New Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury gave indications right from the start that he’d assemble a staff with some members who look just like he does. In other words, young, with connections to the Red Raiders program and a love for West Texas.
He didn’t take long to make good on that promise.
Former Red Raiders players Eric Morris, 27, and Kevin Curtis, 32, were at Kingsbury’s introductory news conference Friday at United Spirit Arena and will be joining the program as assistant coaches. Curtis said he probably will be cornerbacks coach, and Morris said his role has not been determined yet.
Curtis, a Tech safety and Kingsbury teammate from 1998 through 2001, spent the last three years as cornerbacks coach at Louisiana Tech under fellow Coronado and Tech graduate Sonny Dykes. Morris, a Tech inside receiver from 2004 through 2008, spent this season as inside receivers coach under Mike Leach at Washington State.
“I’m definitely excited about the opportunity to come back and work with Kliff,” Curtis said. “He’s a smart young man that’s going to be great. It’s good to come back home, and I believe in what Kliff’s doing. That’s what makes it easy.”
Both Morris, who grew up in Shallowater, and Curtis spent their childhood just a few miles from Jones AT&T Stadium. Neither were heavily recruited, but both excelled at Tech, Curtis becoming a second-team all-America safety in both his junior and senior seasons and Morris scoring 23 career touchdowns.
“So it’s been a dream of mine,” Morris said. “To get back home with my family and coach at the university I feel I’ve given so much to, it’s time for me to come back and help contribute to taking it to the next level. I couldn’t have written a book any better than what’s happened the last four days.”
The web site CoachingSearch.com reported Friday that Utah State defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has been offered the same position at Tech and at California, where Dykes was just named head coach. Aranda also has Tech ties, having been a graduate assistant under Leach.
Though Morris’ and Kingsbury’s Tech careers did not overlap, they have a close bond. They were together on the University of Houston staff in 2010 and 2011. Kingsbury was in Morris’ wedding in June 2011 and the two have talked or texted daily since.
Asked if they’ve discussed what they want to do with the Tech offense, Morris said, “There’s nothing to talk about. We know. We’re on the same page.”
The two hires also resemble Kingsbury in being fairly new to coaching. Since their playing careers ended, Kingsbury and Curtis have coached for five seasons, Morris for three.
Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt and university officials believe what the new coaches lack in experience, they’ll make up for in enthusiasm for Tech.
“It’s great to be able to come back,” Curtis said. “You take pride in where you went to school and where you’re from. We want to make sure this university and this team is what it can be. You look forward to the challenge of building it up to where it needs to be, but it’s not something that’s broken. It’s not where you’ve got to build a thing from scratch. It’s something that’s headed in the right direction.”
Kingsbury, though the 15th Tech head football coach, is the first who actually played for the Red Raiders and graduated from Tech. That factor and his desire to hire coaches connected to Tech have made fans wonder whether Zach Thomas, the former Red Raiders All-American and seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker, might be a candidate for the staff.
However, one of Thomas’ employees said that won’t happen.
Paul Springer, general manager for the Lubbock operations of Zach’s Club workout facilities, said Thomas told him Friday he’s too preoccupied with his wife, two children and business responsibilities to seek a position at Tech.
“It’d be great if he went into coaching,” Springer said. “At the same time, he says they need somebody that could be more dedicated (than he can be). Those were his words this morning.
“But he definitely wants to get behind Kliff and everybody else.”
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