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Kliff is King in minds of Red Raider faithful

06/14/13 12:36 PM

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Known more for its prominent role in the cotton industry, as well as being the hometown of the late, great Buddy Holly, Lubbock, Texas isn't exactly a hotbed in terms of noteworthy success in the world of sports.

In fact, if you discount the efforts of the little known Lubbock Cotton Kings (Central Hockey League, 1999-2007) and the long defunct Lubbock Hubbers (minor league baseball, 1922-56), the 11th-most populous city in the Lone Star State can't claim much in terms of significant sporting glory at all.

That is of course until you turn your attention to Texas Tech University, the sixth-largest institution of higher learning in the nation's second-biggest state, with roughly 32,000 students seeking a degree in more than 150 courses of study. Academic pursuits aside, student life at TTU typically revolves around the exploits of the Red Raider football program, at least since the start of the new millennium when former head coach Mike Leach implemented his high-flying offensive attack.

Having played their first game on October 3, 1925, Texas Tech football teams have won 11 conference titles (none since 1994), and been invited to 35 bowl games (13-21-1). Despite the fact that the Red Raiders have only one Big 12 South Division title to their credit (shared in 2008 with Oklahoma and Texas), they have been at the forefront of most college football fans' minds over the last decade or so thanks to the up-tempo style first put in place by Leach, and then continued, albeit to a lesser extent, by Tommy Tuberville.

Having underachieved in the eyes of many Tech supporters, Tuberville's stunning decision to leave Lubbock after three seasons for Cincinnati this past December left the Red Raiders in a quandary, but one they quickly got past as they named 33-year old Kliff Kingsbury the 15th coach in program history less than a week later.

A former star quarterback at Tech (1998-2002), Kingsbury is making his head coaching debut after serving as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at both Houston and Texas A&M the last four years. He has mentored former UH standout Case Keenum, and was instrumental in helping A&M's Johnny Manziel win the 2012 Heisman Trophy.

During his collegiate playing days, Kingsbury was the first in a long line of record-setting gunslingers under the innovative Leach, throwing for more than 12,000 yards with 95 touchdowns. He set nearly 40 school, 13 Big 12 and 7 NCAA records, and he is one of only four players in college football history to pass for more than 3,000 yards three times in his career.

From a win-loss perspective, the Red Raiders were one of the most successful programs in the country with Leach calling the shots, but Tuberville's reign didn't produce the same results. The past two seasons have seen the Red Raiders stumble late, dropping five straight games to close the 2011 campaign, and four of their last five this past year. Tuberville failed to deliver a winning league ledger, and Red Raider nation is hoping Kingsbury is the man to bring about a resurgence.

Kingsbury is grateful for the opportunity to lead his alma mater into the next chapter in its history and while he realizes there is a palpable air of excitement surrounding his return, he knows it's going to take a lot of hard work to ensure that those who have shown faith in him are not disappointed.

"As far as the football goes, I'm more of a walking-type guy, not a talking- type guy. So I'll let you all see that in the fall", Kingsbury said at his introductory press conference.

He continued, "It's going to be an exciting brand of football. We'll be attacking on both sides of the ball, we'll play with confidence. The kids are going to have fun. They're going to have swagger, and you'll enjoy next year's team. I promise you."

Following his whirlwind courtship, assembling a top-notch staff, assessing the talent on the roster, and laying the groundwork for future success were his first orders of business.

Like Leach did with him, developing quarterbacks appears to be the rookie head coach's forte, and it appears he has a pretty good one with which to work this fall as sophomore Michael Brewer has all the tools necessary to be the next great Red Raider signal caller. Competition will come from freshman Davis Webb, and the two combined to throw for 506 yards and 3 scores in Tech's spring game back in April.

As former star quarterback Seth Doege's (4,205 yards, 39 TDs, 16 interceptions) primary targets last season, Darrin Moore and Eric Ward combined to catch 174 passes for 2,085 yards and 25 touchdowns, but both are gone, leaving diminutive junior wideout Jakeem Grant (33 receptions, 287 yards, 2 TDs) and junior tight end Jace Amaro (25 receptions, 409 yards, 4 TDs) as the only proven pass catchers in what is expected to be an explosive, if rather inexperienced offense.

Kingsbury's fate will be determined by a frenzied fan base that has lofty expectations for the prodigal son returning home, but the reality is it's going to take a few years before anyone will have a real handle on how well he has done.

Despite the obvious state of exuberance that exists today, patience is the key. The prevailing thought is Tech fans will bite their collective tongue so long as progress is being made. Doing things the right way through hard work can get you pretty far in life, but whether or not the King has was it takes to effectively rule his kingdom remains to be seen, meaning his coronation won't be complete until his minions see for themselves.

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