October 30, 2008

Yeager: Not Your Daddy's Red Raiders

Certain apologists and propagandists, in a fit of desperation perhaps, have been grasping at slender straws in an attempt to convince themselves that Mike Leach's Texas Tech Red Raiders pose no real threat to the No. 1 ranked Texas Longhorns.

We have heard, for instance, that Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp spent some time coaching at Valdosta State with some guy who spent some time coaching at Kentucky with Leach, and - voila! - Muschamp is now privy to the Air Raid's blueprint. (As if such a thing existed.)

We have also heard that Muschamp's defense shut down Missouri's offense earlier in the year, and because both Missouri and Tech run vaguely similar spread offenses, Texas will do to Tech what they did to the Tigers.

Now the Longhorns may well win the football game. They are favored to do so by the people who supposedly know about such things, and they are theoretically the best team in the land; they should win. But if Texas upends Texas Tech it will be because they are the better team, not because of some coaching connections to some coaching connections or because Missouri was a dress rehearsal for the Red Raiders.

In the unlikely event that Muschamp has dunned his old coaching buddy for ancient info on Leach's offense, that information will be hopelessly dated. Muschamp would be wiser to spend that time looking at the Kansas game film than chasing down the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Missouri and Texas Tech, moreover, are simply different teams whatever the superficial resemblances in their offensive systems. The personnel are different, the coaches are different, the plays are different, and the psychological composition of the two teams is different.

Projecting Texas' success against Missouri's offense upon the clash with Texas Tech is an exercise in half-logic. Nay, an exercise in eighth logic because the schematic resemblances on offense constitute probably one eighth of the variables that will determine the outcome of the contest.

The Missouri Tigers are a good offensive football team but they do not have three offensive linemen who can compare to Rylan Reed, Brandon Carter and Louis Vasquez.

Typically, Texas is able to dominate the opposition (including Texas Tech) because they are simply better up front. The 2008 Texas defensive line, however, can realistically hope for nothing better than a stalemate with a Red Raider offensive front that has allowed a total of three sacks in 391 pass attempts. That is good for No. 2 nationally behind Air Force, hardly a team known for its pass-happy ways.

But it's not just Tech's offensive front that is an altered beast. For the first time in many a blue moon, the Red Raider defensive front is a force to be reckoned with rather than a farce to be snickered at. In the past, Tech was forced to make do with perhaps one player the caliber of Brandon Williams and three overmatched effort guys. Consequently, the Longhorns were able to stampede the Red Raider defense at will.

That should not be the case this weekend. Tech is currently 14th nationally in run defense allowing 101 rushing yards per contest and 3.21 yards per carry. The Red Raiders are dramatically improved in this area because of a major talent infusion and a decisive dose of depth on the defensive line.

To go along with solid starters Rajon Henley, Colby Whitlock and Jake Ratliff, defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill has added McKinner Dixon, Chris Perry and Brandon Sesay. Quality returnees in the form of Richard Jones, Daniel Howard and Brandon Sharpe round out the line.

That is a group that can go toe-to-toe with any offensive line in the country, including Texas'. It will bend occasionally, but will certainly get in its licks as well.

So this is not your father's Texas Tech team. Nor is it Missouri or anything with which Muschamp's putative guru from Kentucky/Valdosta is familiar. This team is unique and it is very, very dangerous. To the extent the Texas Longhorns think otherwise, they will pay a fearful price.



 

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