The 2023 Texas Tech football season kicks off this Saturday with a sneaky tough road trip to face Wyoming. On Monday, it was revealed by the Cowboys’ head coach, Craig Bohl, that his team will be without a key weapon, running back Harrison Waylee. That’s tough news for a team that was offensively challenged in 2022.
Waylee is a junior transfer from Northern Illinois who racked up 1,018 total yards and 5 touchdowns last fall. He likely gained the attention of the Wyoming staff by putting up 179 yards and 2 touchdowns against them in 2021 and he is going to be one of the players they hope can bring more punch to their attack in 2023.
However, offseason knee surgery is preventing Waylee from playing in week one. That’s a blow to what the Cowboys likely wanted to do against the Red Raider defense.
Keep in mind that the Cowboys were one of the worst passing teams in the nation a year ago. Their quarterbacks were able to complete only 51% of their passes and their 121 yards per game through the air was better than only six teams in the country (with three of those teams being the three service academies, all of which ran the triple-option offense).
However, Wyoming does have a defense that is respectable. In fact, seven of their 2022 opponents failed to top 20 points.
Thus, the plan for Wyoming each week is to run the football to shorten games and keep their defense fresh. That will almost certainly be the plan on Saturday against a Texas Tech offense that is loaded with as much talent as any team the Cowboys will see this year.
Waylee was going to be part of that plan. For his career, he has carried the ball at least 101 times in each of his three seasons.
Last fall, he had a career-high 167 carries for 899 yards and 5 scores. What’s more, he averaged 5.4 yards per rush.
Also, keep in mind that Wyoming’s 2022 leading rusher, Titus Swen, was dismissed from the team at the end of last season despite having another season of eligibility. Last year, the Fort Worth native ran for 1,038 yards and 8 TDs and his absence leaves the Cowboys with a big hole to fill.
Much of the offensive burden will fall upon Dawaiin McNeely, who rushed for 367 yards last season, and the explosive D.Q. James who amassed 40 carries for 355 yards and had an 8.7 yards per-carry average.
It would seem that Tech will be well-equipped to make it difficult for the Cowboys to run given the strength of the Red Raider defensive tackles, Tony Bradford Jr. and Jaylon Hutchings. That duo combined for 82 tackles last year with 14.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
As a team last year, Tech was only 90th nationally against the run by allowing 168.8 yards per game. One key to being able to improve in that area is the new middle linebacking duo of Jesiah Pierre and Jacob Rodriguez, each of whom will be starting at inside linebacker for the first time as Red Raiders.
Without Waylee being ready to help out the Cowboys, Tech’s defense now has one less weapon to worry about Saturday in Laramie. That’s only going to help the Red Raiders’ chances of leaving town with a victory.