NCAA Football Preview - Texas Tech Red Raiders
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From The Sports Network By Brian Mason, College Football Staff Writer 2003 SEASON IN REVIEW: Mike Leach's Red Raiders were supposed to take a step back last season following the loss of star quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. Instead Texas Tech was one of the most surprising stories in college football because of B.J. Symons' emergence as one of the top signal callers in NCAA history. The Red Raiders finished the year with an overall record of 8-5 and a conference mark of 4-4. Symons was the main reason for the team's impressive showing, breaking several school and NCAA records. He posted the most total offensive yards in a season (5,976) and the most games gaining 400 or more yards of total offense (11). The Red Raiders, one of only two programs in the country to average 500 or more yards of total offense per game, won the NCAA Total Offense title with an average of 582.8 ypg. Symons also tied two records and set four others, including single-season passing yards. He broke Ty Detmer's 13-year-old record with 5,833 yards and also set the NCAA record for most consecutive games gaining 200 or more passing yards (13). The Red Raiders, who won their second-consecutive NCAA passing title under Leach, set the team record for most passing yards gained in a season (6,179). Symons, who became one of the most prolific passers in college history after only one year under center, led Tech to an impressive 38-14 win against Navy in the Houston Bowl. 2004 ANALYSIS: OFFENSE: Leach will once again try to wave his magic wand and pull a rabbit out of a hat, as he has a new face under center for the third straight year. Symons has moved on and now senior Sonny Cumbie will man what should be another potent offensive unit for the Red Raiders. Cumbie, who looked tremendous in spring workouts, will receive some competition from juco transfer Robert Johnson. The most athletic quarterback on the team, Johnson not only has a strong arm but has running back like speed. Fortunately for whoever takes over under center, the team still has a strong nucleus of stars on offense and should make the transition a smooth one. Speed is the word used most when describing the team's running back duo of Taurean Henderson and Johnnie Mack. Henderson is one of the country's best all-around backs, using his quickness to burst out of the backfield as both a tailback and a receiver. He posted 756 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns last season, while also hauling in 78 passes for 611 yards and six scores. Mack is even faster than Henderson and averaged 7.3 ypc last season, rushing for 307 yards and four scores. The team will miss star receivers Carlos Francis and Wes Welker, with Nehemiah Glover being the lone returning starter at wideout. Glover is one of the top deep threats in the Big 12, tallying 77 receptions for 1,071 yards and nine touchdowns in '03. DEFENSE: While the offense was arguably the scariest in the country last season, the defense was anything but. The Red Raiders ranked a dreadful 97th in the country against the run (197.1 ypg) and were even worse when defending the pass, finishing 100th (256.3 ypg). However, this season could be much different for Texas Tech and its nine returning starters on the defensive side of the ball. The line returns all four starters, including outstanding defensive end Adell Duckett. One of the country's most feared pass rushers, Duckett posted 24.5 TFLs and 14 sacks in 2003, which were both school records and earned him recognition from around the conference. The linebackers are also strong and will be led by Brock Stratton, who was named the Big 12 co- Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2003 after recording 95 stops and five TFLs. The one area of weakness on this unit will likely come in the secondary, as the only reliable defensive back starting is free safety Vincent Meeks. A former running back, Meeks was able to rack up 54 tackles and grab four interceptions last season. Youngsters Antonio Huffman and Chris Parker will start at the corner positions and although both have excellent speed, neither is ready to take on some of the Big 12's top receiving threats. SPECIAL TEAMS: Keith Toogood returns at kicker and is hoping to put a disappointing freshman campaign behind him. Toogood made 8-of-13 field goal attempts last season and set the Texas Tech single-season scoring record for a freshman with 90 points, but is still not a reliable option from 40 yards and beyond. Alex Reyes, who also started as a freshman last year, was much more impressive for the Red Raiders. Reyes averaged better than 43 yards per punt and also landed six kicks inside the 20. OUTLOOK: Leach is one of the top offensive minds in the country and should once again be able to guide his team to the top of the offensive rankings. Finding a reliable option at quarterback will be a must, but the Red Raiders have the luxury of a fairly soft start to the 2004 schedule to get the kinks worked out. Tech opens up with winnable matchups against SMU, New Mexico, TCU and Kansas before having to face Oklahoma on October 10th. The end of the slate will not be nearly as easy, but if the team can get off to a fast start, then eight wins will not be out the question once again. If the squad posts a losing record it will most likely be due to its inability to stop anyone on defense. The Red Raiders normally put pressure on their defensive backs because of their ability to quickly put points on the board, which could be a major disadvantage this season with the lack of experience and depth in the secondary.