Know Your Foe: Texas Tech
The voice of the Kansas Jayhawks, Brian Hanni, visits with this week’s opponent in Know Your Foe, a weekly segment from KUAthletics.com and the Jayhawk Radio Network. As Kansas prepares for its contest against Texas Tech, Hanni caught up with Red Raiders sideline reporter Chris Level.
Brian Hanni: To have nearly 100 more passing yards averaged per game than the next best passing offense in America through 3 weeks on average that’s tremendous. Just how good has Patrick Mahomes and this offense been?
Chris Level: I think Coach Kingsbury came into this season suggesting that this was the best offense or team that he had based on his tenure here. And when you talk about offense that surprised me, I’ll be honest, because I knew how explosive they were last year. There were some struggles with outside receivers and things like that. But when you lose guys like De’Andre Washington who was a back-to-back thousand yard rusher and you have Le’Raven Clark who’s an all league left tackle and Jakeem Grant who’s a thousand yard receiver, I’m like how could you possibly be better? But so far, and some of it is a product of who you play I think, but so far they have been better. It hasn’t looked like it usually does. I think there’s a lot more plays being made down the field, the 60- and 80-yard passes and you’re not running it quite as much. So it’s been as explosive, if not more so and they’re are as deep at wide receiver maybe as I’ve ever seen. They don’t have a frontline guy, that’s the one concern I think that you look at, if that’s a concern. But yeah Pat, he’s been great, and he looks like the older more mature quarterback that you’d hoped he’d look like coming into his junior year with all that experience under his belt last year. And the tests are about to get tougher but yeah so far it’s been really fun to watch.
Texas Tech QB Pat MahomesBH: Talking about Pat Mahomes, he makes throws going to his left that have not been seen from a Big 12 quarterback in 20 years of this league. Obviously the arm talent is huge, but can you put into words for our Kansas listeners the types of throws he has an ability to make that most guys couldn’t.
CL: I saw the defense coordinator for Arizona State maybe summed it up the best. He said, this is Magic Johnson playing football. That summed it up, I get what he’s saying there. There’s some Brett Favre there, there’s some drop back and it looks totally normal. He’s just got some moxie about him. You hate to say it’s a lot of playground out there, but there is some of that there where he improvises. In the different arm angles and the strength in which he can throw. He does some things you’re not technically supposed to do – throws against his body back across the grain or will throw on the run, throw it deep – but he’s just so accurate. That’s what makes him so much different than other guys. He’s bigger and stronger than he was, he’s about 230 pounds now and every bit of that. And he’s healthy. Part of that last year was that bad wheel he was playing on and that’s not the case right now. The first two games of the year he was the leading rusher for the team, which that’s not a good thing in my opinion, but that’s something that they were giving that to him and he was taking it and making defenses pay. He’s just been fun to watch, no look, across the body, we’re talking 60 yards down the field on some occasions.
BH: You mentioned a lack of a number one, clear-cut go-to receiver. Many thought that would be Derrick Willies, a former Iowa signee that was then a junior college All-American this past season. Off to a slower start, what do you explain on that front? And tell me about some of the guys posting big numbers like Jonathan Giles, Dylan Cantrell and the like.
CL: I think with Willies, he had a groin injury in August that kept him out about 10 days or so. He was slow to get back, he didn’t start the first game of the season, didn’t start the second game, however, he did start the game against LA Tech last Saturday. I think he’s supposed to start again versus Kansas on Thursday night. I think that you’re now seeing him be what they had hoped he would be. You’re about to start seeing him get a lot more targets and touches and all those kinds of things. He’s as big as we all thought. The play making ability – he had a big play against Arizona State, he had several versus Louisiana Tech. I think that groin injury just prohibited him from being as sharp as he wanted to be out of the gate. But Jonathan Giles has been the big story. I think Ian Sadler is a guy I’m really big on and was always big on when he came to this program, but Jonathan Giles has passed him up. He’s catching a touchdown pass every fourth catch. I think tied for the lead in the country, with five touchdown receptions so far this season. He’s really been the go-to-guy. Former high school quarterback, that position of why a receiver gets a ton of looks because you’re on the right side of the field more often than not. This offense funnels a lot of balls to that particular spot. (Justin) Stockton as a receiver has been really good, you’ve seen that, he’s been much more so involved in the screen game than in any other aspect of what he’s doing so far this season.
BH: I was just going to ask you about the backfield, obviously Stockton the guy with the most experience coming back, but the DeMarcus Felton coming off of a career day of 123 yards and a couple of TD’s versus LA Tech. How should Kansas fans expect the workload to be divvied up in the Texas Tech backfield?
CL: I think the best way I can describe it is coming into the season, I think that the thought was that Justin Stockton will have the role of De’Andre Washington. He’ll be the heavy lifter, he’ll do all the things that De’Andre did and it never really clicked, it didn’t really work. I think what’s happening now is that DeMarcus Felton is now maybe going to have the chance to have that role. Stockton will simply just go back to what he was last year, which is a complimentary guy that we figure out a way that he can touch the ball 6-12 times a game. Whether that’s jet sweeps, whether that’s handoffs, whether that’s screen game, whatever that may be he’s going to get those touches. The bulk of the carries may go to Felton. Some of that’s been dictated by, some teams come into a game and I don’t know what Clint Bowen the defensive coordinator will do for Kansas. If he’s gonna say we’re gonna dare you to run it, we’re gonna drop everybody back we want to see how good your running game is or we’re going to load the box and dare you to beat us over the top. So some of that’s dictated on how the defensive coordinator or what the game plan is on how much Felton and Stockton are going to be involved. I think it’s pretty clear that Felton is going to get an opportunity to be the guy that carries the ball mostly now.
BH: Defensively, David Gibbs, looking to become the first DC at Tech to hold that position for two full years consecutively since Ruffin McNeill back in 2007-2009. He gets the takeaways as well as anybody in the country but where are they trying to shore up this defense right now when it comes to allowing fewer yards or points?
CL: It’s been bad and it’s been frustrating. I think the one difference is that last year you were struggling with the older guys like juniors and seniors. This year it’s just youth. They’re playing seven true freshman, they’re playing a lot of transfers that have come into the program, three of which have played a ton – Luke Stice from Houston, Kolin Hill from Notre Dame, and Ondre Pipkins from Michigan. Those guys either just got here, or sat out last year so they’re new to the Big 12 and all those kind of things. Then you’re just playing with several redshirts that didn’t play last year, the front seven especially, it’s just new. So you’re struggling at times, they’ve looked good in spurts but that Arizona State game was just a mess. You had kids that were confused, kids that weren’t making tackles, and you were playing well early in the game but then the dam broke. You’re up against Louisiana Tech 35-10, you stop them three out of four times then the dam breaks. That’s the part, that being consistent and handling adversity better, is something that he’s frustrated with. That just comes with maturity and experience and they don’t have a lot of that right now. This offense needs to continue to score and score and score when they get the opportunity. David likes his group, it’s just a matter of trying to grow them up in a hurry. The best one of the young group is No. 20 Jordyn Brooks. He’s a middle linebacker that is going to be a really special player around here. But you’re asking a lot out of that young man and it’s about to be what, his fourth college game ever, trying to carry the load and that’s just a lot to ask of him but that’s what they’re asking him to do right now.
Texas Tech Head Coach Cliff KingsburyBH: How does this Cliff Kingsbury coached team compare to those he’s had in his first three seasons? Does this have a chance to be his best team? If it’s going to get to that optimal potential level, what has to happen?
CL: I think with as down as the Big 12 is, they have a chance to make some noise. You have to be concerned about the defense, although having said that, I think a lot of schools in this conference need to be worried about their defense. There’s not a lot of great defense being played. As long as No. 5, who is Pat Mahomes, stays healthy, they’re going to have a chance to make some noise. Do they have enough there to make enough noise to win the conference? I don’t know if I’m willing to say that. I think though they can make things very interesting and uncomfortable for folks, again, as long as No. 5 stays healthy. He is the difference-maker here because as you well know, you’ve been dealing with inexperienced quarterbacks since Cliff has had the job here. Whether it’s true freshman, or last year you’re dealing with Pat early on and he’s brand new starter. But that’s the difference, he got all these starts and experience under his belt as a true junior now. He again can mask a lot of deficiencies across the board, but it’s a lot to ask him to try to score 50, 60 points a game when your defense is having a hard time taking the ball away, doing some of the things they need to get done. Again, there’s not a lot standing out in this league to make you think everyone seems to be flawed. But I think No. 5 is a special player. I would guess that if everyone had the chance to re-vote, maybe he’s the Offensive Player of the Year in the Big 12 prior to the season.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.