of us believed that was exactly what he did last year.

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Now, we realize that the hype was misguided and that this rebuilding process is going to take longer than we initially hoped.  It takes a long time to turn around an ocean liner and that’s what McGuire is trying to do.  Let’s just hope he can do so without hitting any icebergs as his three predecessors did.

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