The Texas Tech football team’s season came up short of what they had in mind after back-to-back losses in the Red Raiders’ last two games of the season, giving the team a 4-8 overall record in Matt Wells’ first year as head coach.
Wells became the Red Raiders’ head coach after Kliff Kingsbury was fired following a loss to Baylor, ending the season with a 5-7 overall record. When Wells came in, he brought a new coaching staff and playbook in hopes of turning the program around.
Before the season started, while Wells wanted to build a winning program as soon as possible, at the Big 12 Media Day he said his biggest goal in his first season with the Red Raiders is to establish a culture. He also said building a culture will help set the foundation for the program, emphasizing the main goal for his first season is to establish accountability, physicality, toughness and discipline within the team.
While Wells said he wanted to establish a culture in his first year as head coach, several changes were made to both the offense and defense under offensive coordinator David Yost and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. Both coaches were brought to Lubbock after coaching with Wells at Utah State.
“It’s definitely crazy because I’ve been here two years now, and I have to learn two new offenses,” sophomore quarterback Alan Bowman said after Tech’s first practice under Wells. “Each January, I pretty much learned a whole new language because that’s what it is. Relatively the same concepts and the same things, but it’s different signals, language, so it’s been hard but it’s been good. Coach Wells has helped me out, all the coaches have been willing to help whenever I need.”
Bowman started the season as quarterback, but after an injury in the Red Raiders’ third game of the season, junior Jett Duffey filled his role as the starting quarterback. In his nine starts, Duffey threw for 2,716 yards and 18 touchdowns, averaging 301.77 passing yards and two touchdowns a game, according to Tech Athletics. Duffey also threw just five interceptions this season of his 367 pass attempts.
As Duffey was in the same position last season after Bowman was sidelined for several games due to injuries, senior offensive lineman Travis Bruffy said he has seen the quarterback step up as a more developed leader and player.
“Kind of transitioning from how he was in 2018 as an unexpected guy that came in, (and) made plays, (to) a very electric personality, very electric athlete. He came into more of the quarterback role where we can design plays around Jett Duffey,” Bruffy said regarding Duffey’s performance last year compared to this year. “We can design schemes around him. He’s not just a mobile dual-threat guy. He’s a developed pocket passer as well as a guy who can make plays. When everything looks like it’s going downhill, he can get us a 10-yard gain or can keep the offense going after a five-yard loss or things like that.”
On the defensive end, Wells understood that changes needed to be made in order to become a winning program, he said at the Big 12 Media Day before the season.
“I think the biggest thing to consistently winning in the Big 12 for my tenure here at Texas Tech is we have to play championship-caliber defense,” Wells said at the Big 12 Media Day. “We talk about our plan to win, the first thing on our plan to win is to play great defense. There’s not a time to me that’s ever more challenging than to play that in the Big 12 than right now.”
Under Patterson’s new defensive scheme, the Red Raiders performed slightly better than they did in 2018, according to Tech Athletics. Last season the Red Raiders gave up 31.08 points and 373 yards per game while the defense allowed 30.33 points and 364 yards per game this season.
The coaching staff put an emphasis on getting takeaways on defense as Wells said he thinks that is a key to winning games. This season, the Red Raiders ranked third in the Big 12 with 14 interceptions, led by senior defensive back Douglas Coleman III who had eight this season, according to Tech Athletics. With his interception total, Coleman not only led the conference but tied for the most in the nation as well.
“Takeaways is really what gets everything going,” junior defensive back Zech McPhearson said. “It gets the emotions high. It just rubs off on everybody else and rubs off to the offense.”
Along with Coleman leading the nation in interceptions, senior linebacker Jordyn Brooks has also earned national recognition for his play. This season, Brooks’ game improved as he has recorded 108 total tackles, 66 solo tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hurries, three sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble, according to Tech Athletics. Brooks said he credits the defensive scheme for his improvement.
“Where I’m lined up now, I can go sideline to sideline instead of being limited to one side of the field as I was last year,” Brooks said. “I think overall it’s just a better scheme for me personally. With this new defensive coordinator, Keith Patterson, and the scheme that he’s bringing.”
As Brooks had the best season of his career at Tech, Wells said there were two main ways he has seen the senior linebacker improve. The first improvement Wells saw from Brooks was the change in his body. With the help of Dave Scholz, Wells said Brooks has leaned up and gotten faster as the season progressed. He also said Brooks’ willingness to learn has helped his performance as well.
“The other place that I’ve seen him really change is just become more of a student of the game and continue to really accept Keith Patterson’s coaching. And Keith’s really strained him, challenged him,” Wells said. “But Jordyn allowed himself to be coachable. To see a senior do that with a brand new coach, brand new head coach, (and) brand new strength coach his senior year, it’s gratifying for me as a head coach. But I have a lot of respect for that, and I think that’s why you see Jordyn Brooks playing the best ball of his career. I think every award and every accolade he gets is very, very well deserved. Jordyn Brooks is going to play a lot of football past Texas Tech.”
With all of the changes Wells has implemented as head coach, the Red Raiders came up short with a 4-8 overall record while going 2-7 against teams in the Big 12. Despite the losing record, the games Tech lost could have been won by a big play as the Red Raiders lost four games by three or fewer points.
As the Red Raiders lost four games by three or fewer points, Wells will look to narrow the gap in hopes of creating a dominant football program as 17 players on Tech’s 2019 roster were seniors. With standout players like Brooks, Coleman, wide receiver RJ Turner, offensive lineman Terence Steele and defensive lineman Broderick Washington Jr. leaving the program, Wells will look to his young players and recruits in hopes of taking a step in the right direction.
Last season, Tech ranked eighth in the Big 12 and 62nd nationally for its recruiting class and as of right now, the class of 2020 Red Raiders is ranked fourth in the conference and 39th nationally, according to 247sports.com. The 2020 Tech football commits are highlighted by a four-star wide receiver, Loic Fouonji. Along with Fouonji, the Red Raiders look to bring in 17 three-star recruits to the program next season.
“I believe we’re a developmental program, and recruiting and development are so important to this foundation. It’s already started. There’s more pieces getting added, there’s some big fish that are jumping in, and I couldn’t be more excited,” Wells said. “And I think it’s, I think with you guys, as you can see, the guys that are telling a lot of schools ‘no’ to come to Texas Tech and to believe in our staff and our team and our players, I think is significant and we have to continue to add to this program and develop our locker room and they’re both equally important.”
With recruiting being a big deal for Wells so he can run his schemes with players who are fit to play his style of football, Tech’s 2021 class is predicted to be even better than 2020’s, according to 247sports.com. As of right now, only two players for the 2021 class have committed to Tech, but the two have the Red Raiders’ class ranked fourth in the Big 12 and 28th in the nation for the 2021 class. The recruits include four-star quarterback Behren Morton and three-star athlete Cale Sanders.
“It’s just a relentless pursuit to change this program,” Wells said regarding recruiting players.