With the Texas Tech football program now essentially a week into fall camp, the excitement for the 2023 season is ramping up, and given how strong the Red Raiders’ roster is this year, it is easy to understand why the fans in Raiderland are eager to see this team on the field.
What makes Joey McGuire’s second squad in Lubbock so intriguing is that there appears to be no glaring weakness on paper. Now, this isn’t to suggest that the roster features position groups that will be among the tops in the nation across the board. Despite the massive strides McGuire has made in revamping the talent level for his team, he has some significant work to do in order to have a top-10 roster in terms of talent.
However, for the first time in perhaps a decade, the Red Raiders appear to enter the season with every position group being at worst average by Big 12 standards. That is a refreshing change from recent years.
For instance, does anyone remember the 2018 season when, with his job on the line, Kliff Kingsbury went into the fall with McLane Carter, Alan Bowman, and Jett Duffey as his options at QB? That had to be the worst collection of talent at the game’s most important position that Tech has fielded since prior to the Mike Leach era began in 2000.
Or don’t forget the 2011 season when Tech’s secondary was so bad that when No. 2 Oklahoma State came to Lubbock in November, the best option the Red Raiders had to try to cover eventual two-time Biletnikoff Award winner, Justin Blackmon, was 5-foot-9 Cornelius Douglas who had only recently converted to defensive back after spending most of his career as an inside receiver. The result was a disastrous 66-6 loss that was one of the earliest signs that the post-Leach era of the program was spinning out of control.
Even as recently as last year, Tech had to cobble together an inadequate offensive line with a JUCO walk-on in Dennis Wilburn starting at center, a first-time starter at right tackle in Monroe Mills, who had never started a game in his college career, and a first-time left tackle in Caleb Rogers. The results were not great even though Wilburn and Mills proved to be better than most assumed they’d be. Ultimately, Tech’s line was a weakness for most of the season and led to an offseason revamping of that position group that we will discuss in more detail momentarily.
The point is that just about every position group on the field has at one time in recent memory been woefully inadequate in a given season for the Red Raiders. Again, that’s not just a problem that is unique to Texas Tech but rather it is a battle that most programs not named Georgia, Alabama, or Ohio State grapple with every fall.
However, the 2023 Red Raiders appeared to have their roster in as healthy of a place as it’s been since perhaps the magical 2008 season. Still, there are some players on the team that will have to come through for the first time or take their play to another level to elevate their position groups to a place where this team is
truly capable of competing for a Big 12 title
So let’s take a look at five make-or-break players on the roster. As we, it will become obvious what the two biggest areas of concern might be as we enter what we hope will be a season that sees McGuire’s program build off of last year’s momentum.