State of the Union: Part 1

Newest writer for RaiderPower.com Scott Fitzgerald gives his take on the State of the Union of the Red Raiders entering the 2012 season.

My fellow Red Red Raiders,

We enter this 2012 season with a lot to look forward to. The slate is clean, our pride is healed, and the landscape of the Big 12 Conference is wide open. The opportunity Texas Tech has in front of them as a university and a football team could be the envy of everyone else in the conference. We can only hope the 2012 Red Raiders are up for the challenge.

For the first time in nearly a generation, the Red Raiders went home for the holidays and instead of positive praise and pats on the back or bowl practice to get ready for, they were greeted with questions. Questions that grew boring and tiresome over the eight long months that would follow. Questions such as "What happened to you boys?" and "How long do you think Ol' Tommy Tuberville's gonna last out there?" Questions that led to other questions when the returning players and coaches looked in the mirror. Much like LeBron James asked himself after an equally disappointing performance in the 2011 NBA Finals, "What are you going to do about it?"

For eight months, this team has had to answer and endure questions from every faction of their lives, including themselves. I, for one, think this group is tired of answering questions. Seth Doege and company are tired of answering questions about what happened to the offense after the OU win. Terrence Bullitt is tired of answering questions about whether or not the defense will be improved, and Tommy Tuberville eventually wants to go eat at a restaurant with his friends or family in peace and not have to talk about 16 surgeries. They are ready to show people that 2011 was as big of an anomaly as a team like Baylor is trying to prove that 2011 for them wasn't a fluke. Now the only question I have it, how do they do it?

If I knew the answer to that question, I'd be a coaching consultant and charging way more for my time to analyze football than I do now. What I do know is that when the question was asked, "What are you going to do about it," there are plenty of people still here to respond. And if the response isn't sufficient, there is someone else willing to take that spot.

Of 22 possible returning offensive or defensive starters, there are a total of three positions on the post spring  depth chart that have no one that's started at least one game for Tech. The three are TE, RG, and LDE. (One could also argue that the talent replacing the departed player in those positions is much better. )  That means that at every spot on the field, in every position group, in every meeting someone will be in there that played a part in last season. This is a good thing. I think it breeds accountability. It also allows them to learn from what went wrong in 2011.May it be noted also that just because there is someone returning that's started a game doesn't mean that guy is a returning starter.

Tuberville spoke at length at Big 12 media days about improved depth. His story hasn't changed, folks. You need depth to win, especially defensively in this day and age in college football and depth breeds competition. This year, every position every week should be a battle. If you don't perform, someone else will be given an opportunity. And if that person excels, good luck getting back on the field because this team is going to play the guys that are making plays.  The perfect example is at middle linebacker.

Will Smith is the man. Blake Dees, last year's starter will back him up. This will hopefully keep Smith from resting on his laurels and eventually make Dees better. There are examples like this all over the field.

Couple the better depth and competition with a sense of urgency. Tuberville knows that if 5-7 happens again, he probably won't be able to sustain it with a new Athletic Director in place. Neal Brown knows no matter how many yards the offense racks up, if you don't win games, the head coaching interviews will dry up. Art Kaufman's wife probably doesn't want to finish decorating another house this time next year. This staff has to have that sense of urgency. When the sense of urgency is at the top, it trickles down hill. And I can imagine it's not just with the coaches. It's important to Seth Doege that this team gets back to a bowl game. As a West Texas kid, he knows what it means to the alumni and fans to have a good football team. It's important to him to wear the uniform and be a Texas Tech Red Raider. There are six players who are still on the roster that redshirted in 2008. The sense of urgency and the cautious optimism that exists right now is being compared to 2008. Not for the expectations that the ‘08 team had, but for the sense of urgency that bonded these teams and fueled them not to let this opportunity slip away.