Texas Tech football: The one task the Red Raiders must accomplish this offseason

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 29: Jett Duffey #7 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders throws a pass in the first quarter against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on November 29, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 29: Jett Duffey #7 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders throws a pass in the first quarter against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on November 29, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

While, the Texas Tech football team had greater issues in 2019 than its QB play, upgrading that position has to be the program’s biggest priority this offseason.

If we were to list all of the problems that the 2019 Texas Tech football team had, it would take quite a while before we got down to the play of QB Jett Duffey.  But while the lack of a pass rush, awful coverage from the secondary, injuries, and a lack of depth were all greater concerns this fall, the primary focus of this offseason has to be on increasing the level of play at the game’s most important position.

That’s because the only way for Tech to be competitive next year will likely be for Matt Wells and offensive coordinator David Yost to return this program to the days of having a top 10 offense in the nation.  That seems like the most readily fixable of the problems that are plaguing this team.

Without question, Tech needs to have better play on the other side of the ball, especially along the defensive line and most certainly in the secondary.  What’s more, the offensive line will have to be rebuilt with three seniors graduating and the wide receivers have to take a step forward.

But this team isn’t going to improve by leaps and bounds in most of those spots.  In fact, the best we can hope for is a slight improvement if not just simply the maintaining of this year’s performance at those positions.

It is terrifying to consider but remember that the defense is losing its three best players, LB Jordyn Brooks, safety Douglas Coleman, and DL Broderick Washington.  There are no recruits set to come, nor JUCO players or grad transfers that Wells could recruit that would give Tech the level of play that those three seniors did in 2019.

If there is any hope for next year’s defense to be better, it will have to be that the second year of DC Keith Patterson’s scheme will yield fewer mental mistakes, which will cut down on the number of big plays surrendered.  Also, there must be hope that a solid year on the recruiting trail will give the defense more numbers so that the Red Raiders will have a true two-deep that can help alleviate the load on the starters thus preventing second-half meltdowns.

But there just can’t be an expectation that the individuals replacing the three senior defensive stars or offensive players like tackles Terrence Steele and Travis Bruffy will be able to play as well as their predecessors did this year.  Also, Tech is going to lose its top receiver from this year, R.J. Turner and thus turn to a pair of freshmen in Ja’Lynn Polk and Loic Fouonji to play key roles next year.  We’ve seen that outside of guys named Crabtree, it’s tough for freshmen to be dominant receivers.

So the best and quickest way for this team to get back to being competitive again is to figure out which of the four QBs vying for next year’s starting job will be able to win shootouts the way guys like Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons, Graham Harrell, and others did even when they had awful defenses to cover for.

This year, Jett Duffey was better than any of us ever hoped he could be.  After an uneven sophomore year that saw him turn the ball over 9 times, with six coming through the air, he was much better in that regard this year with only seven turnovers (five INTs) despite playing three more games.

But to think that 2019 Duffey was the type of QB that Tech needs to win shootouts just isn’t the case.  His passer rating was virtually the same as last year (143.6 this year vs. 143.5 last year).  What’s more, his completion percentage was actually better in 2018 (67.5 vs. 65.1).

Though his yards per game through the air rose from 174.4 to 284, his rushing yards fell from 52.7 to 21.2.  In other words, he was essentially the same QB with the very big exception of his touchdown to INT rate, which was 18:5 after being 4:3 as a sophomore.

More from Wreck'Em Red

What’s more, list all the games in which Duffey has the main reason Tech has won.  There aren’t any.  He’s been good enough to keep his team from being beaten but not good enough to put the Red Raiders over the top.  Like an NBA player that puts up 20 points per game for a bad team, Duffey is putting up what are essentially empty stats.

In Tech’s two wins with Duffey at QB this year, the Red Raiders won because they got five turnovers from Oklahoma State and four from West Virginia.  In the only other win of his career as a starting QB, Duffey did score the game-winning TD on a 36-yard run, but in the 17-14 win at TCU last year, he threw for only 190 yards as his defense carried the day.

This offseason will be a QB competition the likes of which we’ve never seen at Tech with Duffey, redshirt sophomore Alan Bowman, redshirt freshman Maverick McIvor, and true freshman Donovan Smith all vying for the starting job.  And all have flaws.

Bowman has yet to play a full season at Tech having missed nine games this year and what amounted to five in 2018.  Similarly, injuries have been the reason McIvor has played only one half of football in the last two seasons thanks to a torn knee ligament in 2018 and a broken foot this fall.  As for Smith, 2019 was his only year as a starting QB after he transferred from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, where he was a receiver, to Frienship in Wolfforth.

As for Duffey, he’s proven to be steady but not dynamic.  My how the perception of him has changed in 12 months.

If he is going to be the starter next year, Wells and Yost have to figure out a way to get him to take the next step and be a QB who can carry his team to wins, not just keep it afloat.  But if they deem his lack of understanding of the offense, which prevented Tech from keeping its break-neck tempo this year, is too limiting, they must find a QB that can execute the full playbook and in the way that will lead Tech back to being a truly elite offense in 2020.

Next. Tech falls to UT in Austin. dark

In 2019, Tech finished at No. 125 nationally in total defense.  Expecting a one-year turnaround after losing Brooks, Washington, and Coleman seems unrealistic.  Thus, the best way, likely the only way for the Red Raiders to compete next year will be to take an offense that finished 14th in yards but only 59th in scoring and tune it up so that it can be top 10 in both categories.  That begins by figuring out which QB can play at a level elite enough to win shootouts, just like in the good old days.