Texas Tech Faces Gauntlet As Injuries Mount


When the 2015 Big 12 football schedule was released, it was immediately clear that Texas Tech would face an unusual challenge; unlike any other team in the conference, the Red Raiders will play eleven consecutive games before finally having a bye week.

Now, five games into that stretch injuries are beginning to take a toll on Texas Tech’s depth chart. Currently, there are at least eight Red Raiders battling injuries; head coach Kliff Kingsbury hopes to have some of the recovering players available for this week’s game against Iowa State. However, there are still other players may be sidelined for a significant period of time.

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First the good news: on Tuesday, Kingsbury told the media that safeties Jalen Barnes (who didn’t play for disciplinary reasons) and Peyton Hendrix should be available this week.

However, the news concerning other key Texas Tech play-makers is not as good.

Another young safety, Derrick Dixon, remains out as a result of what Kingsbury is referring to as “personal issues”. As porous as the defense has been in recent weeks, it could definitely use as much depth as it can muster.

Unfortunately, Texas Tech’s depth chart decimation hasn’t been limited to the defense as injuries are actually worse on the offensive side of the ball.

Starting guard Justin Murphy injured his leg while attempting to make a tackle on an interception return during the Baylor game. When pressed about Murphy’s injury Kingsbury gave no updated information other than to say that he is out this week, and that senior Tony Morales will start in his place.

Another offensive position group that is incredibly thin heading into the meat of Big 12 play is Texas Tech’s receiving corps. Up to three of Texas Tech’s expected starting receivers could miss this week’s game.

In fact, out of the trio of injured players Devin Lauderdale is the only one that has a realistic chance of being healthy enough to play Saturday against Iowa State. Lauderdale, who has three touchdowns so far this season, has averaged 20.2 yards per catch and is currently listed as day-to-day after suffering internal bruising during the Baylor game. The injury was likely a result of a hard fall Lauderdale took while attempting to make a play on a midair football last week.

Similarly, clutch inside receiver Ian Sadler has also been sidelined and is not considered likely to return until November. The sophomore, who has 15 receptions on the year and is a go-to target on third down suffered a knee injury that forced him out of the TCU game. Sadler’s absence is sure to be felt along the receiving corps’ two-deep, but also in Mahome’s trademark scrambles where he often provides a reliable outlet and soft hands.

On a positive note, Sadler’s injury has given unheralded sophomore Zach Austin an opportunity for significant playing time, and last week against Baylor the relatively unknown receiver performed well. The native of Austin led the team with 8 catches and racked up 110 yards on the day with a touchdown.

Unfortunately, one receiver that may not play at all this season is junior wide receiver Dylan Cantrell. The former high school teammate of Texas Tech starting quarterback Pat Mahomes was set to be a starter this year but has not played due to back spasms. In regards to the Cantrell’s injury, Kingsbury has stated that the team is nearing the point where they will need to choose whether or not to redshirt him this season.

Another development that has come as a result of the injuries at the receiver position has been the increased playing time Texas Tech has been forced to give to true freshman Tony Brown of La Mirada, California. The 6-foot-1 freshman had five catches for 117 yards and a touchdown versus Baylor, however Brown is still relatively raw and showed his inexperience when he dropped another potential touchdown pass against the Bears.

If the play at outside receiver declines or another injury is suffered, true freshmen such as Quan Shorts or Donta Thompson could be called up to forfeit their redshirt in order to bolster Texas Tech’s receiving corps. However, that decision has yet to be made as coaches were hoping to hold on to Shorts’ and Thompson’s extra year of eligibility.

Finally, Texas Tech’s most significant injury scare concerns the starting quarterback position. Pat Mahomes has not been 100% healthy since early in the TCU game. The sophomore seemed to have injured his knee on a rushing attempt near the goal line, afterwards Mahomes seemed to hobble his way through the remainder of the game. However, he did appear to be more mobile last week against Baylor but was clearly not fully recovered.

In regards to Mahomes’ status Kliff Kingsbury told reporters that the quarterback continues to improve and may be nearing full health by the time the Iowa State game arrives on Saturday.

An off week in the midst of the recent three-game gauntlet of Arkansas, TCU and Baylor would have been quite the blessing for a Red Raider side decimated by injuries. Unfortunately, Texas Tech did not receive its customary bye week in between non-conference and Big 12 conference play.

The Texas Tech football team must fight through its injury situation and rely on the contributions of its backups as there won’t be enough time to recover and heal until the week before the last game of the season. Coincidentally, that bye week will come just before Texas Tech takes on the University of Texas in Austin Thanksgiving night.

It is understood that injuries are part of football, as such conference opponents likely won’t feel sorry for Texas Tech. However, there isn’t another team in the conference that will battle through eleven consecutive weeks of games without a bye.

As the cliché goes, football is a game of attrition and Texas Tech will find out how much it has improved in terms of its depth from last season, which was one of the focal points on the coaching staff’s off season agenda. If indeed Texas Tech has added quality depth to the team, injuries should not derail the 2015 team’s bowl aspirations.

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