Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders begin a pivotal season on Saturday when they host Eastern Washington in Lubbock. Here are five takeaways from Kingsbury’s first press conference of the season.
1. High praise for Eastern Washington
Kingsbury made it clear that Eastern Washington won’t be an easy opponent. The Eagles went 12-2 last season and are ranked as a top-five team in the FCS to begin this season.
Eastern Washington also returns its star quarterback in Gage Gubrud, who threw for 5,160 yards and won multiple FCS Player of the Year Awards. Kingsbury compared Gubrud to former Houston quarterback Case Keenum, who Kingsbury coached while with the Cougars.
“Very well coached, first and foremost. Lots of talent,” Kingsbury said. “They had two players drafted last year in the NFL and some others still in camp. They are a very good opponent. It’ll be a good test for us to start the year.”
2. Thinking about Houston
Houston has been ravaged by catastrophic flooding due to Hurricane Harvey. Kingsbury was an assistant at the University of Houston from 2008-2011 and multiple players on the Texas Tech roster are from the Houston area.
“We just get daily updates from our players,” Kingsbury said. “Our thoughts and players are with their families.”
Kingsbury also spoke highly of Texas schools helping each other out in the wake of Harvey. The University of Houston is practicing at the University of Texas this week while Rice has set up shop at TCU.
“It’s awesome,” Kingsbury said. “I think anytime, especially in our state, when you have something like this you see the kind of people we have in this state and the kind of leadership we have in this state.”
3. Running back rotation is a question
The running back rotation remains a question mark for Kingsbury. Sophomore Da’Leon Ward led Texas Tech in rushing last season as a true freshman, but missed fall camp with academic issues.
Kingsbury said he expects senior running back Justin Stockton to start Saturday’s game and the team will rotate through running backs from there.
“I think Justin Stockton will start the game, and then we’ll roll with it from there,” Kingsbury said.
4. Shimonek is ready
Fifth-year senior quarterback Nik Shimonek will make his starting debut on Saturday against the Eagles. Kingsbury said in Monday’s Big 12 teleconference that he feels comfortable with Shimonek, and said Tuesday there shouldn’t be any nerves in his first start.
Shimonek passed for 464 yards and six touchdowns as…