Kliff Kingsbury called Lubbock, Texas home through a college career of 12,423 yards passing and 95 touchdowns. Kingsbury’s play under head coach Mike Leach helped put Texas Tech football back on the national radar, and ushered in a veritable college football revolution.
Much was made of Kingsbury returning to Lubbock and Tech for his first head coaching job. Predecessor Tommy Tuberville hired spread coordinator Neal Brown to craft the Red Raiders’ offense. Still, it always seemed like Tuberville was pinching his nose in running an air raid system, much like a youngster choking down Lima beans. In Kingsbury, Tech gets someone who fully embraces the scheme, because he was fostered in it.
Friday night in his head coaching debut, Kingsbury pits his spin on the spread offense learned under Mike Leach against the coach who mentored Leach: Hal Mumme. To sum it up in language everyone (except Will Muschamp) can understand, if Kingsbury is Anakin Skywalker and Leach is Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mumme is Qui-Gon Jinn.
The spread revolution that Mumme helped birth while at Kentucky and Kingsbury brought to prominence as a player is undergoing evolution. Coaches around the nation have their own unique wrinkles on the system — including Kingsbury, whose work alongside Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M last season cultivated Johnny Manziel’s Heisman campaign.
Kingsbury has played his quarterback situation close to his vest, and thus the variation of the spread Tech will employ on Friday is a mystery. While at Houston, Kingsbury oversaw traditional air raid passer Case Keenum. Manziel’s green light to scamper around the field as often as he passed was a decided deviation.
Whether Texas Tech starts Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield, the two freshmen jockeying to fill in for an injured Michael Brewer, Kingsbury alluded to running an offense akin to A&M’s last year.
“The offenses that both these kids come from [in high school are] ver similar to what we had with Johnny [Manziel] last year,” Kingsbury said in his weekly press conference. “They feel comfortable in it because that’s what they played in through their high school careers.”
Mumme is returning to the Div. I ranks after four seasons at Div. II McMurry. True to Mumme’s history, the War Hawks passed 606 times last season, more than any Div. II team save Colorado School of Mines. His pass-happy approach should work well with “Hal’s Hitmen,” the nickname SaturdayBlitz.com columnist Jack Jorgensen has given to the Mustangs’ deep wide receiving corps.
But these Mustangs won’t be any one-trick ponies.
Joining forces with another innovative offensive mind in Run-and-Shoot guru June Jones promises new wrinkles to Mumme’s take on the offense. SMU relied heavily on fullback Zach Line the last two seasons. Line is gone, but big things are expected of JUCO transfer Traylon Shead.
Friday’s pitting of the spread’s past might be the most accurate look into the system’s future we’ll see this season. Air raid and spread systems aren’t going anywhere, and the endurance originators like Mumme and Kingsbury have had proves that. But the schemes must evolve to adapt to the era.