Although the 2019 college football season has just officially ended Monday with Louisiana State defeating Clemson 42-25 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, the Texas Tech football program has seen several changes for the upcoming season.
One of the biggest changes was the hiring of Todd Orlando as the Red Raiders’ assistant head coach and linebacker coach, which head coach Matt Wells announced on Jan. 8. Before being hired as a part of Tech’s coaching staff, Orlando was the defensive coordinator for an in-state conference rival, Texas.
“We are thrilled to bring a coach with Todd’s credentials into our program,” Wells said, according to a Tech Athletics news release. “He is one of the top defensive minds in football, and I know he will help us continue to build a strong culture within our program.”
While serving as Texas’ defensive coordinator for three seasons, Orlando helped coach the Longhorns to 25 wins and two bowl game wins, according to the release. Texas’ bowl win against No. 5 Georgia in 2018, 28-21, marked the Longhorns’ first 10-win season since 2009.
One of Orlando’s biggest highlights of his coaching on the defensive side of the ball occurred in his first season with the Longhorns. In 2017, Texas’ defense led the nation with both seven defensive touchdowns and five interceptions returned for a touchdown with Orlando as defensive coordinator, according to Texas Athletics. Nationally, Orlando’s defense also ranked third in third-down defense (.271), eighth in fourth-down defense (.300) and eighth in rushing defense (106.8 yards per game).
Even though this will mark Orlando’s first year coaching at Tech, this will not be his first season coaching under Wells. In 2013, Wells hired Orlando as his first defensive coordinator at Utah State, according to the release. In his two seasons with the Aggies, Utah State’s scoring defense ranked seventh nationally in 2013 and 12th in 2014.
In his two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Utah State, Orlando’s defense forced 59 total takeaways, the eighth-most in the nation over the span, according to the release. This created the takeaway culture Wells preached in his first season with the Red Raiders.
“My family and I are excited to rejoin Coach Wells,” Orlando said, according to the release. “We’ve won a bunch of games together in the past, and we plan to do the same here at Texas Tech. I’m looking forward to meeting the staff and players and then finishing up on the recruiting trail for the 2020 class.”
Aside from coaching at Texas and Utah State, Orlando has been a part of Pennsylvania, Florida International, Connecticut and Houston, according to the release. The 2020 season with the Red Raiders will be Orlando’s 24th season as a coach.
With the addition of Orlando, Kerry Cooks will not be a part of Tech’s 2020 coaching staff and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson will coach the defensive backs, according to the release.
Along with coaching changes, 16 Red Raider seniors will not return for the 2020 season. Several seniors played a big role for Tech, including linebacker Jordyn Brooks, defensive back Douglas Coleman III, defensive lineman Broderick Washington Jr., offensive lineman Terence Steele and wide receiver RJ Turner.
The defense will take the biggest hit with the seniors leaving as Brooks led the team in tackles, tackles for loss, fumbles recovered and quarterback hurries, according to Tech Athletics. Coleman was also a big part of the Red Raiders’ defense as he recorded a nation-leading eight interceptions last season.
As several players will not return for the 2020 season due to running out of years of eligibility, one of Tech’s starters made the decision not to return next season. Last season, Jett Duffey stepped up as Tech’s quarterback following an injury that sidelined Alan Bowman for the rest of the season. After entering the transfer portal following the conclusion of Tech’s 2019 season, Duffey posted a picture on Twitter of him in a Tulane uniform on Jan. 9. Two days later, Duffey went to Twitter again to announce that he was keeping his recruitment open, de-committing from Tulane.
With Duffey’s future uncertain, several high-profile Red Raiders decided to forego the 2020 NFL Draft to play out their senior season. One of the first to announce that they would forego the draft was offensive lineman Jack Anderson.
“This decision has been difficult for me due to positive feedback I have received about declaring early, and my lifelong dream of having an opportunity to play in the NFL,” Anderson said on Twitter. “That being said, I feel that it is in my best interest to forego the 2020 NFL Draft and remain at Texas Tech for my senior year.”
Anderson played a big role in Tech’s offensive line in his tenure at Tech as a right guard. Coming out of high school Anderson was a four-star recruit, making him one of the highest-rated recruits in program history, according to Tech Athletics. Anderson started in 26 consecutive games, but the streak came to an end after missing the game against the University of Texas at El Paso last season due to an injury. He came back to play Arizona and Oklahoma after missing the game against UTEP, but another injury sidelined Anderson for the rest of the season.
Along with Anderson, Tech’s offense will keep wide receiver T.J. Vasher for the 2020 season as he announced his decision to forego the 2020 NFL Draft over the winter break.
“Thank you to my family and all those who have supported me along the way,” Vasher said on Instagram. “After a lot of consideration, I have decided to stay for my senior year here at Texas Tech.”
Vasher has been one of the Red Raiders’ leading receivers since he has arrived at Tech. After he was redshirted in 2016 due to an injury, Vasher finished three-straight seasons with over 500 receiving yards, according to Tech Athletics. In his three seasons as a Red Raider, Vasher recorded 1,747 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns.
Aside from Anderson and Vasher staying for their 2020 season, Wells has also brought in new talent in hopes of a more successful season. In terms of recruiting, Wells has landed one four-star recruit and 18 three-star recruits. The incoming freshmen are highlighted by four-star wide receiver Loic Fouonji. Along with the 19 incoming freshmen, Wells landed two graduate transfers to help add a veteran presence on the team in former Michigan State outside linebacker Brandon Randle and Utah State inside linebacker Christian LaValle.
With the coaching and personnel changes, Wells and the Red Raiders will look to have a more successful season after going 4-8 last season, winning just two of their nine conference games.