When Tommy Tuberville made his way to Lubbock, one of the first things people talked about was the pending transition from Mike Leach's Air Raid to Tuberball, a combination of hard-hitting defense and a power running game. Tuberville was, after all, the coach who put Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams in the same backfield, one so stacked that eventual NFL standout Brandon Jacobs transferred out.
But Tuberville brought along coordinator Neal Brown, who said he wanted to incorporate a NASCAR pace to his attack. That meant that the Red Raiders still flung the ball around as they did the year before, though most feel that the offense will start to trend back toward more of a rushing attack, especially with unproven players at quarterback and wide receiver.
Whichever way the 2011 unit trends, Brown will have a great weapon in all-purpose threat Eric Stephens. The all-time kickoff return leader in Texas Tech history is just a junior. He had 44 returns for 1,071 yards a year ago, and had another 880 yards on his 160 rushing and receiving touches (5.5 per touch). He caught 33 passes, lined up as a Wildcat quarterback and made the coaches salivate with his performance in the TicketCity Bowl.
Starter Baron Batch was sidelined most of that game with a calf injury, giving Red Raider fans a glimpse into the future. And Stephens didn't disappoint, shredding the Northwestern defense for 126 yards on 14 carries, including an 86-yard touchdown run that served as the Big 12's longest run from scrimmage a year ago.
Now, with Batch graduated, expect to see a lot more of Stephens, again in multiple roles, in 2011.
2010 Stats: 127 carries, 668 yards, six touchdowns, 33 receptions, 212 yards, two touchdowns, 44 kickoff returns, 1,071 kickoff return yards