The Joey McGuire era officially begins on Saturday with Texas Tech’s Spring Game. Ahead of the action, here are five things to watch for:
No. 1: Quarterback battle
Texas Tech has a QB battle ongoing between Tyler Shough and Donovan Smith. Both started games last season, and both would put Tech in a good place on offense. While Shough is arguably the better passer, Smith brings more athleticism. Because of their different playstyles, both Shough and Smith can bring a unique aspect to the offense.
The Spring Game will show us who best fits the offense. No matter who starts, the Red Raiders shouldn’t be worried about quarterback play in 2022.
No. 2: Who steps up at wide receiver?
The departures of Erik Ezukanma and Kaylon Geiger left a gaping hole at wide receiver. Fortunately for Tech, there are plenty of replacement options.
Loic Fouonji, Trey Cleveland, Jerand Bradley, J.J. Sparkman, and transfer Brady Boyd are all candidates to start. All five have massive potential and great size, creating mismatches for opposing defenses. It will be interesting to see all five get increased playing time and see how offensive coordinator Zach Kittley uses them.
Texas Tech has never had a problem at wide receiver. With these five around, there’s no reason to believe that’ll change.
No. 3: Zach Kittley’s offense
Kittley coordinated Western Kentucky’s offense last season to an average of 535.3 yards per game. WKU’s quarterback, Bailey Zappe, broke Tech’s B.J. Symons’ FBS record for passing yards in a season with 5,967. Can he bring that same explosiveness to Texas Tech?
This season, Kittley is bringing the air raid back to the team most synonymous with it: Texas Tech. We’ll see how his offense with Tech operates during the Spring Game. The Big 12 is known for potent offenses, but the defenses have improved in recent years. If Kittley can make use of the amount of talent Tech has (and the infinite opportunities that come with it), there’s no telling how good this offense can be.
4: Tim DeRuyter’s defense
The same questions are there for new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter. How well will he implement his defense?
DeRuyter ran a 3-4 scheme at Oregon last season, similar to what former defensive coordinator Keith Patterson ran during his tenur. An entire post can be dedicated to DeRuyter’s defense, but I’ll summarize it. It’s a defense that disguises coverages very well (creating issues for QBs) and creates a heavy pass-rush because of its five-man front.
The pass-rush will be interesting to evaluate, especially since Tyree Wilson has returned. He plays outside linebacker on the defensive line, a role in DeRuyter’s system where players like former Oregon man and potential first-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux thrived. Big 12 defenses have gotten better recently, and the Red Raiders need to catch up. We’ll see in the Spring Game if DeRuyter can help Tech do that.
No. 5: Can Tech inspire confidence heading into 2022?
Spring games are hard to evaluate. If your offense wipes the floor with your defense, is the offense just really good, or is the defense really bad? If your defense makes stop after stop, is the offense just bad?
Regardless, Tech must show something on both sides of the ball. There’s much hype around what McGuire is doing at Tech. A good showing at the Spring Game will increase confidence heading into the 2022 season. An even showing between the offense and the defense is the best way to do that.