As I sit there and do my projections for the various position groups, the position group that probably is most overlooked from the 2015 recruiting class is the offensive line. The coaches were pretty intent on doing at least two things in the 2015 class: 1) re-stock the offensive line so that when it was hit with graduation this year, there would be some depth; and 2) continue to add talent and depth at the wide receiver position. Don’t get me wrong, I think there were plenty of other things accomplished in that class, but from a sheer numbers standpoint, those were the two areas of need.
We’ll focus on the offensive line at this post, but just consider where the 2016 team would be without the 2015 linemen, albeit, they are young and without experience, they have as high of an upside as any in the conference. And the good thing is that this group is essentially adding to the guys that were forced into action. Justin Murphy ended up being a steal as a redshirt freshman. Baylen Brown saw a ton of time at tackle and guard. Robert Castaneda was baptized very suddenly and I think he realized how he has to work on his footwork to be a standout player. There are were some good parts there, but I think they are mostly inside players.
But without the 2015 recruiting class, I don’t know that Texas Tech would have had enough tackle prospects to even be remotely competent in 2016 and although they are redshirts, or they will be, I really do think that Steele and Akamnonu will be studs, Steele being the “steal” of the 2015 class
I’d also add that I’m hoping like heck that the new strength and conditioning coach Rusty Whitt is a bit of a game-changer for some of these guys. I fully admit that not all added weight is good weight. I’m not looking for these guys to add pounds just for the sake of adding weight, but I’m hoping that maybe something different will push these guys a bit to be bigger and nastier. I think the line needs that.
Madison Akamnonu: During Akamnonu’s redshirt season, he’s put on about 20 pounds, checking in at 282 and now at 305. Akamnonu was always pretty lean and athletic, he carried that 282 really well, but seeing how easy he put on weight makes me think that he’s going to be a left tackle and as Don Williams wrote earlier this year about the redshirts, Akamnonu should get the first crack at replacing Le’Raven Clark.
Terrance Steele: Another guy that’s currently around 300 pounds and in the Williams’ write-ups, offensive line coach Lee Hays said that Steele was the quickest offensive lineman on the team and was pushing Le’Raven Clark for the fastest lineman on the team. Steele really was an underrated prospect, mainly because (my theory here) because he pretty much shut down recruiting and he didn’t set his highlight video to public. We saw some very raw junior film of him, but his development from his junior year to senior year was supposed to be a complete body transformation in the sense he went from being a big kid with lots of baby fat to a man. Extra work. So Steele was pretty much an unknown and still is to an extent. At the very least, you have two solid tackle options in addition to Justin Murphy. This team needs some options.
Conner Dyer: Dyer is said to be a guard or center, an inside guy at all, and the one thing that stood out to me when discussed earlier in the year was that Dyer is very aggressive as a run blocker, but needs work as a pass blocker. At least for me, lacking in the pass blocking is the least of my worries as I tend to think this is a bit easier to remedy than the run blocking aspect. Dyer is still a bit light, not at 275 just yet, but I think Texas Tech is more covered at guard and center than other spots.
Trace Ellison: Ellison is another guard prospect and the one thing that I didn’t know when Williams had his write-ups was how young Ellison is as he was only 17 when he signed with Texas Tech and he’s already at 300 pounds.
Paul Stawarz: This is the guy that I think a lot of folks tend to forget about. He was hobbled when he arrived on campus in the summer and he never really recovered from that injury, at least to the point where the coaches felt that he could compete. Watching the video of Stawarz from when he played JUCO ball, he seemed to be a natural guard, but maybe he’ll be a swing guy, much like Baylen Brown. Brown seems like he’s a better guard than tackle, and Stawarz could play at tackle in a pinch, but is probably a better guard overall.
Cody Wheeler: Wheeler is probably the longest shot because he still has some weight to gain, only at 280, but that was most likely the case when he signed because he was the biggest project. Still, even at 280, that’s about the size that Kaster played, so it wouldn’t be impossible. The best thing is that Wheeler has a good head on his shoulders and is said to be able to make the right calls for the offensive line.