ARLINGTON — Meatheads spend the summer lifting weights. Texas Tech lineman Travis Bruffy spent his working on the foreign currency exchange desk at Credit Suisse.
Football nerds study their playbooks. Bruffy spent time shadowing floor traders and studying the quantitative impact of President Trump’s tweets about the U.S. dollar heading into the G20 summit.
What else would you expect from someone who grew up listening to Bloomberg radio before middle school?
“It’s a lot to take in, but I was trying to get as much experience as possible,” said Bruffy, the 6-6, 300-pound tackle from Missouri City. “Seeing how they attack every single day is similar to how we approach football.”
Other than Bruffy, nobody in the Tech locker room cares about the Federal Reserve, the dot plot, a strong dollar or the crazy asset bubble in cryptocurrencies. “Bitcoin is fairy dust. What is the value of fairy dust?,” Bruffy said.
Everyone wearing scarlet and black sure knows the rising value of being a Red Raider.
New coach Matt Wells carried himself like a veteran during his first appearance at Big 12 media days on Monday at AT&T Stadium. Since his hiring from Utah State, Wells has watched the men’s basketball, baseball and track teams all reach incredible, championship heights.
“You can win in Lubbock,” Wells said.
Think back to how Tech basketball captured the state and nation’s attention in March. That feeling would only be magnified if the football program can break out of its sub-.500 ways.
“I hope so. It’s only been expressed thousands and thousands of times,” defensive lineman Broderick Washington Jr. said. “I mean what can you say, really? A final four in baseball and in basketball? Those are major sports. Football’s been at the bottom for a while. We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to do something big.”
Tech hasn’t enjoyed a double-digit winning season since 2008. Kliff Kingsbury was 35-40 the last six years before his exit. Now comes Wells, who had a 44-34 record the last six seasons at Utah State.
If Kingsbury was Mr. Red Raider, Wells is Mr. Right Now.
“At some point, you’ve got to get fed up with not being able to go out as a champion,” Washington said.
Fourth-quarter meltdowns and erratic quarterback play were Kingsbury’s undoing. Talented freshman Alan Bowman played eight games last season but missed the stretch run with a partially collapsed lung. When he went out, so did the air in Tech’s balloon.
“It fell apart because some people were so dependent on Alan being the starting quarterback,” defensive back Douglas Coleman III said. Washington and linebacker Jordyn Brooks agreed.
“He got hurt, and that kind of crushed some people’s spirits and whatnot,” Coleman said. “Then you look back and say, ‘Well, if he had played this game, we would have won.’ They were close games, even with our backup quarterback.”
Wells can’t play the what-if game, not when he’s got a fresh start with a healthy Bowman. “Full, completely cleared, healthy, went through all of spring,” the coach said. “I’m looking forward to coaching Alan these next three years.”
Wells and his staff also went hard in the graduate transfer market, landing six players that could make an instant impact. Receiver McLane Mannix (Nevada), defensive back Zech McPhearson (Penn State) and linebacker Evan Rambo (California) all have two years of eligibility remaining.
It’s not like the Red Raiders are a total rebuild. Tech had Texas on the ropes in the fourth quarter before Sam Ehlinger hit Lil’Jordan Humphrey for a dazzling 28-yard touchdown to seal UT’s 41-34 win. Cornerback Damarcus Fields returns this season while Humphrey has moved on to the NFL.
“We’ll probably beat Texas right now,” Coleman said with disgust. “It just goes back to technique. He lost vision of the ball. But as a DB, you’ve got to have short-term memory.”
Brooks is sure looking forward. Twice he’s led the Raiders in tackles. This new defense, he promises, is more attack driven and blitz friendly. The current players didn’t pick Wells, he said, but the coach picked them.
“It definitely feels different,” Brooks said. “It’s the same locker room, same walls, same food. But it’s new people, so it kind of feels like a fresh start. There’s nothing that was necessarily wrong, but I feel like a fresh start is good for everybody.”
Tech fans already have their Guns Up. They want to keep ’em up.
“We know that Lubbock and West Texas is crying to have a team they can support as passionately as they did for basketball,” Bruffy said. “We need to fill those shoes and do it.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.