After Texas Tech introduced Joey McGuire as its next head football coach, Tech track and field coach Wes Kittley was in the welcome line to greet him with a handshake. Cameras captured McGuire telling Kittley, "You've got a rock star son."
Now the rock-star son is part of McGuire's band.
Zach Kittley, who as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Western Kentucky this season has the FBS' leading passer and second highest-scoring offense, has agreed to take the same position on McGuire's new staff at Texas Tech.
Kittley accepted the job Sunday night after interviewing earlier in the day. Tech announced his hiring Monday.
"Zach Kittley represents one of the top young offensive minds in college football, and we are thrilled to add him to our staff as offensive coordinator,” McGuire said in Tech's announcement. "In a short amount of time, Zach has built a reputation as an innovative play-caller and effective developer of quarterbacks. We’re excited to welcome him and his family back home to Texas Tech."
Kittley, 30, is a Frenship graduate and will return to the city where his career began. Kittley was on the Tech football staff from 2013-17 under Kliff Kingsbury, first as a student assistant, then as an offensive intern and finally as a graduate assistant.
During that time, Kingsbury lauded Kittley's work with Red Raiders quarterbacks.
Kittley departed to become offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2018-20 at Houston Baptist and then moved to Western Kentucky this season. WKU is averaging 43.1 points per game. Quarterback Bailey Zappe has thrown for 5,545 yards and 56 touchdowns, 1,100-plus yards and 13 TD passes more than any other FBS passer.
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With a bowl game remaining, Zappe is within reach of FBS single-season records of 5,833 yards passing set by Tech's B.J. Symons in 2003 and 60 touchdown passes set by LSU's Joe Burrow in 2019. Zappe, a Victoria East graduate, followed Kittley from Houston Baptist to Western Kentucky after last season.
Western Kentucky is 8-5 this season and won the Conference USA East Division with a 7-1 record. UT-San Antonio hosted and beat the Hilltoppers 49-41 on Friday night in the Conference USA championship game.
WKU accepted an invitation on Sunday to play Appalachian State (10-3) on Dec. 18 in the Boca Raton Bowl.
"My family and I are excited to return to Texas Tech and a place I love so much as the offensive coordinator," Kittley said. "This is a dream come true for me personally, and I can’t thank coach McGuire enough for the opportunity. I’m looking forward to meeting our players soon and immediately getting to work in building this offense into one of the nation’s elite units."
According to information provided Sunday by three A-J Media sources, Kittley, Kent State offensive coordinator Andrew Sowder and Southern California offensive coordinator Graham Harrell had all spoken recently with McGuire about the position Sonny Cumbie will soon vacate.
Tech gave Kittley his first power-five offensive coordinator opportunity just before others might have grabbed him. A source told A-J Media that Kittley or his agent had been contacted recently by Miami, though that was before reports surfaced that Miami was moving to replace head coach Manny Diaz with Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, which happened Monday.
More recently, Mississippi and Auburn, the latter on Sunday, had made overtures to Kittley.
Such a step up has appeared to be coming for a few years.
Kingsbury trusted Kittley enough to, at times, delegate the quarterbacks' preparation to his young aide.
"It's definitely freed up some time when I can go sit in different meeting rooms, go talk to different coaches and hand it over to him, trusting that," Kingsbury said in April 2017, "because I haven't really been with another guy that was underneath me that I trusted like that with the quarterbacks. He's really sharp. He's got a rapport with those guys. The sky's the limit, I think."
Cumbie, the Red Raiders' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach this season, last week was hired by Louisiana Tech to be the Bulldogs' head coach. He's scheduled to return to Lubbock when an NCAA recruiting dead period begins on Dec. 13 and coach the Red Raiders through the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 28.
Interestingly enough, Cumbie was the Tech football staff member who first took Kittley under his wing. Zach Kittley spent two years as a student manager for his father's track and field team, then decided he wanted to be a football coach.
Some of his first steps in that regard were taken under Cumbie's watch.
After Cumbie left to join the TCU staff, Kittley stayed on under Kingsbury.
"He started at the bottom," Kingsbury said in 2017. "I met him a few years ago. He was grinding on film and doing some of that type of stuff. The last couple of years, he's sat in the meeting room with me.
"I watched his rapport. I'd give him the young guys to work with, and he did a fantastic job with them, did a fantastic job with summer camps working with quarterbacks. I just really like his energy and the way he coaches and the way he handles those guys, so now I feel comfortable giving him that room and letting him work with those guys full-time."
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: College football: Kittley chosen as Texas Tech offensive coordinator