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.
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.
Firstly, as a Red Raider, thanks for the interest and well thought out critique. Watching all our games and paying attention while trying to be as objective as possible for a fan, want to address a few points:
"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."
- Yeah, a lot of people were expecting to light up the scoreboard, that didn't happen, but what was more surprising was that Tuberville's area of expertise (defense) was consistently ranked at the bottom of the Big 12 as well (and the FBS as well).
"Kingsbury will inherit a particularly thin roster."
- I don't know about thin team wide, on defense the secondary is thin, on offense I'd say its more "young" than thin.
"The bottom line is that the elite players within the state are going to end up at Texas or Texas A&M"
- True, especially with TAMU's emergence in the SEC.
"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)."
- I'm not sure the extent to which a generic "city life" is relevant to recruits at large aside from more specific advantages of places like Austin. Being in a bigger city never seemed to help Houston, And doesnt hurt OU, TAMU, and more rural schools like Penn St etc. Lubbock isn't exactly tiny at 230k.
"Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will always get their players"
-OU, yes, OSU no. For the past decade actually OSU and TTU had relative parity in terms of performance. It wasn't until the down period brought on by Tuberville that OSU signifigantly out achieved TTU in 11 17 years the Big 12 has existed TTU had a higher conference standing than OSU.
"Baylor has to be considered a better destination for kids than Tech, especially ones who want to play in a fun, high-scoring offense"
- The past 3 years? Yes. Traditionally? No.
The core of the past 3 statements that is that during the Tuberville era those 3 teams achieved greater success than TTU. That has not been the case since the inception of the big 12 (or even before that). The risk of course is TCU and Baylor both either have or are building new, nice stadiums and facilities that could make them more attractive while OSU has a great patron keeping their facilities top notch. However even after those new facilities are done (and TTU's as well) Baylor's stadium will be max capacity 55k, TCU 45k, OSU 60k, TTU 60k (still being expanded). That indicates despite being further on the edge of the state, more people want to go see TTU football than either of these other schools outside of OSU where its equivalent (avg attendance in '12 was 57,208). This is also with a Tuberville home conference record of 3-8 over the past 3 years.
While not a titan of FBS football, TTU is a program that has only recently been disadvantaged to those 3 programs. This speaks more to the Tuberville administration and that staff than to any inherent weakness of TTU at a program level. Additionally in the past 20 years the school has had only 1 losing season, consistently a good performing program.
That being said, on balance your critique is valid. It’s a dice roll on a 33 year old guy with 3 years of coordinator experience. It’s both scary and exciting as an Alumni. I just think you over state the strength of BU, OSU & TCU as the success they have had on a program level has been less than what TTU has had since the creation of the Big 12 even if they have had more recent success against the worst head coach we’ve had in 2 decades.
Aaron, interesting read, thanks. I have to ask, though, do you even know what you speak of when you say, "...most people don’t know much of anything at 33..."? You sure don't look like you've hit that milestone yourself. If you have, dang, I am seriously envious of your genes!
Kliff's age is a fair enough question to ask in general, but I think you're giving it too much weight. So many other factors will define his success before age. One could argue that Tuberville's age hurt us - he was too set in his ways. He would not budge from his coaching style when it clearly wasn't working. But I think it all comes down to leadership. If you're a person of good character, and people will follow you, it doesn't matter how old you are.
In your response below, you said (re: recruiting/results on the field), "If the recruiting is THAT good, why are the results on the field THAT bad"?. Did you watch Tech football over the past few years? Seriously. You would not ask that question if you had. One word: coaching.
You are correct when you say Texas and A&M have the recruiting advantage. I agree that TCU will start to see a boost being in the Big 12, but l still don't see Tech falling behind them, and certainly not Baylor. Just look at the team rankings over the past several years. Even when we've had an inconsistent and downright bad program, our recruiting has not suffered. It will be interesting to see what the 2013 class looks like.
One more thing: "I’m also not expecting a Big XII title any time soon, either". Please tell me you didn't have this expectation under Tuberville? Leach got us a share once. I get the point you're trying to make, but don't you think it's a pretty unfair metric? You expecting one from Mack soon?
Finally, I have to ask, have you ever been to Lubbock?
Thanks for your interest in our great University and soon to be winning, exciting football program again!
And thank you for the interest in the article!!First things first, you're right, I am young (and younger than Kliff at 33). However the Avatar pic I have was taken when I was about 22, which was a solid half-decade ago. And while it doesn't make me old enough to have some perspective on what being 33 is like (I'm nearing my 28th birthday) what I can tell you is that Kliff's age does concern me. He is clearly a talented mind and seems to have good ties throughout the state. But the game-day situations that come with being a first-time head coach scare me, especially someone so young. Same with being able to build a staff going forward. I know it's Texas Tech offers a lot being a good school in a good conference, but does he have the network to put together a group of guys to compete with the Texas', Oklahoma's and OSU's on and off the field?
(However I will admit that your comment about how Tuberville's old age may have HURT him more than helped in the long run was fascinating. It's interesting and something I'd never considered before).
The recruiting stuff is just as interesting to me. Honestly, I can see it going both ways. Right now I have to imagine that in the eyes of 17-year-old kids, both TCU and Baylor have more cache than Tech. I'm not saying that has been the case the last 30 years or the last five, but right now, how can it not? Baylor is an awfully fun team to watch (I saw them play up close and person at the Holiday Bowl) and TCU has a track-record of success as they get more comfortable in the Big XII. I'm not saying that in six months or six years Tech can't eclipse them as a more desirable destination...but right now I'm still not sold.
And finally, to your point on the Big XII title comment: Admittedly I don't think that's the goal, and never have. I was just trying to wrap things up with a nice, big-picture bullet point about expectations vs. reality. People hear the name Kliff Kingsbury and think Johnny Manziel/Kevin Sumlin and also think "immediate excellence." I'm not nearly as sure.
Regardless, thanks for the interest in recent and the fair and thorough response.
Good luck. Believe me when I say there are few who want to see Kingsbury succeed as much as I do.
@Aaron Torres Thanks, Aaron. I had a feeling your genes couldn't be that good!
I want to follow up on two questions you didn't address:
1. Have you seen Tech play? You might have missed that one since it was buried in a sarcastic comment about our record under Tuberville.
2. Have you ever been to Lubbock?
One additional comment to your response - I'm not very concerned about Kliff's age & success right off the bat based on Tuberville's track record at Tech. Tuberville did not choose the right folks for the coaching staff, ignored the fanbase, and either ignored or didn't understand Texas Tech and Big 12 style of football. He is an experienced coach who was successful in the SEC. Inexplicable missteps. I honestly cannot imagine a scenario where Kliff does any worse.
In fact, Kliff already has several advantages:
1. He gets Tech & the Big 12 - no learning curve there
2. I know some think it's an overused term, but he's bringing our swagger back - it's who we are - the team that always plays better when we're underrated & have a chip on our shoulder
3. His hiring has already reunited a fan base that has been badly divided for over three years.
Look forward to your answers to the two questions above!
1st off, Texas Tech has been in the top 25 in recruiting the past two years. One thing Tuberville did well is recruit to Lubbock. I think you heavily underestimate kids in Texas that go to Texas Tech. Its much more sought after than TCU and no doubt Baylor and depending where you live A&M as well.
Texas Tech hasnt had problems recruiting for almost 5 or 6 years now, this year the class will be a little light but thats okay, Tech will have a huge class next year with a great amount of talent.
I think you should do a little more research next time vs voicing a flat out opinion
David, thanks for writing in.
Believe me, I did do my research and most of this article is based on much more than opinion.
To your concerns about the recruiting, well, here's my stance: You say that they haven't had recruiting for about five or six years now, yet, let me ask you, if that's the case why are they only 29-21 over the last four seasons and just 14-20 in the Big XII? If the recruiting is THAT good, why are the results on the field THAT bad? And for all your talk about the recruiting rankings, it doesn't change my fundamental point: The best players in Texas will continue to go to Texas and A&M. Sure Tech has been in the Top 25 consistently... those two schools in the Top 10.
Beyond that, I stand by my stance that Texas Tech has fallen behind the programs I mentioned. They've lost two straight to Baylor, and the Bears are a program on the rise and won eight games in a major rebuilding year. If you're a young receiver/skill position player why are you choosing Tech over the Bears? Same with TCU. I know Tech beat them this year, but it was in triple overtime in the third start of the career of a freshman QB. So again, I stand by what I said.
Anyway, look, at the end of the day, I never said Kingsbury wouldn't succeed, just that it's going to be harder than most realize. Him returning to Tech is good for college football. As I said, they couldn't have hired many other people who would've created more buzz than Kingsbury did. I just wonder about his ability to win big in this league.
Thanks again for writing in,
"29-21 over the last four seasons and just 14-20 in the Big XII?" - Tuberville
"The best players in Texas will continue to go to Texas and A&M. Sure Tech has been in the Top 25 consistently... those two schools in the Top 10."
- Prior to the recent staff at TAMU, their last top 10 finish was 1994. In the past 10 years TTU has had 5 top 25 finishes, TAMU 2. TAMU has been able to recruit great players going back that past decade though due to facilities and tradition, not really on-field performance (until this past year).
Eh, maybe I just caught you in phrasing regarding your statement about "TAMU & UT finishing in the top 10" as if they do it on the regular. TAMU at least has not. Will they? It seems likely. I'm not debating TAMU's recruiting appeal. They've done well there even when the team did poorly. Now that they're doing well? Lights out.
As for Baylor, last year they had the exact same record as TTU. The question around Baylor is if they can continue to play at a high level without a transcendent talent like RGIII. Even with RGIII the best they mustered was 10-3.
My point is even based off TTU having their worst coach in the past 20 years the record wasn't even in the tank (8-5, 5-7, 8-5). Facilities stack up fan base stacks up and offensive style stacks up, both staffs can even lay claim to coaching Heisman winners.
Look, no one has been more critical of A&M as I've been through the years... but we're not talking about ancient history, but we're talking in the here and now. A&M is coming off an 11-2 season, returning a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback and is poised to start 2013 ranked somewhere in the Top 5.
Trying to compare the two over the last 30 years or the last three years is completely irrelevant. What A&M is now is NOTHING like they were even two years ago. (For that matter, it's the same with Baylor)