By Beth Blaney/The Associated Press
LUBBOCK, Texas — Tommy Tuberville has had some sleepless nights since arriving in West Texas.
He can’t stop hearing the wind. It howls at night and blasts his family’s new home with gusts up to 50 mph. Tumbleweed from nearby cotton fields blow all over the place.
“There’s nothing to block the wind so when it’s blowing (at Tech) it’s double that out in the middle of the cotton fields,” Tuberville said.
But that’s life on the wind-swept South Plains, where all kinds of changes are blowing through the Texas Tech football program.
Tuberville, who’d been out of coaching for a year, was hired by Texas Tech in mid-January, less than two weeks after the university fired Mike Leach for cause following allegations he mistreated a player with a concussion. Leach has denied the accusations and has filed a lawsuit against the school alleging slander, libel and breach of contract.
The 55-year-old Tuberville spent the first couple of months talking up Tech football to fans across the state, visiting recruits and getting his family settled in their new home on the outskirts of Lubbock. He’s already found his favorite steakhouse in beef-heavy Texas, though that’s not the Arkansas native’s favorite meat.
“I might have moved to West Texas, but I’m still a pork guy,” he said. “I like pork ribs. I grew up on pork.”
On the field, Tuberville has invited the public to attend spring practices — a shift from last year when Leach closed the sessions — and the pace during the workouts has been sped up dramatically.
There’s more supervision by position coaches — before, during and after the end of plays — and players like it.
type:bold,italic;”It’s really exciting,” linebacker Brian Duncan said. “It’s different. It’s big-time different, but it’s good for us.”
While the defensive players are adjusting to the changes, the learning curve isn’t as steep on offense, where Tuberville only plans to make subtle changes to Tech’s pass-happy scheme.
That’s probably a good thing since the two senior quarterbacks vying for the starting role, Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield, both went out with injuries in late March and won’t return for spring workouts.
Sheffield had surgery to repair the same bone in his left foot that he broke at Nebraska last season. Potts, last year’s starter, split the webbing between his right index and middle fingers when he hit his hand on a teammate’s helmet while following through on a pass.
“Obviously, we get to work on our running game a little bit more,” said Tuberville, who has said he’ll use the rush more. “We need to do that anyway.”
Tuberville’s boss likes what he sees, calling him a “CEO-type coach.”
“I’m really pleased with how he’s handled things and adjusted to a new situation,” Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said. “He kind of has his hands on everything and knows what’s going on.”
In 2000, Leach brought a high-octane aerial offense to Texas Tech that put up gaudy numbers. Tech’s starting quarterback led the nation in passing in all but two of Leach’s 10 seasons.
One of those two instances came last fall, when Potts went out with a concussion and Sheffield broke his foot.
Though Tuberville says he’ll select his starter about two weeks before Tech’s opener against SMU on Sept. 5, he plans to play both quarterbacks next season.
“You hate to have a quarterback controversy, but when you have two seniors there’s no way around it,” Tuberville said.
Sheffield threw for 1,219 yards and 14 touchdowns while appearing in six games last season. Potts had 3,440 yards and 22 touchdowns in 11 games.
Tuberville said he knows he can take Tech to the next level.
“It’s not our first rodeo. We’ve been to two other places and been successful,” he said. ”
Tuberville was 85-40 at Auburn, including a 13-0 season in 2004 when the Tigers finished No. 2, won the SEC title for the first time in 15 years and Tuberville won the AP Coach of the Year award.
Before going to Auburn, Tuberville coached at Mississippi and was 25-20 in four years. He also spent a year as defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, helping the Aggies finish 10-0-1 and rank among the nation’s defensive leaders.
He inherits a program that went 9-4 last season and 84-43 under Leach. Tuberville understands he needs to prove to Tech fans he knows how to win.
“It never is easy when you have changeover, but I like the potential here,” he said. “I think whatever we want to do here we can do.”