LUBBOCK, Texas - The question posed to Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was blunt and to the point. The answer could very likely determine how much longer he will be at his alma mater.
While Kingsbury was on the podium during Big 12 football media days last month, someone took the microphone and asked why the Red Raiders defense has been so bad and how he was going to fix it.
"As a head coach, it falls on me, no question," responded Kingsbury, who is going into his fifth season. "I think middle of year two we made a change where we kind of had to start over, and (defensive coordinator David) Gibbs came in. It wasn't the greatest situation, no question, and he's still working through that."
Just like when Kingsbury was throwing touchdowns for the Red Raiders as their senior quarterback 15 years ago, they have no problem scoring points with him as their 38-year-old coach. Except they also keep giving up a lot, too. There have been four losses the past two seasons when they scored at least 52 points.
Kingsbury, who won his first seven games as Tech's coach in 2013, is now 24-26 overall and a woeful 13-23 in Big 12 games. The Red Raiders have averaged 38.8 points a game in that span and allowed 39.6.
With first-round NFL draft pick Patrick Mahomes at quarterback last season, the Red Raiders led the nation with 565 total yards a game. They scored 524 total points, allowed 522 and finished 5-7.
Gibbs is going into his third season, the longest tenure for a Tech defensive coordinator since 2009.
"He's been able to bring in players that fit his scheme. He's been able to bring in coaches that he's comfortable with," Kingsbury said. "So I expect to see us be improved."
Three defensive backs are among four junior college transfers, and there is also the return of linebacker Dakota Allen after a year away.
Kingsbury, meanwhile, is trying to take more of a CEO approach instead of being so focused on offense.
"Trying to be more involved in all aspects of the program," Kingsbury said. "Not just saying, hey, we're going to outscore everybody. We're going to have a great quarterback. We're going to score a bunch of points. But having an impact on special teams, strength and conditioning, defense, recruiting."
A few other things to know about the Red Raiders, who play their first two games at home - Sept. 2 against Eastern Washington, then with a break before Sept. 16 against Arizona State, which beat them 68-55 in Tempe last year:
Nic Shimonek, the former Iowa transfer who turns 23 before the season, is the likely starting quarterback . He got extensive time with the No. 1 offense during a stretch last year when Mahomes was held out of practices because of a banged-up shoulder.
"With this supporting cast around him, we expect him to play at a high level," Kingsbury said.
Even after leading receiver Jonathan Giles transferred, Tech returns three receivers who had at least 55 catches and seven touchdowns last season. Keke Coutee averaged 16.2 yards per catch.
After being Tech's second-leading tackler as a freshman in 2015, Allen was involved in an off-field incident which led to him being kicked off the team and out of school. Those charges were later dropped. The linebacker played last year at East Mississippi Community College, and was part of the "Last Chance U" documentary series on Netflix.
Texas Tech has missed out on bowl games two of the last three years after playing in the postseason 14 of the previous 16 seasons.
Jordyn Brooks last season became the first Red Raiders freshman to be the team's leading tackler in the Big 12 era (since 1996). He had 61 solo stops among his 86 tackles.
After two games the first three Saturdays, the Red Raiders finish non-conference play Sept. 23 at Houston. Their Big 12 opener is at home against Oklahoma State before three of four October games on the road, including trips to West Virginia and Oklahoma
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