Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Tech has to be a little different
The main reason Texas Tech football was so successful over the last decade, and certainly more successful than any 10 years in the school's history, was the Red Raiders were different.
Mike Leach obviously was way different. But so was his unique Air Raid offense in a conservative conference. His teams won passing titles, gave the program an identity, attracted a level of recruits they wouldn't otherwise and established themselves as a viable force in the Big 12 South.
Tech has to be a little different. The Raiders can't do the same thing, line up the same way, have the same type of coaches as Texas, Oklahoma and even Texas A&M -- a school Tech passed during the Leach regime -- and expect to compete on a yearly basis. By design, they have to be an appealing alternative. Be just a little different.
That's why the administration needs to promote the popular Ruffin McNeill over the more established Art Briles and Tommy Tubberville. The safe choice would the last two. The best choice for Tech -- at this time -- is Ruffin.
He has never been a head coach at any level. He's a gamble, no question. Promotions always are. He could bomb, turning into the next John Blake at OU or he could make it big like TCU's Gary Patterson or Nebraska's Bo Pelini.
Ruff is different. After his interim coaching performance in the Alamo Bowl win, he yelled into the microphone at midfield during the trophy ceremony: "WASSUUUUUPPP!"
Now that's different. The players love him. I mean really respect him. You have to be careful how much stock that's put into that because players don't like change and like to be comfortable. But there's way too much universal support for him not to be intrigued by it.
Tech's recruiting class, which could be Top 20 if there are no decommits, has been built largely on McNeill's folksy ways. Several quality recruits say they will look elsewhere if McNeill is not head coach. Tech could be looking at as many as eight recruits leaving out of a class of about 25, which would be the equivalent of a year of probation.
His role, if he gets the job, would be one like a CEO good-cop like Mack Brown. Other assistants would get the tough-guy role, and Ruff would pat them on the back and lift them up while continuing to be a dynamic presence in the living rooms of recruits.
The staff would stay in place, the offense would stay exactly the same, and this would continue on. Tech football is not broken. Leach wasn't fired for performance, but for insubordination. Some say it's short-sighted to hire McNeill just based on the performance of one recruiting class and next season, but it's worth picking around the curtain past 2010 and seeing what's there.
Tech is doing its due diligence in recruiting others. Tubberville reportedly had a very impressive interview, and there's belief that Baylor's Briles, with deep West Texas roots, is Chancellor Kent Hance's choice. He's supposed to interview away from Lubbock today. We'll see.
I'm in Ruff's corner here for many reasons, but something tells me he may get left out and that would be shame. Hope I'm wrong.