Even though it’s an FCS opponent, these stats will give a great indication on how far this team could go
With the season starting today against Montana State, it seems like we are going to start clarifying some questions about this year’s Texas Tech squad. The depth chart released on Monday and the week one press conference came and went. Football season has arrived.
The takeaways from week one will likely be somewhat limited, unfortunately, as the Red Raiders host Montana State. An FCS Big Sky member, Montana State had a decent playoff run in 2018 that was cut short by a 52-10 loss to North Dakota State. The program has been solid over recent years. This year they’re looking to repeat the playoff run behind 6’6 redshirt freshman in Casey Bauman. While the team has typically relied on their ground attack to manufacture production in recent history, the transition between different styled quarterbacks will likely lead to offensive hiccups in our game today. This is obviously good for Texas Tech, who maintains a captain in Alan Bowman, but it does mean the defense might have slightly inflated pass defense statistics.
Through the inflation, however, we can trust a few different areas to be indicative of how far the Red Raiders have come over the summer. Here they are:
Alan Bowman’s yards per attempt
This first stat is interesting because it will give us a good indication on how the vertical passing game will look in 2019. Bowman should be able to rack up a lot of easy completions around the boundaries against Montana State’s undersized corners (5’9 and 6’1 facing off against 6’6 T.J. Vasher and 6’4 Erik Ezukanma). Putting together more downfield completions, however, has to be a goal for Bowman. Bowman only averaged 8.1 Y/A last year despite having two elite jumpball threats in Vasher and Antoine Wesley. For reference: Jordan Love, who was Utah State’s star quarterback last year, averaged 8.6 Y/A despite not having a receiver as tall as either Wesley or Vasher. Look for the refined David Yost offense to come out taking a few homerun shots with Bowman back under center
Ta’Zhawn Henry’s run attempts:
Given that the game will likely become a blowout at some point, all of our running backs will likely get significant work. What will be interesting to see is how the carries are distributed early on. If Henry gets a majority of the carries in the first half it could signal that he’s been given the lead ball carrier load, which would mean that the coaches trust him to consistently put up 15 or more carries. Tech was 5-0 last year when Ta’Zhawn had at least nine carries, so it seems logical to depend on him for the majority of carries. Another factor in Henry’s favor is the success of now Chiefs running back Darwin Thompson in the system developed by David Yost. Thompson had a very similar skillset and size compared to Henry, and he put up great stats on high volume for Utah State.
Outside Receiver receptions vs. Inside Receiver receptions
This is a minor trend, but seeing the distribution of catches in week one between outside receivers and inside receivers should give us a better indication of what Yost’s passing scheme will look like. Last year’s team was very dependent on the outside receivers, as T.J. Vasher and Antoine Wesley combined for 39% of the team’s receptions and almost 50% of the yards. That does not even account for KeSean Carter, who is transitioning to the outside this year and Erik Ezukanma, who has looked brilliant in the spring and summer as Wesley’s replacement. Utah State’s production in the passing game was extremely balanced between inside and outside receivers last year, and having that be the case in this game would give flasbacks to the Red Raider offense of the late 2000’s, when every year it seemed like both an inside and an outside receiver would approach 1000 yards. With the talent Tech has at receiver it would be a bit strange if Coach Yost did not utilize the entire field in his scheme. Alan Bowman will likely be able to pick on the outside corners all day, however I will be looking to see how guys like McLane Mannix and Donta Thompson play.
Texas Tech’s efforts today, against even an FCS opponent, will help identify the physical lexicon of the Matt Wells Era and furthermore act as a model for the rest of the season. While the average number of wins projected for Tech across the board is 6.5, we have ample room to believe that this is a team that could knock on the door of eight (or even more) wins this season. Riddled with added talent, increased strategic efforts, and new schemes – we have to ask ourselves – why not Texas Tech? Keep your eye on these three stats today, it could be a really fun season ahead.
Source: Viva the Matadors