It is not easy to put the 2023 Texas Tech football season in a nice neat box. That's because what the Red Raiders put forth last year felt like two different experiences in the same fall.
After starting 1-3 overall and then sitting at 3-5 in late October when the open week arrived, the tone and expectations of the season changed dramatically. However, ending the year going 4-1 down the stretch, including a win in the Independence Bowl, the Red Raiders got back to the postseason and showed out when that opportunity arrived and getting to a bowl has long been the minimal standard that people around Raiderland have deemed acceptable.
So how one perceives this year is a matter of perspective and personality. The pessimist will look back at the offseason hype and dwell on the fact that Tech was miles away from validating that.
Meanwhile, the optimist will take solace in the fact that Tech finished strong in November for the second year in a row under Joey McGuire. Those folks will find a silver lining from among the storm clouds that Tech endured in the middle of this season when just about everything went wrong for this program and they will likely be pleased with the overall direction that the program is headed in.
So let's take a step toward that side of the equation today and look at what went right for the Red Raiders in 2023. While there was plenty of meat left on the bone this fall, Tech still had some positive developments that could pay off in upcoming seasons.
Texas Tech found some young building blocks to grow with
The 2023 team began the year counting on its age and experience to be a strength. However, one of the stories of the year was the breakthrough of some younger players.
Sure, seniors such as safety Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, Jaylon Hutchings, Tony Bradford Jr., and Tahj Brooks did their share of the heavy lifting. Still, some underclassmen also stepped forward to give everyone hope that this team is in good hands moving forward.
Of course, redshirt freshman Ben Roberts is the headliner of that group. After entering the season as a virtual unknown, he was forced into a starring role due to the week one injury to middle linebacker Jacob Rodriguez.
All he did was go on to register 107 tackles in total with 55 of those being solo stops. He also made 6.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in a season that saw him named Co-Big 12 Defensive Freshmen of the Year honors.
Then there is "Dooda" Banks. The redshirt sophomore defensive end from Wichita Falls came on late to show that he's ready to step in as a likely starter next fall. Making 15 stops in 9 games, he was disruptive with 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
In the secondary, Brenden Jordan was a bright spot. Having to play more than expected as a true freshman because of injuries to players such as Tyler Owens and Taylor-Demerson, Jordan had 20 tackles on the year and showed that he is capable of holding down a starting job as a sophomore.
Finally, Amier Washington has excited fans by dominating in the bowl game against Cal. Playing on the edge of the defensive line for the first time due to opt-outs and injuries, he racked up a pair of game-changing sacks and looked like a dominant force in the making who is only scratching the surface of what he might eventually become.
On offense, wide receiver Coy Eakin had a sneaky good season. He didn't get to play until the fourth game of the season but still, he registered 36 catches for 416 yards and a pair of TDs. Though Tech has brought in tons of firepower at receiver this offseason, Eakin appears poised to be a big part of the Red Raider passing game in the future after a strong true sophomore campaign.
There is going to be tons of turnover on the Red Raider roster this year, especially on defense where as many as eight key members of the two-deep are set to depart the program. However, there should not be too much concern about who will fill those shoes given how so many young players stepped forward in a 2023 season that was supposed to be all about the upperclassmen.