Where do the Red Raiders go from here?
With the sacking of now official Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells, athletic director Kirby Hocutt is entering a pivotal moment in his outfit. His two football hires, one initially seen as a home run to bring back program legend Kliff Kingsbury and the other a total of 180 in terms of long-term program building, both failed.
Conference rival Baylor has overtaken the agenda with back-to-back hires that put the Bears just outside the top echelon in the Big 12. Now, with a new conference on the horizon, Tech is in a position to do a step towards the top if they make the right location or wallow to the left in the unsexy environment.
But what does this rental look like? Lubbock isn’t the easiest place to recruit, which is why its greatest success is due to a figure like Mike Leach who ushered in the air raid for college football and gave the program a unique identity. Does Hocutt want to tap into this story or continue in another direction? Here are a few names that we think should be part of the mix.
Dream: SMU Head Coach Sonny Dykes
This one works on almost too many levels.
Of course, Sonny Dykes’ dad, the late Spike Dykes, was Tech’s head coach for over 10 years. Sonny is a former Tech, grew up in the Lubbock area and coached under Leach I from 2000-2006. He knows the program better than anyone and knows its strengths and weaknesses. Dykes is a proven head trainer and SMU is having his best race since the days of the Pony Express. It would also bring an exciting football brand and kind of recalls the golden age of Tech. But the best thing that can be said about Dykes is that he’s adaptable.
The “Bear Raid” attack didn’t work out so well in Cal and the team defensively cratered during his tenure, but at SMU he managed to implement a rushed attack that went from around 50th his first seasons at a Top 25 team this year while maintaining a consistent defense and making great hires around him including Ra’Shaad Samples, Jim Leavitt, Garrett Riley and formerly Rhett Lashlee and Kevin Kane.
Recruitment is the biggest indicator Tech is falling behind other Big 12 teams. The Red Raiders are currently second-to-bottom in the 2022 Big 12 rankings of 247 and need an influx of talent. Dykes also has experience in this area with how he transformed SMU into a destination for high profile transfers and leveraged it in the hiring momentum for HS after the initial success.
It’s not the easiest call to make, however. Dikes can probably retire from SMU if he wants to, but Tech could also double or even triple his salary and does the idea of ââoverthrowing his alma mater and father’s old agenda appeal to him?
Realistic: UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor
Recruitment problems, you say? Can we interest you in a valuable Jeff Traylor?
The references speak for themselves at this point. The current UTSA chief has ranked the Roadrunners undefeated and has recruiting ties statewide as a widely respected figure in the high school coaching community. If Jeff Traylor walks into a rookie’s living room and asks him to go to Death Valley, Calif., It’s honestly a 50-50 shot. Lubbock would be a snap. Plus he’s a real sports builder and politician which means he’s someone that admins, boosters, coaches and players can love too and right now Tech needs someone. one that can rally everyone.
He’s made some incredibly good staff hires that have taken a roster with lots of holes and made them a team that wins in every way they can this year: in the air, on the ground, defensively, in shootouts, in blowouts. You can’t say enough about how quickly UTSA turned around under Traylor. His next job will likely be in the state anyway, it’s hard to imagine him taking his Texas ties outside of Lone Star State, so why not make the call?
Out of the box:
USC Offensive Coordinator Graham Harrell
Does Kirby Hocutt need a little ‘win’ with boosters and fans?
Snatching another old record quarterback could be a fallback option. While it is clear that Graham Harrell’s move to USC did not go as planned, this program was a sinking ship when he joined and Harrell’s offensive likely even allowed Clay Helton to gain more time when USC finished in 2020 11th in SP + Offensive and seemed to have developed a future NFL QB in Kedon Slovis. Even now in a lost season, USC is 17th in Off. SP +. Not to mention the North Texas trajectory since Harrell was hired has been a dip.
But it’s easy to see that if hiring Kingsbury didn’t work, why would Harrell do it? We don’t know his strengths as a builder since he hasn’t been a head coach and the program isn’t able to take a lot of risks after Wells was hired.
Jeff Lebby, Ole Miss offensive coordinator
Alright so let’s get that out, yes the name of Art Briles was Tech job attached last time. But, according to Yahoo’s Pete Thamel, it probably won’t be this time, understandably. So naturally, the rumors could turn to Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendall Briles. Likewise, it’s always a hard sell.
But, Ole Miss’s offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, who is coached by both, could become a candidate. Ole Miss is one of the country’s most exciting programs and Hocutt could try to cover his bets by pleasing the pro-Briles crowd with an adjacent hit. But Lebby, also Art’s son-in-law, was also on Baylor staff during the Baylor sexual assault scandal. Is his affiliation with staff and is the potential payoff worth it?
Ishmael’s Choice: UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor
This one is easy. Media across the country are putting this one in pencil as we speak.
Technology needs someone who can muster support, understand the unique situation of the program, know the recruiting landscape and have a vision and that’s Jeff Traylor. Some might argue that technology is not a Great job to attract a hot candidate like Traylor as opposed to jobs closer to metro areas, but Power Five jobs don’t show up every day and especially in this state.
Remember, Traylor was probably a week or two away from being the Head Coach Lamar before UTSA calls. He of all people should know the value of opportunity and timing.
It should be Texas Tech’s first call.