I began this offseason like I have the prior two: with a foolishly unrealistic goal of writing detailed previews for all 12 scheduled Houston Cougar opponents. If I had any connecting idea from all previously written previews, it was to try and provide the detail I find lacking from 90% of the expert previews available on the internet or what’s left of print media.
Still, once I realized that the calendar had now turned to early July and I only had 2/3 of a full Texas Tech preview written that writing 11 more of these before the September 4 season opener would be basically impossible.
And its actually a better challenge as a writer to try and do something as potentially voluminous as previewing a college football team with a strict word limit.
So, without further ado here is your week 1 Houston Cougar opponent: the 2021 edition of Texas Tech Red Raiders football, in 400 words or less (not counting this preamble, pedants).
Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells is on a hot seat after an 8-14 start to his first 2 years in Lubbock, no mincing words about it. If Wells hadn’t dismissed the much-maligned OC he brought from Utah State and brought in Tech alum Sonny Cumbie he might not have made it to 2021.
Cumbie had a largely successful run as an assistant at TCU and will get to work with a former top 100 national recruit in junior QB Tyler Shough. In 3 years at Oregon, Shough backed up Justin Herbert and started every 2020 Duck game but entered the portal after the season. Shough struggled down the stretch in 2020, but has the physical make up to be a 1st round NFL draft pick and will get junior RB SaRodorick Thompson and junior WR Erik Ezukanma, last year’s leading rusher and receiver respectively, to lean on as he learns his new team.
Ezukanma and Thompson missed some of spring practice with injuries, and those two players’ health will loom large over the season opener. Ezukanma, a 2020 1st team All-Big 12 selection, is the only proven playmaker in a young receiver group. A Red Raider offensive line that struggled at times last year returns 6 full or part-time starters and brings in TCU grad transfer TJ Storment at left tackle.
The Red Raider defense’s only possible question is a defensive line that didn’t create much havoc in 2020, but returns a trio of experienced juniors: Tyree Wilson, Tony Bradford Jr, and Jaylon Hutchings.
The linebacker group will likely be the most experienced the Coogs face in the regular season, with seniors Colin Schooler, Krishon Merriweather, and Riko Jeffers all back for 2021. The only missing piece on the Red Raider defensive front is a standout pass rusher as Schooler led them last year with a paltry 3.5 sacks.
There’s some returning experience in the secondary, though no returning Tech player had an interception in 2020. Transfers Malik Dunlap (NC State) and Rayshad Williams (UCLA) bring needed experience at CB, with Duke grad transfer Marquis Waters coming in at Safety as well.
Junior Dadrion Taylor-Demerson will play a key role at the Spur position, which is a safety/linebacker hybrid Tech DC Keith Patterson uses in the 3-3-5 stack alignment (notably, the same kind of defense that gave the Houston offense fits against Hawai’i and Todd Graham).