Can Kingsbury Mirror The Success Of Leach At Texas Tech?
By Ryan Wooden
In 10 seasons as the head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, head coach Mike Leach earned several reputations.
He was a bit of a hard-ass, but he got results. He led spectacularly prolific offenses that developed quarterbacks and filled seats. For 10 straight seasons he took a program to a bowl game in every campaign. His five season-ending finishes in the AP Top 25 were a welcome coda to the relative mediocrity in 13 seasons under Spike Dykes.
In his first year at the helm in Lubbock, Leach took a sophomore quarterback with 57 career pass attempts and turned him into one of the 20 most prolific passers in NCAA history. Flash forward a little more than a decade. The Leach era at Texas Tech ended amid controversy, and that fresh-faced quarterback who helped usher in a new tradition of excellence in Lubbock is tasked with continuing it.
At 34 years old, Kliff Kingsbury is the third-youngest head coach in the FBS. Texas Tech is coming off an impressive Holiday Bowl win over the Arizona State Sun Devils that gave him an 8-5 record in his first year as the head ball coach of his alma mater.
However, despite his golden status among Tech fans and alumni, the benchmark of Kingsbury's success still is Mike Leach. Winning consistently would grant the young offensive guru an unprecedented amount of job security.
Offensively, Kingsbury's squad mirrors what Leach did at Texas Tech in a lot of ways. But he's also managed to impart some of what Art Briles did in Houston and Kevin Sumlin did at Houston and Texas A&M. Last year, despite starting the season with a true freshman walk-on at quarterback (Baker Mayfield) and finishing the year with another true freshman (Davis Webb) at quarterback, Texas Tech averaged nearly 400 yards of passing offense a game (392.8).
While Kingsbury's first season compared favorably with Leach offenses at Texas Tech, the one advantage that Kingsbury may have could be on the recruiting trail.
Kingsbury earned a reputation as a relatable and dogged recruiter while at Houston and Texas A&M. While his first recruiting class ranked eighth in the Big 12 per Rivals.com, results bred success for the young head coach. His first complete recruiting class managed to rank 41st nationally according to Rivals, good enough for fifth in the conference. Ultimately, if the success continues, Kingsbury could establish himself as one of the premier recruiting head coaches in the conference.
And in a conference where there appears to be a tectonic shift in hierarchy that leads away from the traditional power of Texas and Oklahoma and toward the more innovative schools like Baylor and Oklahoma State, Kingsbury is as new school as they come.
Texas Tech is positioned in a conference where the dynamic is changing, and if Kingsbury can replicate some of the success that Leach had during his tenure in Lubbock, he could accomplish something that even his former coach never did: take Texas Tech to an elite bowl game, or even into the new College Football Playoff.