GTCat: I think the obvious place to start, which may be the kingpin to what makes the overall struggles of Texas Tech sports seem so bleak, is the post-Leach era. Since my series focuses on the last two years, there’s no reason to touch much of the Leach topic other than the broad sense. But since football is king in Texas, is the overall disdain for Tommy Tuberville as accurate as an outsider like myself believes it to be? I mean if he was a president it would seem like his approval rating would be 40% or worse. Give me your perception of the cross-section of the fanbase’s thoughts on Coach Tuberville.
I've been sitting on these questions for quite some time, so I figured I could release it earlier than my typical Sunday releases. 7b will conclude the ole foes, and then we're on to the Newbs for weeks 8 and 9, and will finish up with a look at K-State's 2-year review August 5th. Should be a week after that when the newspapers start gearing up with pre-season pressers and the opening of camp. Almost there, but in the meantime, enjoy the back and forth between me and SethC over at Double T Nation. If you've never been over there, you should. They run an impressive show with quite a bit of recruiting info up all the time. So sit back and enjoy, and a special thanks to SethC for agreeing to help me out.
SethC: I think a large percentage of fans are very disappointed in the 2011 campaign and the hope is that with a new defensive coordinator, some injured players returning and veteran quarterback, the team should be improved in 2012. Overall, I'd guess that the fanbase just wants Tuberville to "show me the baby". Win and much will be forgiven.
GTCat: Despite the feelings towards Tuberville, one thing’s for sure, the guy can recruit (#26 class for 2012, #20 class for 2011). Whether that’s the guys he put into place to recruit or himself, I got to think in year three you’ll start to see the benefits of a top 25 recruiting class. Does the fact that he can recruit so well give you comfort moving forward or just frustrate you more given the fact that the amount of talent in place shouldn’t struggle that much?
SethC: Ideally, yes, the recruiting efforts should start to emerge this year for sure. I do think that Tuberville has done a good job of recruiting and because he went JUCO-heavy last year, nine players from the JUCO ranks, that we should see a handful of players this year. It's been my contention, although a number of Texas Tech fans disagree with me, that the overall lack of talent at Texas Tech wasn't great. There was only one NFL draftee in the past two years, RB Baron Batch in 2011, and some I think that some of the blame for the lack of talent is on Leach. The difference is that Leach was generally able to overcome that lack of talent because he was/is a terrific coach, while I don't think that Tuberville has been able to say that. Tuberville's success is relatively dependent on having talent because I don't think his coaching makes up for having few impact players, especially when you consider that Baylor and Oklahoma St. had really great years, but they also had some excellent NFL talent.
GTCat: Can you teach me how to Doege? No but seriously, what kind of Senior season should we expect out of Seth? Do you still think Tubs will continue to move incrementally further away from the AirRaid? And how far, is it just an attempt to be a balanced offense or do you think he still has aspirations to go all out Run-first shall he last long enough at Tech?
SethC: I really like Doege, he's quiet and I think he's cerebral enough to know that he was pretty good last year, but he wasn't perfect. Texas Tech is still running the spread and having only increased their rushing attempts by 5% over the past two years and generally speaking, is still throwing the ball 60% of the time and running about 40% of the time. I think we'll see those same type of statistics this year as well. The biggest improvement that Doege needs to make is to to look down the field more and raise his yards per attempt and he cannot afford for the offense to be shut-out like the tail end of the 2011 season. He has to shake off the bad play and be better and he's admitted that he had a problem with that last year.
GTCat: I only counted up circa 17 seniors on the depth chart, does that scare you at all? That would appear to point towards an inexperienced team, however if you look at it from a glass half full perspective, won’t that mean the majority of skill position players will be from Coach Tuberville’s highly touted recruiting classes?
SethC: Well, despite having only a handful of seniors, the team is relatively experienced because so many young players saw time last year. A majority of the skill position players are still from Leach's recruiting classes (Doege, Stephens, Darrin Moore, Eric Ward, Alexander Torres, etc.) and that should be the back-bone of the offense. There should be some transfers that can hopefully make an impact, IR Tyson Williams (West Texas A&M), IR Javares McRoy (Florida) and OG Brian Thomas (Texas A&M) and there are a couple of redshirt freshmen at the skill positions, WR Derek Edwards and IR Jakeem Grant, that should help.
GTCat: So let’s stay with the skill position players. Outside of Doege, give us a name of who we should look to having a break out year on the offensive side of the ball.
SethC: I love WR Eric Ward. He's a terrific player. He works hard and he was incredibly consistent and productive last year, despite a slow start. He's the one player that I would peg as being a player that should bust out next year.
GTCat: Lastly the defense. How bad/good will they be? Did the spring game offer any hope?
SethC: Hope? Absolutely, there's always hope. With a new veteran defensive coordinator in Art Kaufman (North Carolina) as well as a veteran secondary coach in John Lovett (Miami), the hope is that the two of them can get things turned around a bit. And for me, this means being ranked in the 70's in total defense rather than one of the worst in the country. As mentioned above, Tuberville signed six defensive JUCO players and the player to watch is LB Will Smith. I'd also expect some young players like DE Branden Jackson, DT Delvon Simmons, LB Sam Eguovoen and some others to make an impact this year as well as converted safety, LB Terrance Bullitt, and converted receiver, CB Cornelius Douglas.
GTCat: Kirby Hocutt, former K-stater, what’s his reputation amongst the Red Raider Nation? Seems like he had a rocky start, especially with the association to the Miami program as it appeared on the surface he was getting out while the getting was good.
SethC: I think generally speaking, the fans very much like what Hocutt has done thus far. A lot of fans were not happy with former AD Gerald Myers, and Hocutt has been a breath of fresh air. The Miami-scandal hasn't really followed him much, if at all, right now, but that could crop up later. For the most part, I think his stance has been fair, and it is that every team needs to show improvement, otherwise a coach's job is on the line. The baseball team tanked this year and the baseball coach was replaced. Hocutt also hired Gillispie and I think most fans think (as do I) that he'll get it turned around, but Pat Knight left the program in pretty poor shape.
GTCat: Sticking with the department, how do Tech fans like the recent upgrades to Jones Stadium? You know you’re our inspiration primarily for the new Press Box K-state’s getting? Well if not, that’s my understanding. Back to your stadium; do you feal at 60,000 that was overbuilt?
SethC: The University is making a push to increase enrollment, so I don't think that increasing capacity to 60,000 was a mistake. I think that K-State fans might be able to relate in that when fans do go to Lubbock, it is, for the most part, a commitment. A lot of fans come from the DFW, Houston and Austin areas to go to a game and to drive 6 or 7 hours means that fans want to be there. Just like other places, if you win at home (which Tuberville has not done thus far) then the fans will show up.
GTCat: Ok, we’ll move on to the hardwood now. Coach Billy Clyde, does he still have the touch? I wasn’t expecting much out of last season either, but did his first bona fide recruiting class give you any hope that his TX connections are still alive and well?
SethC: Gillispie's first recruiting class was taking on the players that committed to Pat Knight as well as some JUCO left-overs. Most, of those players have transferred and I think it would be fair to say that the 2012 class is all Gillispie. He's brought in three top-150 players in PG Josh Gray (2012 and also a K-State target), SF Wannah Bail (2012) and PF Aaron Ross (2011, played at a prep school in Wisconsin due to grades, but was the Arkansas POY in 2011). Texas Tech hasn't seen that significant upgrade in talent in a long time.
GTCat: Given last year’s disparity on the court, is there any reason to expect a significant jump in wins this year? Or more specifically, since I don’t know much about how the roster stands for 2012-13, are there any big name transfers who will be available this coming year?
SethC: Considering that Gillispie almost brought in an entirely new team this year (I think 9 players departed from last year) I'm expecting the team to be more competitive and maybe win 6 or 7 conference games. I'd be happy with that. I think it's the next year when Gillispie should make a more significant impact. I've already mentioned the three top-150 players and Gillispie is also bringing in a handful of JUCO players in PG Daylen Robinson, SG Jamal Williams, SG Trency Jackson and PF Rodrigo Silva. Although I've only seen him play on YouTube, PF Dejan Kravic, a transfer from York University in Canada, could be a name to watch as he is a versatile and athletic forward and true freshman SG Dusty Hannahs, who can shoot like no one else on the team, could also have an impact.
GTCat: This might be a bit of a curve-ball, or random segway, but we still are talking basketball here. Given Texas Tech is about as far Southwest as any point is in this conference (I feel as though the answer might be more objective from that far down), how do you feel about the Big 12 agreeing in principle to keep the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Missouri – A state with no conference tie? I for one live 30 mins from the Sprint Center, and actually work 4 blocks from the place and find it rather awesome that I can go to any game I want during the tourney given I can stomach the ticket price, but I think it’s dumb we’ve agreed to inflate an economy and tax revenue of the state of Missouri, especially given the amount of times Gov. Jay Nixon opened his mouth in public about the University of Missouri bolting the legue.
SethC: I love that the Big 12 is played in Kansas City. I'm totally fine with that, even though it is in Missouri. I don't know what other options there are and I really do not like taking the game away from your neck of the woods. The other option would be to play in Dallas, but I think that would upset teams like K-State, Kansas, Iowa St. and West Virginia.
GTCat: And lastly, I’ll let you end on monologue if you would like. Take us through your realignment experience. Start us with the outlook of the PAC-16 idea, and then tell us the overall feelings of exchanging the Aggies with the Horned Frogs as a long lost rival. If I understand it right, you have had rivalries with both, but A&M was more of the hater variety whereas the TCU thing is a bit more of a respectful rivalry.
SethC: Last year, I wrote a ton about realignment and the only reason I did was because there was an outside chance that Texas Tech was headed to the Pac-12. I know that Texas Tech was absolutely tied to Texas, wherever they went, so did Texas Tech and Texas Tech didn't have a stand-alone offer to join (obviously). My father is a Texas A&M grad and he doesn't like the move (neither do his four brothers, also all TAMU graduates) to the SEC because it means that he can't travel as easily to any away games. That's obviously a selfish perspective, but I tend to think that a lot of the younger fans very much wanted to bolt while maybe some of the older fans liked the rivalries that will be forgotten. I will miss playing TAMU. I don't know that I would call TCU a rivalry, but it very well could develop into one over time. Texas Tech and TCU have played a handful of times in the recent past, but I wouldn't call it a rivalry. Personally, I'm not much of a hater when it comes to other schools. I don't call opposing fanbases names or refer to teams in a derogatory manner (calling another fanbase "classless" is one of my least favorite things about fans). I'm not smart enough or quick enough to think of quick come-backs or things of that nature so I try to keep things fairly even-keeled and just discuss the stuff that happens on the field or court.