Texas Tech football: Storylines to watch as fall camp opens

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - OCTOBER 19: Head coach Matt Wells of the Texas Tech Red Raiders exits the team bus before the college football game against the Iowa State Cyclones on October 19, 2019 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - OCTOBER 19: Head coach Matt Wells of the Texas Tech Red Raiders exits the team bus before the college football game against the Iowa State Cyclones on October 19, 2019 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /

The Texas Tech football team opens fall camp today and here are some storylines that fans need to keep a close eye on.

What a strange offseason it has been.  Thankfully, we are about to get a dose of normalcy as the Texas Tech football program is set to open fall camp today.

Though we know that this will be a football season like no other, it will simply be reassuring and refreshing to have actual football matters to discuss instead of continuing to dissect how the coronavirus pandemic will impact the game we love so much.

So let’s dive into some of the on-field concerns that we will be tracking as fall camp unfolds.  Here are the storylines that will be worth monitoring.

There’s a battle for the backup QB spot

A month ago, we didn’t anticipate much of a battle for the No. 2 QB job behind Alan Bowman.  But that changed when the Red Raiders added Utah State transfer Henry Colombi to the roster.

Assuming that the junior is granted a waiver for eligibility this year, he will be in a battle with redshirt freshman Maverick McIvor for the right to be Bowman’s understudy.  And given Bowman’s injury history, that’s an important role.

It will be a battle between experience and raw talent.  Typically in the minds of coaches, experience is more valuable when casting a backup signal-caller.

Colombi has the edge in that regard given that McIvor has yet to play in a college game.  But it isn’t as if the newest Tech QB is a grizzled veteran.  He’s appeared in just 13 games with no starts and he’s amassed a mere 460 passing yards of offense with only two TDs.

However, that is a world of experience when compared to what McIvor has gained in the last two years.  The San Angelo native has appeared in just two games total in 2018 and 2019 because of injuries.

Still, being green didn’t seem to hurt him all that much in last fall’s camp.  Despite being a true freshman who did not arrive on campus until the summer, McIvor had surpassed three-year veteran Jett Duffey on Tech’s depth chart to be Bowman’s backup last year.  But then he had the misfortune of breaking his foot in Tech’s final intrasquad scrimmage thus ending his season.

So keep a close watch on how this battle shapes up.  This will be one of the key decisions Matt Wells and his offensive coordinator David Yost have to make.  After all, we’ve learned over the last two years that just one solid QB may not be enough for the Red Raiders.

New faces in key places

Much of this season is going to depend on the ability of newcomers to make immediate impacts.  That’s never a guarantee to work out well.

So during camp, keep your ears open when the coaches speak to the media and listen for names you’ve never heard of.

Listen to reports on how well linebacker Krishon Merriweather handles the job of replacing Jordyn Brooks in the middle of the defense.  He was a JUCO All-American last season who had 153 tackles and he will be expected to step into the starting lineup for the Red Raiders.

Another JUCO player to get to know is defensive end Devin Drew.  The 285-pounder had 9.5 sacks last year to earn first-team All-American honors and he will be asked to bring some of that productivity to a Red Raider defense desperate for more pressure on the QB.

Transfers will also be key this year.  Expect to hear plenty about LSU safety Eric Monroe.  He is going to open camp atop the depth chart at one safety spot and there really aren’t any viable alternatives behind him.  So be aware of reports on how he is progressing in his first go-round as a starter at the college level.

Brandon Bouyer-Randle has come over from another big-time program; Michigan State.  Can he prove to be a disruptive force off the edge of the defense to help offset the absence of Xavier Benson?

On offense, listen for news on how RB Chadarius Townsend is picking up the system.  At Alabama, he was a jack of all trades playing RB, WR, and even corner but now he is going to be the second-team RB behind SaRodorick Thompson and he will get plenty of touches.

Welcome back

If 2020 is going to be a success, some players that were injured last year are going to need to be back to 100% health and stay that way.  That starts with Alan Bowman.  The QB will be the central focus of camp as he must reclaim the reins of the offense after a collarbone injury cost him all but three games last season.

Two speedy receivers also need to prove ready for action.  Dalton Rigdon will be in a battle for the starting inside receiver spot after earning the starting spot by the middle of last year.  Meanwhile, Seth Collins will be trying to find some snaps as a backup outside receiver after his own collarbone injury cost him all of 2019.  Both could be explosive components of the offense if they are back to health.

Along the line, we will wait to see how Jack Anderson looks as he returns from an upper-body injury that cost him eight games last year. Across the way, can redshirt freshman defensive end Gilbert Ibeneme make an impact after a shoulder injury forced him to be nothing but a spectator a year ago.  He was at one time a 4-star signee who was the headliner of Tech’s 2019 class. Now he needs to start earning some reps in the two-deep.

Seeking two tackles

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Who wins the starting tackle jobs may be the most important development of fall camp.  And recently, we broke down that battle in depth.

With Terrence Steele and Travis Bruffy both having graduated and both heading to NFL training camps as undrafted free agents, Tech has to replace 81 career starts at tackle.  That is a rather daunting task.

The problem is that there are no clear answers.  Perhaps the safest bet is junior Casey Verhulst at right tackle.  That’s because last year he made a pair of starts as an injury replacement for Steele thus leading us to believe he has the inside track on the right side.

On the left, it may come down to either redshirt freshman Landon Peterson from Odessa or grad transfer Josh Burger from Wofford.  This will be another contest between raw talent and experience as Peterson has impressed his coaches since arriving but Berger was a multi-year starter for the Terriers.

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The good news is that Tech is back to worrying about on-field issues.  Though the threat of another coronavirus development that could change the season will always be front and center, let’s try to turn our attention to what happens on the practice field.  After all, we’ve waited eight months fo finally have some real football news to distract us from weightier issues.