The Texas Tech football coaching staff has been conducting an experiment since almost the moment Matt Wells took over nearly three years ago and 2021 feels like the year we will find out for certain if it is working. The experiment has been to add as much talent to the roster through the transfer portal as from the high school and junior college ranks and this year, those efforts will largely determine how well this make or break season for the head coach plays out.
In all this season, as many as five key contributors on offense and nine on defense will have arrived in the Hub City via the transfer portal. That means that this year’s two-deep will be comprised equally of players from the transfer portal and players that signed with Tech out of high school.
That’s how Wells has decided to bridge the talent gap that he inherited from Kliff Kingsbury and though there have been individual successes along the way, this strategy has not yielded results where it counts most, the scoreboard as he has yet to win more than four games in a season with the Red Raiders. But the coaching staff is confident that will change this year as Tech brings back one of the most experienced rosters in the Big 12.
What’s more, those returnees have been joined by even more talent from the portal as Tech has added ten more transfers to the mix this offseason, all but one of which are likely to be on the field for significant snaps this season. So with all the new faces, let’s take a look at where the Red Raiders will be improved in 2021. And being as this team is coming off of a 4-win season, there are quite a few positions where we could begin.
If presumed starting quarterback Tyler Shough can stay healthy and make every start this year, it will mark the first time since the final year of the Pat Mahomes era (2016) that Tech has had the same starting QB for an entire season. (In 2017 Nic Shimonek was healthy for and played in all 13 games but he did not start the regular-season finale at Texas after being benched in favor of McLane Carter.) Should that happen, it is hard to imagine that Tech will not be in better shape at the game’s most important position.
Shough is the most talented QB to come through Lubbock since Mahomes and he will be the first QB who was a 4-star high school recruit to start for Tech since Graham Harrell. Additionally, many believe that he is a possible NFL Draft prospect as soon as next April.
All of that is to say, Shough is a complete upgrade over the players this program has been relying on at QB in the post-Mahomes era. That will only help make the Red Raider attack more dangerous and effective than it has been in recent years.
But what’s more, the entire Texas Tech quarterback room will be in much better shape this year. No more will walk-ons like Jackson Tyner be asked to start games even in case of an emergency. That’s because this crop of Red Raider QBs is deep.
While we learned last year that Henry Colombi is not good enough to be a full-time starter in the Big 12, he is the type of competitor that teams love to have in a pinch. Should Shough have to leave a game or even miss a full contest or two, Colombi has the gamesmanship needed to step up and lead his team adequately.
But there is also stellar young talent waiting in the wings at the QB position and it’s been quite a long time since we’ve been able to say that. Both redshirt freshman Donovan Smith and true freshman Behren Morton are receiving positive reviews during fall camp and each could conceivably be a potential starter in the future.
So hopefully, gone are the days in which Tech has to go to battle with sub-par QB play. Saturdays when the offense has to game plan around the QBs weaknesses should be a thing of the past and that’s why this year’s QBs will be much better than we’ve seen in quite some time.