Pick a list of embattled college football coaches heading into this season and you’ll find Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury included.
Coming out of spring football drills, CBSSports.com ranked him No. 3 among its top five coaches on the hottest seats nationally. He’s been a recurring top 10 inclusion in other lists this summer and, as of Monday, Kingsbury held down the No. 18 spot on the list posted by CoachesHotSeat.com.
Against that backdrop, Kingsbury addressed his expectations for this season during Monday’s first day of Big 12 football media days at The Star. He stressed that he anticipates sitting in the same seat at this same function next July despite the mounting criticism.
“It comes with the territory. Obviously, we know what’s at state. We know we have to be much-improved,” said Kingsbury, whose team is coming of a 5-7 record and has posted a 13-23 mark in Big 12 competition in his first four seasons at his alma mater. “But that’s part of the job. Everybody but the four that make the playoff are basically on the hot seat in college football. You’re coaching for your job every year and we know that. I don’t feel any more pressure than I ever have. I always expect to win.”
Kingsbury, a standout quarterback under former Tech coach Mike Leach, has a contract that runs through the 2020 season but has drawn criticism for the team’s defensive struggles that have contributed to an overall mark of 17-26 during his last 43 games.
That stretch followed a 7-0 break from the gate in Kingsbury’s debut season in Lubbock (2013) that lifted the team into the top 10. But the Red Raiders lost their next five games before closing with a 37-23 victory over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. Tech’s longest winning streak thereafter has been three in a row to start the 2015 season.
The Red Raiders missed out on a bowl game last year behind NFL-bound quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the FBS leader in total offense, because the defense finished last among FBS programs in scoring defense (43.5) and total defense (554.3 yards per game). The hope for improvement this season, in Kingsbury’s estimation, stems from increased defensive continuity under third-year defensive coordinator David Gibbs. A former NFL assistant, Gibbs is Tech’s longest-tenured defensive coordinator since the 2009 season.
During Monday’s session, Kingsbury fielded a question from one reporter who asked why he could not assemble a defensive depth chart capable of holding opponents to 30 points or less against FBS teams.
“I wish I had the answer,” Kingsbury said with a wry smile. “We haven’t been good enough defensively … As a head coach, if falls on me. No question.”