Livescore Thursday, April 25

DALLAS — Joey McGuire “started things off right” at his latest Wreck ‘Em Tour appearance, leading a “Raider Power!” chant loud enough to let anyone within walking distance know the always-boisterous Red Raider faithful had invaded the patio at Happiest Hour bar and lounge on a warm Texas evening.

“Here is the deal for me: I understand and can relate to the Red Raiders from the standpoint of that we are going to be tough, we are going to have a chip on our shoulder and we are going to go to work,” McGuire told CBS Sports. “I have that kind of mentality. I’m excited and happy to be there. I think the [fans] have embraced that.”

Yes, but they’ve been disappointed before. 

More than once, Texas Tech has struck out in a quest to find a coach capable of restoring success last experienced under the late Mike Leach, who was 84-43 guiding the program from 2000-09. Even Kliff Kingsbury, who oversaw his own 8-5 debut at the helm in Lubbock, Texas, and had talent among the likes of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, fell short of delivering on that front. 

With McGuire comes a level of enthusiasm and unapologetic sense of belief that sets him apart from some of his direct predecessors. His blue-collar mentality and proud Texas roots make him a natural fit for the Red Raiders fanbase, and he wasted little time winning them over in droves after being hired in November 2021. It’s easy to see why when you take into account his debut season, which brought the program its most wins since 2013 (8), its first winning record in conference play since 2009, and a program-first season sweep of SEC-bound conference flagships Texas and Oklahoma. 

Now, perhaps more than ever, there’s reason for Texas Tech to believe it has finally found the leader it long sought after. 

“So many coaches today are trying to manage expectations. … [McGuire] didn’t do that,” Cody Campbell, a Texas Tech regent and member of the hiring committee that landed on McGuire, told CBS Sports. “He believes what he says, and his own belief helps the team, too. He has confidence in them. I love it.”

Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. Where McGuire has gone, winning has typically followed. A 13-year run as coach at Cedar Hill High School outside Dallas brought 141 wins and three state titles. He translated that success to the college level with a four-year stretch at Baylor where he helped engineer two separate rapid rebuilds into Big 12 title contention under both Matt Rhule and Dave Aranda. 

When Texas Tech came calling, McGuire made another leap, producing immediately in his first year by fostering a culture centered around pure belief in his players. The buy-in started with top stars, including an eventual top-10 draft pick in linebacker Tyree Wilson, and permeated throughout the locker room. 

“When you have your best players buy in the fastest, you have a chance to change the culture in a hurry,” McGuire said. “It happened a lot faster than I thought it would, but they bought in. That is what is really good to see right now. It is carrying into this summer.” 

With 16 returning starters, there’s a buzz that hasn’t been felt in some time around Texas Tech going into 2023. All of it comes as remaining and inbound Big 12 schools eye superiority within a league that will soon be void of its two premier brands. If a $200 million-plus investment into new football facilities didn’t make it clear already, the Red Raiders — with a rabid and sizable fanbase working to their advantage — intend to take full advantage of that window. 

“[That investment] shows the rest of college football that Texas Tech is putting a lot behind it, that we are all in,” McGuire said. “It will help in recruiting. And I think there is an opportunity. Somebody, or somebodies, is going to be able to step forward and lead the [new-look] Big 12. … We are going to work our butts off toward [being one of those teams].” 

While that’s not an overnight process, the group taking the field this fall can help Texas Tech move toward that long-term goal. Perhaps best displaying that desired work ethic is incumbent starting quarterback Tyler Shough, whom McGuire believes has merely scratched the surface of his potential.

Collarbone injuries limited Shough to just nine starts since arriving from Oregon in 2021, but he ended 2022 playing the best football of his career. He guided Texas Tech to a four-game winning streak in which he threw for 1,065 yards while completing nearly 64% of his passes.

“[Shough] has a professional approach to what he does,” McGuire said. “I do not think there is anybody on our football team that spends more time getting ready and preparing his stuff.”

Add in Behren Morton, who started four games amid Shough’s absence last fall and has since added 16 pounds of muscle this offseason, and McGuire says his quarterback room embodies the intended “brand” of the program. 

Regardless of who is taking the snaps, the Red Raiders QB can expect increased protection from an offensive line anchored by four seniors. That includes the anticipated debut of Cole Spencer after the all-conference transfer from Western Kentucky was held out last year with a back injury. 

Across the line of scrimmage, losing Wilson isn’t deterring optimism. A veteran-laden defensive front returns Jaylon Hutchings and Tony Bradford Jr. for super-senior seasons at defensive tackle. Behind them will be 6-foot-6, 285-pound super-senior linebacker Myles Cole, who looks poised to follow in Wilson’s footsteps as one of the most disruptive pass rushers in the conference. 

Those pieces, and more, have a fanbase united in the belief this could be merely the start of something special in West Texas, and under a coach who not only understands Texas Tech but is willing to bet on himself and his locker room every step of the way.

“I thought he was the right guy, but he has blown my expectations away in every aspect,” Campbell said. “The way he has built a culture and the team, the way he has recruited, the way he has connected with the alumni and fans, he is the full package when it comes to a head coach.” 

At the heart of McGuire’s message in Year 1 was a simple promise: Texas Tech fans would never leave a game questioning how hard the Red Raiders played. That won’t change as McGuire and Co. look to stake their claim on the frontier of college football’s ever-changing landscape.

“I think if you have a team that will play 60 minutes and is prepared, you are going to have an opportunity to win every game,” McGuire said. “I think we showed that last year of how hard we were going to play. I think now, we just have to build on that.” 

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