Red-letter days

Dec. 12, 2012. The day most Texas Tech fans wanted to tell the world, "Just watch."

Fast-forward to October 2013. Those same fans are now saying, "I told you so."

On Dec. 12, one of Texas Tech's favorite sons, Kliff Kingsbury, came home to coach the Red Raiders. Following a short stint at Houston and one breakout season with Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, Kingsbury instantly became the heartbeat of Lubbock, Texas, once again.

While fans had to wait until August to see it pay off on the field, Kingsbury's enthusiasm was felt immediately on the recruiting trail.

"We're looking for the best players who fit our system. We want kids who love football," Kingsbury said. "We want guys who are passionate about the game. We don't want to have to convince someone to come out here. We want our product to sell itself."

Kingsbury and Texas Tech enter Saturday's clash with Oklahoma with a 7-0 record. Kingsbury is the first Big 12 coach to win his first seven games as a coach. It's been a great year so far, especially considering the Red Raiders were picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 during the preseason.

The youth and energy of Kingsbury's staff is unmistakable. It features six Texas Tech alums -- alongside Kingsbury, there are co-offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Eric Morris, co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith and defensive backs coaches Kevin Curtis and Trey Haverty. Kingsbury is the oldest of the group at 34.

Their passion for their alma mater is infectious among current players and recruits.

"We all played here, so it's easy to sell the program," Kingsbury said. "We lived it, and we love it. Recruits see that and hear it's from the heart. A lot of recruits were just waiting to see how it all showed out.

"Seeing is believing now, and hopefully we can continue progressing as a team."

One player who was instantly sold on the program and the energy of the coaching staff is Patrick Mahomes (Whitehouse, Texas/Whitehouse). The lone quarterback commit of the Red Raiders' 2014 class, Mahomes said he is looking forward to learning the program's high-octane offense under Kingsbury, Cumbie and Morris.

"They all seem like the guys you want to hang out with," Mahomes said. "They're still coaches and they'll get on to you, but they're not there to put you down. Plus, they all went to Texas Tech. You know this is where they want to be, and they are wanting to stay.

"It's not like other places where some coaches you know want to come and go. They were saying how they were talking about coming back when they were our ages. It's good to know you have coaches like that."

Geography has always been an Achilles' heel for Texas Tech. Lubbock is roughly five hours from Dallas and even farther from Austin, San Antonio and Houston. A lot of players aren't able to visit the campus. So the Red Raiders conduct satellite camps during the summer, which give the coaches a chance to show the targets what they bring to the table.

And how do these targets describe the coaches when they meet them? Try energetic. Enthusiastic. Rowdy. Their level of excitement is a major positive when connecting with players.

Todd Rodgers, coach at Argyle (Texas) High, has noticed the positive vibes Kingsbury's staff brings on visits. Rodgers coached Red Raiders freshman offensive lineman Trey Keenan and currently coaches two Texas Tech 2014 commits in receiver Ian Sadler and safety Connor Wilson.

"Kliff's a young buck, and his success at A&M last year was a big deal to these players," Rodgers said. "They saw how he connected to Johnny Manziel. Sonny Cumbie's been recruiting our school for a while. There's a level of comfort with our guys having familiar faces around. I think it's something they like, and having the opportunity to play for a guy like Kliff is something they want to be a part of."

The coaches all mesh well, and when Kingsbury added running backs coach Mike Jinks to his staff, it helped the program recruit the greater San Antonio area. Jinks was a successful high school coach at Cibolo (Texas) Steele, earning a state championship in 2010.

Jinks was key in recruiting two of Texas Tech's top 2014 commits in four-star receiver Byron "Speedy" Daniels (San Antonio/Madison) and four-star running back Justin Stockton (Cibolo, Texas/Steele), his own former standout. Three-star offensive lineman commit Deionte' Noel (Cibolo, Texas/Steele) also played for Jinks.

"Look at what Coach Kingsbury's done," Stockton said, referring to his success at A&M and Texas Tech. "There's swag with him. When he got to Tech, they starting winning. Then, you look at the new uniforms, and the campus is beautiful. Recruits look at that, all that.

"When I went there, I fell in love. The players are listening to what the coaches are saying, and they're playing for the love of the game. They're winning and not letting it get over their heads. Why wouldn't you want to play for them?"

While there's always room for improvement, Kingsbury is happy with where his team is, on the field and on the recruiting trail. Texas Tech has the nation's No. 33 recruiting class for 2014, with 21 total commitments.

And if all goes as planned, there will be more to come in the future.

"There's a culture we want to instill in this program," Kingsbury said. "Each and every day, that's how we are in meeting on the practice field and at schools and at homes where we're trying to recruit. We want all of our kids to have an enjoyable experience.

"We're their coaches, but they're like little brothers to us in that six of us are alumni here. This university means a ton to us. We want to bring that atmosphere with us everywhere, and we want all of our recruits to have that same feeling."