By: Steven Lassan | 5/21/12, 11:05 AM EDT
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You can read the entire Texas Tech preview in Athlon Sports' 2012 Big 12 magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
#58 Texas Tech
Big 12 PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Tommy Tuberville, 13-12 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Neal Brown | DEF. COORDINATOR: Art Kaufman
The biggest issue entering 2012 is the availability of senior Eric Stephens. The 5'8", 195-pound running back tore his ACL and MCL in a loss to Texas A&M in the fifth game. Stephens was on his way to a monster junior season. He was second in the Big 12 and 15th in the nation with a 114.0 yards-per-game average at the time of his injury. The staff is hopeful that Stephens will be ready to go in the fall.
Fortunately, there is some depth behind Stephens. Sophomores DeAndre Washington, who also tore an ACL last season, and Kenny Williams appear ready to step up if Stephens isn’t fully recovered. Junior college transfer SaDale Foster is also an option.
The Red Raiders expected Brian Thomas, a seven-game starter at Texas A&M in 2011, to have an impact in 2012, but he decided to leave the team in fall practice. Center Deveric Gallington and left tackle LaAdrian Waddle man the two other settled positions.
There are no issues in the passing game. Tech’s quarterback and receiver situations are set. Starting quarterback Seth Doege threw for more than 4,000 yards and had 28 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions despite the fact the running game was virtually nonexistent after Stephens’ injury. Wideout Darrin Moore was slowed by injuries after a great start in 2011. If healthy, he is poised for a big season.
The defensive line was a big part of the problem last season as the Red Raiders struggled to stop the run. Pete Robertson, a former safety, has been moved to defensive end, and coaches believe he can make a big impact as a pass-rusher. Highly touted junior college transfer Leon Mackey was so-so as a defensive end last season and has been moved to defensive tackle.
The linebacking corps could be the rags-to-riches story of 2012 after an abysmal 2011 performance in an awkward 4-2-5 scheme. Simply put, the Red Raiders’ linebackers lacked the athleticism to handle the vast responsibilities of the 4-2-5 alignment. This season, Tech will run a 4-3 defense, which adds a linebacker to help stop the run, under new coordinator Art Kaufman. Look for several junior college transfers to bolster this unit.
Cornelius Douglas will be a full-time cornerback in 2012 after playing on both sides of the ball in 2011. He will be joined by a junior college transfer, either Bruce Jones or Olaoluwa Falemi. The Red Raiders feel good about the talent at the safety positions.
The Red Raiders may have found an answer at placekicker in Ryan Bustin, a transfer from Kilgore (Texas) College. Bustin has a big leg with a range beyond 50 yards. In 2010, at Kilgore, he kicked 13 field goals with a long of 49 yards. Ryan Erxleben begins his third season as the punter. He averaged a 41.7 yards per punt last season, but the coaching staff is confident he will improve on that in 2012. Foster, the junior college transfer who is an option at running back, will be involved in the return game.
Texas Tech missed a bowl game in 2011 for the first time in 12 seasons, which is putting some pressure on third-year coach Tommy Tuberville. Tech must make a bowl game in 2012 to meet Red Raider fans’ minimum standards. Fortunately, there are several weapons in the offensive cupboard, and the coaches did their best to revamp the defense with a new coordinator, a new scheme and some new players from the junior college ranks. The Raiders might cut it close, but they should make it to a bowl game this year.