ARLINGTON — Matt Wells is not Kliff Kingsbury. It’s not a surprise that the 45-year-old Wells — the new Texas Tech coach and former Utah State coach of six seasons — is different from the 39-year-old native son Kingsbury, who was fired after going 5-7 in Lubbock last season.
Sure, Wells has a tight end in his offense. And athletic director Kirby Hocutt expects both Tech’s defense and special teams to improve under Wells’ leadership. But what’s the change like for the Red Raiders, who have gone from the six-year tenure of Kingsbury that resulted in three straight losing seasons to Wells, who just posted 10 wins at Utah State?
Defensive lineman Broderick Washington: “Coach Kingsbury was pretty laidback with his [style], but coach Wells, he’s in your face with it. He’s getting on you [if]you’re doing things that we as a team don’t do, or it’s not up to your standards, he lets you know.”
Linebacker Jordyn Brooks: “Kliff, he’s more laidback, more talk to you, teach you the game. Coach Wells, he’s going to get after you. I respect both coaching styles. I don’t think anyone is better than the other. That’s just the difference between the two. … The old staff was more of a rah-rah type group, more hyped up, more energy-type guys. With this staff, it’s more blue-collar, more just stern type of coaching style.”
Defensive back Douglas Coleman III: “He’s more intense. He doesn’t really let anything slide. It’s hard to explain, he’s the definition of a head coach, not going to be your friend. He’s going to tell you what you need to do and you need to do it, or you’re not going to be here.”
Wells went 44-34 overall with Utah State during his six seasons, twice winning Mountain West coach of the year honors, twice winning 10 games and twice winning bowl games. In Wells’ final season, the Aggies were second in the country in scoring offense, averaging 47.5 points per game, sandwiched between Oklahoma and Alabama.
Tech hasn’t needed help on offense, though. Not with Mike Leach’s air raid offense cementing the Red Raiders’ reputation as an offensive powerhouse.
When Wells succeeded with Utah State, so did his defenses. In his three winning seasons, the Aggies ranked seventh, 12th and 22nd nationally in scoring defense. In his three losing seasons, the Aggies ranked 61st, 73rd and 67th in scoring defense.
It’s part of what drew Hocutt to Wells, plus the experience of previously being a head coach.
“Still, to this day, I haven’t heard one less-than-positive word about Matt Wells and who he is as a coach and who he is as a man,” Hocutt said. “I watched his Utah State teams and the way that they played, the style of football that they played and you saw a head coach who had great success early and then had some challenging years and re-established the program where they won 10 games this year.”
When Wells met with the Red Raiders following his hiring, his message was clear: we’re here to win now.
Tech showed signs of promise last season, winning road games at Oklahoma State and TCU. But then it lost the final five games of the season, including losses to Oklahoma and Texas by a combined 12 points.
“None of these guys chose Texas Tech, the returning guys, because of Matt Wells or because of our staff,” Wells said. “I recognize that and I understand that. I chose Texas Tech because of them. But I respect our players, the work that they’ve put in and I can see a hunger and a passion, especially for the seniors. I think I owe that, as a first-year head coach of these seniors, to win and win right now.”
In a way, Wells is in new territory. He’s only spent one season at a BCS or Power Five school as Louisville’s receivers coach in 2009. He’s never coached a Texas school. He’s never moved from one head coaching job to another.
But then again, this is what Wells does, he’ll tell you.
“I coach ball,” Wells said. “I recruit. I develop relationships. We put our offense, our defense, the way we do academics, the way we do strength and conditioning, we’re doing it all the same way. We’re tweaking it for Lubbock. We’re tweaking it for the Big 12. Every situation is a little different. No nerves, man. This is what we do.”
Parker done at Texas Tech: Justus Parker’s career at Texas Tech is over.
Texas Tech confirmed Monday that the defensive back was suspended for one year by the NCAA and as a senior is no longer on the team. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal first reported the news.
Parker had a breakout 2017 with 42 tackles, four forced fumbles and four interceptions, including a key pick in the fourth quarter against Texas.
“Justus had a good career,” new coach Matt Wells told Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “It’s an unfortunate for him, but he’s out.”
Chuck Carlton contributed to this article.
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