The 2017 Texas Tech football signing class became official yesterday, as recruits officially signed their letters of intent to play for the Red Raiders. Now that the ink is dry on the letters and the fax machine has cooled off, let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of this class, and how it will help shape the Texas Tech roster.
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2016 saw the worst Texas Tech offensive line play in the Air Raid era (dating back to the 2000 season). The Red Raiders averaged a Big-12 worst 3.2 yards per carry and an anemic 103.6 rushing yards per game behind a line that featured two redshirt freshmen at the tackle spots in week one.
Furthermore, six offensive linemen left the program during or after the 2016 season due to injury, graduation or dismissal. Two of those players, guard Justin Murphy and guard/tackle Baylen Brown combined for 46 career starts.
Enter five offensive line signees, headlined by Frisco, TX guard Jack Anderson (ranked by some recruiting services as a top-10 recruit in Texas). While Anderson is rated as a 4-star prospect, the other four Texas Tech offensive line signees have been given three-star rankings.
Four of the signees (Anderson, Dawson Deaton, Will Farrar, and JUCO signee Jacob Hines) are already enrolled in classes at Texas Tech and will participate in spring practices. Look for all five to compete for significant playing time as new offensive line coach Brandon Jones looks to bolster a unit that will not have the luxury of having Pat Mahomes (and his remarkable ability to evade pass rushers) to cover up the unit’s deficiencies.
Don Williams of the “Lubbock Avalanche Journal” sees more than one of the four true freshmen receiving playing time next season.
“…it’s not out of the question that, like last season, more than one true freshman could see playing time in 2017. It’s a combination of Anderson, Deaton and Farrar all entering with the requisite size and skills and the Red Raiders’ thin numbers.”
Texas Tech has signed five highly-coveted offensive linemen in this class. Now these players must prove to be different than recent offensive line signees and become the backbone of the offense.
If there truly is strength in numbers, the 2017 Texas Tech defensive back class should be a solid haul. With six defensive backs inked yesterday, the position fills almost 1/3 of entire class.
While all six of the new Texas Tech defensive backs are rated as three-star prospects, the headliner of the group is JUCO signee Jaylon Lane. He is the most talented pass defender that Texas Tech is brining aboard and he comes to Lubbock with the most colorful backstory.
After an ugly incident cost the former four-star prospect a scholarship out of high school, he comes to Texas Tech after playing a year at Independence Community College. Expect the 6-foot-1, 185-pound corner to receive every opportunity earn a starting spot on the much-maligned Red Raider defense.
Two other JUCO signees, Vaughnte Dorsey and Octavius Morgan should push for a spot in the defensive back rotation where depth is always needed in the pass-happy Big 12.
Three true freshmen, John Davis, Adrian Frye and Quincy Addison are less likely to see the field in 2017 but should help provide defensive coordinator David Gibbs with quality depth moving forward as he continues to try to rebuild the Red Raider defense.
No team in America fielded a worse defense in 2016 than Texas Tech (per total yards allowed), and one of the biggest problems was the lack of playmakers along the defensive line.
Though Texas Tech ranked No. 117 out of 128 teams in total sacks (14) the 2017 class features only one defensive end, three-star prospect Nelson Mbanasor of Pflugerville, TX. Given the difficulty of the jump from high school to college football, fans should not expect Mbanasor to be an instant difference-maker in 2017. If he even cracks the defensive end rotation as a dependable backup, he will be exceeding expectations usually placed on true freshmen.
Even more troubling to most is the fact that the Red Raiders did not sign one defensive tackle in 2017. Just over a week ago, the coaching staff was blindsided by junior defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko’s sudden decision to leave the already porous Texas Tech defensive line even more thin up the middle. Defensive tackles are in high demand and it was unreasonable to expect Texas Tech to sign a quality player to plug the middle to replace Fehoko.
Given that Texas Tech brought seven defensive linemen on board in 2016 (including four defensive tackles, of which three remain with the program) the plan for 2017 was to be more selective with the defensive linemen offered this year. However, bringing on board only one player to help with the team’s biggest weakness seems to be a critical error in judgment.
Texas Tech has become synonymous with receivers during the Air Raid Era. But in 2017 the Red Raiders have signed only one pass-catcher, Nate Shelton, an un-ranked inside receiver from Sachse, TX.
The team’s plan was to bring aboard three-star prospect Bronson Boyd from Arlington, TX as the team’s only wide receiver signee. However, Boyd was kicked off the team last weekend after an incident in which he allegedly cut a fellow 2017 signee, Will Farrar, with a knife during an altercation.
Expect Texas Tech to continue looking for a wide receiver to add to this class whether it be a late signee, a JUCO prospect or a graduate transfer but regardless, the absence of a highly-ranked wide receiver leaves a huge hole in the 2017 class. Fortunately, this season the Red Raiders have more proven depth on the roster at receiver than at any other position.