LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — The Texas Tech offense has grabbed the headlines for years.
Last season, it wasn't nearly enough to make up for a bad defense as the Red Raiders wound up with their first losing season in 19 years. Enter new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman, who has overhauled the unit headed into Saturday night's season opener against Northwestern State.
Players are no longer "hoping not to mess up" as they were last season, senior safety D.J. Johnson said.
"The fact of the matter of what happened last year is really a confidence booster," Johnson said of the defense. "All we can do from there is get better, so there is no way to go but up."
Kaufman is the third defensive coordinator in as many years under coach Tommy Tuberville, and the two are friends from their days in the Southeastern Conference. Whether that friendship will be tested this season is an open question.
Tech's defense gave up a school-record 471 points a year ago and the Red Raiders were outscored in the last five games by an average of 51-20. Twice in three weeks, the defense allowed opponents a school-record 66 points and the season ended with a 5-7 record that cost them a bowl trip for the first time in 11 years.
The Red Raiders ended the season ranked No. 114 in total defense and last, No. 120, in defending the rush.
Quarterback Seth Doege has practiced against the Red Raiders defense and said fans will see "a vast improvement" because players are more experienced and they trust Kaufman, who replaced Chad Glasgow of TCU. Glasgow is back with the Horned Frogs.
"I feel like the fact that they do trust their coach and want to play for him is just head over heels what they were last year," Doege said. "I think they're a lot better and they'll surprise some people on Saturday how much they have improved."
Tuberville knows fans were left wanting after last season.
"We hope we have a lot of fans jump back on board that jumped off board over the course of last year," he said.