Why Texas Tech Football Recruiting Has Disappointed Under Kliff Kingsbury
Another college football National Signing Day has come and gone. Unfortunately for Texas Tech fans, despite the new year the story has not changed. Since hiring Kliff Kingsbury in December 2012, the Red Raiders have continually failed to land the caliber of recruits that most believed they would.
With his Hollywood looks, designer style and a youthful persona that was supposed to appeal to today’s recruits, Kingsbury was expected to take Texas Tech recruiting to a new level. But after four mediocre recruiting classes the talent on the roster is not any more impressive than it was in 2012.
247Sports.com ranked the 2017 Texas Tech recruiting class No. 6 in the Big 12. Of the five classes Kingsbury has inked, only one (2015) has been rated higher than 6th in the conference.
It is fair for Texas Tech fans to question where Kliff Kingsbury has gone wrong on the recruiting trail. Moreover, it is natural for fans to wonder if Kingsbury will ever find the type of success on signing day that will move the Red Raiders back to national relevance.
Below are some of the reasons Kliff Kingsbury has struggled to recruit at an elite level.
Assistant Coach Turnover
Kingsbury’s first mistake was the hiring of a young and unproven group of assistant coaches to his initial staff. Of the nine assistant coaches on Kingsbury’s 2013 staff, only current offensive coordinator Eric Morris remains with the team.
Some coaches like Sunnie Cumbie and Mike Jenks left for promotions with other programs. However, the rest of the 2013 staff was eventually fired.
The most high-profile assistant coaching change came just three games into the 2014 season when defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt resigned for “personal reasons”. Mike Smith took over as interim defensive coordinator for the remainder of 2014. In 2015, David Gibbs was hired to run the defense. That mean that Kliff Kingsbury had three different men running his defense in his first three seasons at the helm.
Consistency is a key in successful recruiting. New coaches bring new schemes and philosophies which usually do not fit the current roster or the recruits the previous coach was targeting.
As a result of the massive defensive coaching changes, Texas Tech has fielded the last ranked defense in the nation for the past two seasons. It is fair to say Kingsbury has not handled his coach staff decisions well.
Still, there are other factors beyond his control that have hampered his recruiting efforts.
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In 2013, Kliff Kingsbury was the darling of the college football media. Videos of his pre-practice dance-off and the team’s epic ice bucket challenge went viral and drew positive attention to the hottest young coach in the country.
But the tide of public perception turned against Kingsbury when several high-profile players transferred from the program. The most notable was quarterback Baker Mayfield.
The public spat between Kingsbury and his former walk-on quarterback played out in the media much to the detriment of Kingsbury’s reputation. While Mayfield, his father and his new school, Oklahoma fired constant shots towards Kingsbury, the Texas Tech coach took the high road.
Refusing to comment on the situation and maintaining his dignity was the mature and correct move for Kingsbury. However, his refusal to defend himself and the silence of anyone on Texas Tech’s side of the issue allowed the story to take a negative slant against Texas Tech and its head coach.
When this incident was added to the transfers of quarterbacks Davis Webb and Michael Brewer and the late decommittment of 2015 five-star quarterback recruit Jarrett Stidham, it appeared to many that Kingsbury was losing control of his program. Rival programs jumped on this narrative as an opportunity to paint Kingsbury in a negative light to win recruiting battles.
Since 2013, Kingsbury has gone from media darling, to a “scoundrel”, to a coach losing control of his team. At least that is the narrative being played out in the media and high school recruits seem to be buying it.
Facilities are Lacking
Another area where Texas Tech has lost ground with recruits is in the arms race of college football: facilities. Texas Tech’s athletic program is facing a large debt problem making it difficult for the Red Raiders to upgrade player amenities and keep up with conference and in-state rivals.
In recent years, Oklahoma State , TCU , Texas A&M and West Virginia have made significant upgrades to their locker rooms. Plus, Baylor has a brand-new stadium and the Texas Longhorns are planning to renovate their already luxurious amenities.
High school recruits are easily wooed by shiny objects and the latest creature comforts. Without a billionaire mega-donor at its disposal or streams of revenue born of decades of championship seasons, Texas Tech struggles to keep up with its rivals in the facilities it can offer recruits. The program hopes to finish a new indoor practice facility by 2018. But that addition alone will not pull the Red Raider even with the major players in the sport.
Struggles on the Field
While all the above factors have added to Kingsbury’s recruiting struggles, there is one obvious reason that high-profile players are not coming to Lubbock. Texas Tech is not winning games.
In his 50 games at the helm, Kliff Kingsbury has a record of 24-26 (a .480 win percentage) and has twice finished with a losing record. During the same time, Baylor has gone 38-13, Oklahoma State 37-15, TCU 33-18 and Oklahoma 41-11.
The once-mighty Texas Longhorns have struggled in that time span but Texas Tech has failed to capitalize on the subsequent void left in the Big 12 landscape. It has been other conference rivals that have taken a step forward while Texas Tech has floundered.
If Kliff Kingsbury is going to bring in better recruits the simple reality is that he’s going to have to win more games. However, one must wonder if he can do that until his recruiting efforts improve.