Grading the Coaching Hires: Kliff Kingsbury and Texas Tech

After Tommy Tuberville figuratively and literally walked out the door on the Texas Tech football program a month or so ago, it seemed like there truly was only one logical replacement for him: Former Tech quarterback and (at the time) Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury.   

Sure other guys had bigger names or more impressive resumes, but nobody had the combination of hotter name in with and understanding of what it takes to be successful at Tech than the untucked-shirt wearing, Oakley rocking, ass slapping Kingsbury did. He’s a Tech guy, with major Tech ties, and was the “buzz” name around college coaching circles after masquerading as the man behind Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy run this past fall. For all intents and purposes, nobody seemed like a more logical fit for this job than Kingsbury did.

But was he the best fit? Kingsbury is only 33-years-old with only five years of coaching experience period, let alone any head coaching experience at any level. It’s safe to say that the Big XII is a helluva place to cut your teeth, and as excited as Red Raider fans are about Kingsbury’s hire, he does come with plenty of questions.

So, is Kingsbury ready to step up to the big leagues and into a particularly tough job in an unforgiving conference?

Let’s take a look.

Why We Like the Hire:

For us, it all comes back to what we said above: When Tuberville left, Kingsbury seemed like the only logical replacement. Even if he wasn’t a former Texas Tech quarterback, he was one of college football’s hottest coaching candidates after Texas A&M’s 10-2 regular season and if Tech hadn’t gobbled him up this off-season somebody eventually would’ve next year. For both coach and school, the timing was perfect.

Beyond just his accolades in Lubbock, there’s also a firm belief that Kingsbury can re-unite a fractured program. Ask many insiders around the sport and they’ll be quick to tell you that for the relative success that Tommy Tuberville had at the school, he was never fully embraced by the fan-base and locals, who-  in all honesty- never really wanted to see Mike Leach leave in the first place. Of course in their defense Tuberville never seemed to embrace the school either and never seemed truly comfortable trying to adapt his coaching style to what had made Tech successful in the past. Tuberville- a coach with major SEC ties and a defensive background- never wanted to try and score 50 points a game, even if that’s what the locals demanded.

Well with Tuberville out the door and Kingsbury coming in, it almost brings the whole Mike Leach era full-circle. Kinsgbury was the first starting quarterback Leach ever coached at the school and most everyone seems to think that with his return, it will also mark the return of the high-flying, higher-scoring days of yesteryear.

Add in the fact that Kingsbury is young, dynamic, and that he won’t likely leave Tech to go anywhere else (for obvious reasons Kingsbury has already said that Tech is his “dream job”) and it all seems like a perfect fit.

At least until you consider…

Why We Don’t Like The Hire:

Well, to be blunt…the guy is 33-years-old!!! To which I must add, most people don’t know much of anything at 33, let alone how to run a major college football program.

So really, that’s where our concerns begin. It’s not whether Kingsbury will be a great coach someday, but whether he’s ready to be one right now. That’s what Tech needs from him, and that’s where the problem lies. Kingsbury is stepping into one of the hardest coaching jobs, in one of the hardest conferences to win in, in college football, and yet the expectation is that he’ll just keep things rolling the way they were at Texas A&M. That’s either said than done.

And beyond just the pressure to win right away, there are all the other ancillary things that comes with running a program that Kingsbury will be taking on for the first time. How will he handle the time commitments, media obligations, and oh by the way at 33, do we even know what kind of coaching staff can Kingsbury can put together? College football is an old boy’s network, and again we can’t repeat this enough… Kliff Kingsbury isn’t even an old boy. He’s going to need help from more experienced guys in the film room, locker room and on game-day (especially on defense), except, well, can he convince any of them to come to Lubbock and work under him?

Oh, and one more thing: For all the buzz Kingsbury has as the man behind Texas A&M’s high-flying offense this year, how much of it actually had to do with Kingsbury himself? And how much more of it had to do with Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel?

Safe to say that entering his first year as a college head coach, plenty of questions remain on Kliff Kingsbury.

What Kind of Talent Does He Inherit?:

For a team that just finished an 8-5 campaign, not much actually. Quarterback Seth Doege is graduating this spring, as are three of Tech’s top five receivers and their two top tacklers as well. Given that this club wasn’t bristling with talent to begin with, Kingsbury will inherit a particularly thin roster.

Despite those departures though, there is help, specifically where the Red Raiders will need it most: At the skill positions. Running back Kenny Williams returns after leading the team with 824 yards rushing and wide receiver Eric Ward is back after catching 82 balls last year. On defense junior defensive lineman Kerry Hyder will return also after leading this team with 14 tackles for loss last season while also finishing tied for the team lead with 5.5 sacks.

Yeah, But Can He Recruit?

This is the question that no one seems to have an answer to. We know Kingsbury knows football. We know he can call plays for a high-scoring offense. But can he get the players necessary to compete in the Big XII? Sure Kingsbury looks like a guy who should be a good recruiter (I mean seriously, have you seen those eyes?), but who really knows at this point?

And beyond that, we’ve got to wonder how easily he’ll be able to convince players- especially the type he’ll need to be successful at Texas Tech- to come to school there.

The bottom line is that the elite players within the state are going to end up at Texas or Texas A&M, and TCU has quickly emerged as a nice third option for kids looking to play Big XII football with a bit more of a city life splashed in (at least relative to Lubbock, anyway). Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will always get their players, and with back-to-back eight win seasons (and three straight seven win seasons overall) even Baylor has to be considered a better destination for kids than Tech, especially ones who want to play in a fun, high-scoring offense.  

So ultimately, where does that leave Texas Tech? Other than picking up the leftovers?

Looking at this from the big picture, let’s remember that nobody was better at finding diamonds in the rough and turning them into quality players than Kingsbury’s former coach Mike Leach was. Hopefully the new Texas Tech coach has the ability to do the same.

Final Analysis:

When Kingsbury was officially handed the keys to this program back in December, I described the hire like this: “I like the concept of Kliff Kingsbury as a major college football head coach more than I actually like the execution of it.”

In other words, this hire sounds great on paper. I’m not so sure that it can actually work out though. About a month after I made those comments, I feel much the same way.

Look, at the end of the day I will admit that this hire does make sense. Tech could’ve gone after a bigger name or someone with more experience. But who would’ve brought more buzz both locally and nationally than Kingsbury? Not anyone I can think of, and because of that I don’t blame Texas Tech for targeting Kingsbury as their next coach.

Even if I don’t necessarily agree with it and don’t necessarily think it will work. Not for a guy with as little experience, at a place that is THIS tough to win.

It’s safe to say that like every other fan in college football I’m excited to see how the Kliff Kingsbury experiment plays out in Lubbock.

I’m also not expecting a Big XII title any time soon, either.

Final Grade: B-

For all his insight, analysis and articles on college football, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.

About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.