Joey McGuire describes himself as a high school coach who gets to coach college football. He is, after all, a Texas native who won three state championships under the Friday night lights.
McGuire is now head coach at Texas Tech after his transition to college coaching the past five years as an assistant at Baylor, one of the state's other Big 12 schools and the reigning conference champion. He has brought an infectious enthusiasm to an already passionate fan base desperate for a title of its own.
“People have said, ‘How long is that going to take?’ Well, it’s my job to accelerate the process,” McGuire said. “You know, I want it to happen this year, no doubt, and I know the team does too.”
That would be quite a turnaround, considering the Red Raiders haven't had a winning record in Big 12 play since Mike Leach's final season on the Lubbock campus in 2009. When Tech was 7-6 last year after a convincing Liberty Bowl victory over Leach-coached Mississippi State, it was the first time in six seasons it finished above .500 overall.
Regardless of their record this year, McGuire is already building a solid foundation in his first college head coaching job.
His kinship to Texas high school coaches is having a big impact in recruiting. The school has announced plans for a $200 million project with a new locker room and offices in a new four-story building in the stadium's south end zone, along with a new, two-story training facility. And the current players have embraced their new coach.
“I believed that (players) would buy in to what we were going to do, but I didn’t think it was going to be as fast as it has been,” McGuire said. “It’s just been incredible, the trust that the players have put into us and how hard they’ve been working.”
Former Oregon transfer Tyler Shough threw for 872 yards and six touchdowns in his four games last season before a broken collarbone. Donovan Smith started the final four games, including the bowl victory, and redshirt freshman Behren Morton is also in the quarterback mix.
McGuire described “a three-horse race” to be the starter, but anticipates using multiple quarterbacks.
“If Donovan Smith doesn’t win the job, I would be crazy not to have a 6-5, 240-pound quarterback not running quarterback power on the goal line,” the coach said.
MORE ON McGUIRE
Cedar Hill High, in the Dallas area, had never won a playoff game before McGuire’s three championships in 14 seasons. He joined Matt Rhule’s staff at Baylor in 2017, and the Bears were in the Big 12 title game two years later before Rhule left for the NFL.
McGuire stayed with the Bears on coach Dave Aranda’s staff, and they were on way to winning the Big 12 championship when Tech hired him in November to replace the fired Matt Wells. McGuire left immediately to start work in Lubbock while interim coach Sonny Cumbie finished the season on the field.
BACK AT TECH
New offensive coordinator Zach Kittley is familiar with Lubbock, and big-scoring offenses.
Kittley was OC last season at Western Kentucky, which averaged 535 yards and 44 points a game, after big numbers at Houston Baptist the previous year. His dad is Tech's longtime NCAA championship-winning track coach. The younger Kittley worked with Kliff Kingsbury from 2013-17, going from a student assistant to graduate assistant and then assistant QBs coach in a span that included Patrick Mahomes starting for the Red Raiders.
“He’ll say we have Air Raid concepts but we’re not a true Air Raid,” McGuire said of Kittley. “In the interview, he said, ‘Coach, I’m going to find our best 11 players, I’m going to get them on the field, and we’re going to score a lot of points.’”
The season opener Sept. 3 against Murray State is the first of seven home games for the Red Raiders. Five of those are Big 12 games, including No. 9 Oklahoma, No. 10 Baylor and Texas visiting Lubbock. There are back-to-back non-conference games against Top 25 teams when they host future Big 12 team No. 24 Houston on Sept. 10, then go to No. 13 North Carolina State the next week.
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