DALLAS — Kliff Kingsbury wasn’t decked out in scarlet and black on Monday, although I didn’t hear anyone at Big 12 football media days engage him much on fashion. There were fewer questions this year than last regarding Johnny Manziel and even less poking around about Ryan Gosling. Kingsbury’s age didn’t come up much.
Oh, one fellow did want to know how Kliff trimmed his beard to get it to look that way.
Such questions were the exception. Now Kingsbury has a track record as a head coach. He’s going into year two at Texas Tech, he has a bowl win over a top-20 team and a new quarterback that’s piquing folks’ interest.
“I think this year you’re hearing more about the players, which it should be about, than the superficial things,” Kingsbury said.
Plenty of not-so-superficial stuff looms on the horizon. Without Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, it’s hard to picture Texas Tech being better on offense. Without the eight 2013 seniors on the other side, Matt Wallerstedt has his work cut out for him to make the Red Raiders better on defense. I think it won’t be long before fans miss the likes of Kerry Hyder and Bruce Jones more than they expected.
Solving football puzzles is Kingsbury’s favorite pursuit, though. He thinks he’s up to it.
He says the league as a whole will be better, but so will his team.
“I think we’ll be so much ahead of where we were last year at this time, if we protect the ball – that’s been our Achilles heel is way too many turnovers and not getting enough – then we’ll be right there,” Kingsbury said.
Year one provided challenges for the Red Raiders and their young coach alike. A 7-0 start deteriorated to a 7-5 finish to the regular season.
On the other side of the losing streak, Kingsbury came out, if not unscathed, wiser. Maybe better for the experience. For sure emboldened, especially after leading Tech past Arizona State at the Holiday Bowl.
“Year two, I can see he’s got a lot more confidence on him,” linebacker Sam Eguavoen said. “Last year, it was kind of like, ‘I’ve got to top (predecessor Tommy) Tuberville. I’ve got to show the city of Lubbock that I’m better than Tuberville.’ That’s kind of what I felt from him last season.
“Now it’s like, after that bowl game, ‘I’ve got confidence with this season. I’ve got confidence with these players.’”
Asked what he learned from last season’s five-game swoon, Kingsbury said, “A lot about being consistent as a coach, in your message and in the way you handle yourself, each and every day at the office bringing the same message. Don’t seem down. You’ve got to bring it, just like you were undefeated. That was the biggest deal, just staying consistent as a coach.”
Now in year two, Kingsbury wants to put his “spin” on the program and his way of doing things. There was no time for that last year.
He’s laid down his expectations for team discipline and come through the scrutiny of the high-profile Nigel Bethel II/Amber Battle scrap. He won’t have to judge a quarterback competition next guy, because hey, it’ll be the same guy who started the bowl game.
Kingsbury knew his way around Big 12 media days Monday, doing it for a second time.
Thankfully, as far as Kingsbury was concerned, there were a lot more football questions, queries about the Red Raiders, than all that other stuff.
Do you really want to know where the suit came from?
BY LINE 1