If Texas Tech’s offense behaves differently in 2012 than it did in 2011, don’t attribute the change to any radical new approaches from offensive coordinator Neal Brown. Chalk it up instead to health at the running back and receiver positions. And depth in the receiving corps. Don’t forget that.
According to Brown, the Red Raider offense was on the right track last season, but injuries to key performers detracted from what his offense was trying to accomplish.
You’ll recall the loss of the nation’s then leading receiver Darrin Moore on the first play of scrimmage in the Nevada game. Alex Torres, another key component of the Tech passing attack, succumbed to injury later in the season.
In the backfield the Red Raiders lost Eric Stephens, who was en route to a 1,000-yard season, in the Texas A&M contest. His backup, DeAndre Washington, bit the dust a few weeks later.
Add it all up and Tech’s offense was warped almost beyond recognition.
Take, for instance, the running game. “We got into a deal where we were very thin at running back. And we just weren’t being very effective running the football,” says Brown.
“So we got away from it at the end of last year. But we were really successful at it maybe the first five to seven ballgames last year running it about 40 to 45 percent of the time. And I think we’ll get back to that early in the year.“
The statistics bear out Brown’s appraisal of Tech’s running game after the injuries set in. Over the course of the final five games of the season the Red Raiders rushed for 84 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. Projected over the course of an entire season, 84 rushing yards per game would have been No. 119 in the nation.
According to Brown, injuries took a similar toll on the passing game. And with a hopefully healthy receiving corps in 2012, Brown hopes Tech’s passing game will regain its old dynamism.
“We definitely want to be more explosive in the passing game,” states Brown.
“I thought we did a really good job of that early in the season last year and then some of our guys got hurt, some of our deep-ball threats, [Alex] Torres and Darrin Moore in particular. When they got hurt we got away from it,” Brown says.
The key stat to watch in the passing game, according to Brown, will be yards per attempt.
“But we don’t really look at average per completion, we look at average per attempt. We want to have a higher average per attempt than we had last year. “
Tech’s mark in that category was indeed fairly poor. The Red Raiders averaged 6.91 yards per passing attempt. Oklahoma State, on the other hand, which possessed perhaps the most potent passing attack in college football, averaged 8.45 in this area. If the Red Raiders can bump that number close to eight, Tech’s offense will have regained much of its customary punch.
A healthy Darrin Moore will also help tremendously in this regard. So too will Alex Torres when he returns to full health. But even more important is the wealth of deep-ball depth Tech has at the outside receiver positions.
The presence of players such as Marcus Kennard, Javon Bell and Bradley Marquez will give Seth Doege more downfield targets than he’s ever had. They will also provide insurance against the sort of injuries that robbed the Red Raider offense of so much of its firepower in 2011. Tech’s attack unit is simply better equipped to weather the sorts of disasters that plagued it last season.