Football is the ultimate team sport. However, summer is the time we begin to think about individual players and specifically the new faces that have joined the Texas Tech football program.
It’s fascinating because this year, we can directly see a connection between the individual players Matt Wells has brought into the program and the weaknesses that he and his coaching staff perceive the roster to have. That’s one of the side effects of the transfer portal.
When recruiting was all about the high school and JUCO ranks, teams attempted to bring in a well-balanced recruiting class that would include players at just about every position. However, with the transfer portal, coaches approach recruiting like a grocery list.
This year, Wells knows that the players he’s added had better pan out, or else he is likely to lose his job. After all, he came within an eyelash of being fired after last season, his second-straight 4-win season as head coach of the Red Raiders.
So let’s look at five additions that will determine Wells’ fate as well as the fate of the 2021 season. And we will begin with the most obvious player on the roster.
Texas Tech football fans know that no one in West Texas will have more of an impact on how the upcoming season will play out than the area’s newest transplant from Eugene, Oregon, Tyler Shough.
The expected starting QB for this year’s Red Raider squad, he brings new hope for a position that used to be a given in Lubbock but which has been wildly and frustratingly inadequate since Patrick Mahomes was completing no-look and sidearm passes at Jones Stadium in 2016. While no one expects Shough to replicate Mahomes’ magic, it is almost universally believed that he will be better than any of the six players to have started at least one game for Tech at QB since the Mahomes era ended.
That’s not a high bar to clear though as no Red Raider QB since Mahomes has passed for 4,000 yards and only one, Nic Shimonek in 2017, has passed for over 3,000 yards. By contrast, from 2002-16, Tech had 11 years in which a QB threw for over 4,000 yards with five years in which the starting QB eclipsed the 5,000-yard mark.
Shough has never come close to numbers like that but that’s because his only season to be a starter was the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season that saw Oregon play just seven games. In those seven games, he threw for 1,559 yards, which averages out to 222.7 yards per game.
Thus, there still remains a question as to whether Shough has it in him to be a star QB or if he’s just the next in the ever-growing line of mediocre to bad Red Raider QBs in the post-Mahomes era. After all, Shough did have to split time with another QB last year meaning that he didn’t do enough to fully secure the job in Oregon.
But he remains Tech’s best hope for success in 2021. That’s because Henry Colombi showed last year that he’s a nice backup who can win a game or two in a pinch but that he isn’t the type of player Tech wants to lean on for an entire season. And the only other options for Wells and Co. are freshmen Donovan Smith and Behren Morton, neither of whom has taken a snap at the collegiate level.
Therefore, most of what happens for this year’s Red Raiders will boil down to how Shough develops as a QB under new offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie. That’s why it is no stretch to say that Shough is the most important Red Raider on the roster in 2021 and, given what’s at stake for the future of the program this year, he might be the most important Red Raider to don the scarlet and black since Mahomes was leading the offense.