Not winning enough games has made job security for Kliff Kingsbury a precarious proposition this season at Texas Tech.
Not too long ago, Kingsbury was the “Prince of the High Plains” after arriving with much ballyhoo after his playing career with the Red Raiders and his early success with Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M.
But after stumbling to a 5-7 record in 2016 — the school’s second time without a bowl appearance in three seasons — Kingsbury’s seat is toasty in his fifth season.
“It comes with the territory,” Kingsbury said. “We know what’s at stake and that we’ve got to be much improved. But everybody who doesn’t make one of the four playoff spots are basically on the hot seat.”
Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt gave Kingsbury a ringing endorsement after last season despite losing six of Tech’s last eight games.
“You’re coaching for your job every year,” Kingsbury said. “We know that. I don’t feel any more pressure than I ever have. I expect to win and give Texas Tech what it deserves and their fans and the university.
“To me, we’re moving forward and trying to improve. But it’s not something you try to dwell upon.”
Those struggles clearly frustrate the one-time darling of the program.
“Not being able to get over that hump for our players, our students and our alumni,” Kingsbury said. “You just want it for them. We have incredible fans and really good teams and we just kind of hovered. We’ve got to get over that somehow.”
Kingsbury accepted the blame for the Red Raiders’ recent defensive struggles marking the program last season. The Red Raiders were 128th in total defense, 116th in rushing defense, 125th in passing yards allowed, 121st in team pass efficiency defense, 128th in scoring defense and 100th in defensive third- down conversion percentage in last season’s struggles.
“It falls on me, no question,” Kingsbury said.
The transition under Tech defensive coordinator David Gibbs also has been rocky at times.
“Coach Gibbs came in and it wasn’t a great situation,” Kingsbury said. “He’s still working through it even in year three.”
But transitioning with new coaches provides hope for Kingsbury that his defense will improve.
“This is the first time he’s been able to bring in coaches and players he’s comfortable with,” Kingsbury said. “I expect us to be improved. I liked what we saw this spring. We played a lot of young players on defense last year. I’m hoping those snaps pay dividends this year.”