Kliff Kingsbury returns to his Texas Tech roots hoping to help take the Red Raiders to the top of the Big 12. Photo: TexasTech.com
Few people would consider Texas Tech to be a destination program for a head coach but for Kliff Kingsbury coming home might just be a dream come true. While we will not dare to go so far as to suggest Kingsbury's return to Texas Tech will follow a similar path to national supremacy as Steve Spurrier experienced at Florida, assuming a similar path that Pat Fitzgerald has traveled in establishing Northwestern may be in play.
Kingsbury made a name for himself at Texas Tech as the century turned from the 20th to the 21st, leaving Lubbock with 39 school, 13 Big 12 and seven NCAA FBS passing records after passing for 12,429 yards and 95 touchdowns in his career. Mike Leach was his head coach and Texas Tech's offense was one of the top passing units in the game. And why not when the 2002 Sammy Baugh Trophy winner was on the field? It is not entirely a coincidence that Texas Tech started to become a program worth respecting once Leach took over and Kingsbury played a key role in that development. The program's greatest success would come after Kingsbury moved on to play a few seasons in the NFL, but the trend had been set.
Now, Kingsbury is looking to continue building upward with the Red Raiders. Fortunately for Texas Tech, Kingsbury has been hard at work with his coaching craft and brings plenty of swagger in to Lubbock after serving as an assistant for Kevin Sumlin in Houston and at Texas A&M. Kingsbury has worked with some talented quarterbacks along the way as well, first with Houston's Case Keenum and last season with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. FootballScoop.com named Kingsbury their National Coordinator of the Year two years running, in 2011 and 2012, proving that he may not be a one trick pony, which is what Texas Tech's offensive schemes have often been referred to for quite some time.
Texas Tech sits in unflattering waters in the Big 12 pecking order. It is a program that is overshadowed by the likes of Texas and Oklahoma but one that is fully capable of pulling an upset from time to time. Lubbock is hardly a tourist city, which can make recruiting difficult at times, but ultimately good coaches find ways to find success. Leach proved it was possible when he was the head coach, guiding Texas Tech to as high as No. 2 in the polls just a handful of years ago. The more realistic bar for Texas Tech right now is considerably lower, although a top 25 program is certainly attainable in a short period of time as Kingsbury takes over.
One thing we should expect to see is Kingsbury embracing what helped put Texas Tech on the map. After a bizarre stint with Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech's offense should once again open things up quite a bit with Kingsbury calling the shots. If Kingsbury takes pages from Houston's pass-happy offense with Keenum and some twists from Texas A&M's with Manziel, then hold on. The only problem is there is no Keenum or Manziel to be found right now to run that style of offense. That means Kingsbury will have to work with his quarterback, be it Michael Brewer or Clayton Nicholas, and get them caught up to speed. More importantly, Kingsbury will have to work with his receivers. Fortunately, he has some options in this area with Eric Ward ready to take on a starring role.
Texas Tech's biggest downfall last season was defense. It started strong but fell apart as the season played out. If Kingsbury can have his offense flying high, some of those concerns may be alleviated, but it does prove that there will be some issues to address before Kingsbury can have Texas Tech sniffing at any potential Big 12 championship.
Which brings us back to the realistic bar for Texas Tech. They will never have the type of funding other programs like Texas and Oklahoma have, and they will rarely pull in the same sort of overall talent. But with Kingsbury staying true to his roots and dedicating himself to make his alma mater proud, Texas Tech could make for must-see TV in the coming years.