For perhaps the first time since the 2014 season when then-head coach Kliff Kingsbury was entering his second season following an 8-win debut campaign, there is realistic excitement over the future of the Texas Tech football program this offseason. In fact, even people outside of the Red Raider biosphere are expecting Joey McGuire’s team to be a factor in the Big 12 race and a darkhorse contender to be the 2023 version of TCU which made a run to last season’s National Championship Game.
It is easy to understand how people have become bullish on the Red Raiders. After all, they return seven starters on defense and virtually every offensive difference-maker from 2022 with the exception of running back SaRodorick Thompson.
What’s more, Tech will ride a four-game winning streak into the upcoming fall bringing the type of momentum and hope to this program that has been missing since the Kingsbury experiment went off the rails. However, we still are not discussing a blueblood program destined to fall out of bed and win 10 or more games every year like Alabama, Georgia, or Ohio State.
Thus, there are valid questions concerning the roster that McGuire has put together. Nowhere are those questions more significant than along the offensive line.
2022 was not a season to remember for Tech’s O-line. In fact, it could be argued that what is the second-most important position group on the field was last fall’s greatest weakness for Tech, even in a season marred by constant quarterback injuries.
For instance, Tech finished 111th nationally and last in the Big 12 by giving up 3.15 sacks per game. Also, at just 3.9 yards per rush, Tech would finish ahead of only Oklahoma State and Iowa State (two teams that featured putrid offenses) in the Big 12 rankings.
Thus, it was no wonder that one of this offseason’s priorities was to remodel the offensive line. In fact, in the over 20 years that I’ve been emotionally invested in this program, there have been few overhauls of that position group in a single offseason to the scale of what Tech is trying to pull off this year.
With no starter expected to return to the same position he played last year, the massive reshuffling of the deck is going to be the key to the success of the 2023 offense as much as any other factor, including the health and productivity of the quarterbacks.
If this group can put a solid effort forth for 13 games, there’s no reason to believe that offensive coordinator Zach Kittley is going to be able to put up huge numbers in his second season calling plays in Lubbock. But if the rebuild hits some snags, we could see an offense that is as talented as any in the Big 12 derailed at the line of scrimmage.
So while plenty of people are drinking the Kool-Aid when it comes to Tech and its offense this year, let’s tap the breaks a bit and look at what should concern us about the offensive line. And we will begin by asking a simple but massively important question: Does just flipping positions cure a huge issue?