Ten years ago, Charlie Weis was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots when a lanky quarterback from Texas Tech arrived as the organization’s sixth-round pick. Kliff Kingsbury had just finished up a record-setting career in Lubbock, throwing the ball a zillion times per game in Mike Leach’s innovative spread offense. And when Weis sat down to scout Kingsbury during the draft process, he was given a pretty good primer on the Red Raiders’ offense.
Ten years later, that experience came full circle when Weis began to scout Texas Tech, a program now guided by his former pupil. Kingsbury took over as coach at his alma mater last December, replacing Tommy Tuberville at age 33.
The hire was hailed in Lubbock as a return to better days at Texas Tech. And from an offensive perspective, Weis can see similarities in Kingsbury and Leach.
“I go back to when Kliff was playing for Leach,” Weis said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference. “That’s what I’m looking at right now.”
When No. 20 Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) travels to Kansas (2-1, 0-0) on Saturday, Kingsbury will bring in an offense that ranks third in the Big 12 in points per game (38.8) and second in passing offense (408.5 yards). For the Red Raiders, the gaudy stats have continued even as Kingsbury has juggled two freshman quarterbacks.
Freshman walk-on Baker Mayfield won the job after presumptive starter Michael Brewer suffered a back injury in August. Freshman Davis Webb has also taken snaps, and Kingsbury said Monday that Brewer could ease back into practice this week. Based on Kingsbury’s comments, it doesn’t appear likely that Brewer could be available this week, but Mayfield has done an admirable job, throwing for 1,140 yards and eight touchdowns in four games.
“It’s a different offense,” Weis said. “(It’s) more, ‘Throw the ball quick, get it in the hands of the playmakers right now.’ Last year, their quarterback (Seth Doege) was really good; it wasn’t like he was just another guy. He threw it all over the place.
“Now it’s more get the ball in the hands of the playmakers.”
Both teams didn’t play last week, and Weis said the Jayhawks spent last week trying to balance the dual tasks of getting healthy and playing more physical. KU conducted a live, full-speed scrimmage last Thursday, where even the quarterbacks were tested in game conditions.
“When quarterbacks aren’t live, which is how we normally practice, you really can’t tell how plays are going to turn out sometimes,” Weis said. “Are you going to sack the quarterback? Is the quarterback gonna torch you for 30 yards on a run?”
After Kansas’ 13-10 victory over Rice on Sept. 21, Weis was quick to point out that the Jayhawks were still a flawed team. They rank 10th in the Big 12 in points per game (19.3) and 10th in passing offense (186.3), and finding production in the passing game appears to be a high priority entering the Big 12 season. After two off weeks during the season’s opening five weeks, the Jayhawks now face a stretch of nine straight league games in nine weeks. It begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, where KU will need to keep pace with Texas Tech’s offense to avoid a 22nd straight Big 12 loss.
“Kliff has done a nice job,” Weis said. “They’re playing with confidence. They’re sitting there at 4-0, figuring that the sky’s the limit right now. One thing you see, because I’ve known Kliff for a long time — he’s a confident person and his team is playing with his type of confidence.”
“We’re not going there,” Weis said Monday, responding to a question about what went wrong with Combs. “Marquel Combs is not here anymore. We’ll just talk about players that are here. We’re not talking about players that aren’t here.”