Everyone, please welcome Kyle, the newest front page writer for Staking The Plains.
The last week has been a turbulent one for Texas Tech football fans. On Thursday many were taken by surprise by the announcement that former five star defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko would be seeking a transfer. With Fehoko’s announcement the Red Raiders have now lost the top three signees (Breiden Fehoko, Corey Dauphine and Conner Dyer) from the 2015 recruiting class since the start of the 2016 season. On Saturday the it was revealed that offensive line coach Lee Hays and running backs coach DeShaun Foster would not be returning for the 2017 season. Finally Sunday brought the de-commitment of cornerback Adam Beck. The losses of a highly rated player, two position coaches and a valuable recruit are leading to many questions about the direction that the program is headed. These recent losses highlight the uncertainty around recruiting and trying to predict which 17 and 18 year old players will be successful at the Power 5 level in college football.
Do Recruiting Stars Make A Player An On Field Success?
The three most recent Tech coaches (Leach, Tuberville And Kingsbury) have all had their fair share of recruiting glory as well as busts. Over the last 15 years Texas Tech has signed 90 players who carried a four or five star rating. Of those 90 players only twenty were consensus four/five star players by Rivals, Scout and 247 recruiting services. The list of twenty consensus four/five star players has names like Jace Amaro, Graham Harrell and Eric Ward as well as names like Michael Starts, Johnnie Mack and Scotty Young. There are thirteen players who were rated four stars by at least two rating services, among them Bradley Marquez and Robert Johnson as well as Dan Christian and Brandon Mahoney. That leaves 57 players who were rated four stars by at least one of the three big recruiting services. The list has plenty of players who produced big results for Texas Tech like DeAndre Washington, Michael Crabtree and Patrick Mahomes as well as players who didn’t produce much like Pearlie Graves, Todd Walker and Scott Smith. For every player whose production matched their stars there is a player who didn’t produce anything. Texas Tech thrived under Mike Leach by taking two and three star players and developing them into high level players more recently the team has had plenty of star power but lacked the core necessary on both sides of the ball to effectively compete with the Big 12’s best. Stars certainly matter but Texas Tech will rarely find itself in the same area of the recruiting rankings that Oklahoma and Texas will, that doesn’t mean we can’t compete with the next tier of schools for talent.
Does Recruiting Class Makeup Matter?
If the 2017 recruiting class stays as it is currently constructed this will be the first time in Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure that there have been more recruits on defense than on offense. The last Tech class that tilted more heavily towards defense was 2012, which was for the most part a busted class. It’s not entirely unprecedented for Tech to recruit more heavily on the defensive side of the ball. Of Tommy Tuberville’s three recruiting classes two of them had more defenders. More surprisingly five of Mike Leach’s ten recruiting classes brought in higher defensive numbers, two of his recruiting classes were equally distributed and three were offense heavy. In the Leach years Tech brought in 115 players on offense and 121 on defense. Tuberville similarly brought in 36 players on offense with 49 on defense. Kingsbury has strayed a bit from his predecessors by recruiting 62 players on offense while only recruiting 52 defenders. The recent deficit of defensive recruits along with attrition and recruits not panning out has definitely led to a lack of production defensively. The 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes have been more balanced however it’s almost impossible to compete defensively using mostly true and red shirt freshman. See the table below for recruiting class breakouts throughout the years:
There is no doubt that Mike Leach’s tenure set the gold standard for consistently winning at Tech. When looking at Leach’s recruiting profile he’s started off remarkably similarly at both Texas Tech and Washington State. In his first five years at each stop Leach has averaged around 12 defensive recruits in each recruiting class and around 11 offensive players per class. In Kingsbury’s first five recruiting classes at Tech he’s averaged a little over 10 defensive recruits per class and 12 offensive recruits per class. Over a five year period the result is 1o fewer defensive players who can be developed by Tech’s coaching staff. Of the 41 defensive recruits who have signed letters of intent since 2013 only 22 remain listed on the Spring roster, of those 22 only 10 are juniors or seniors. High attrition rates and undersigning defensive players has certainly left Tech in a rough spot the last two seasons, the current hope is that the four juco transfers who are on campus for spring camp will all be difference makers.
Is There A Recruiting Recipe For Success At Tech?
When taking an average of the three recruiting rankings over the last four seasons Kansas State has the ninth ranked recruiting profile, their average recruit has 2.67 stars yet they average eight wins per season which ranks fifth in the Big 12. The thing that Kansas State does better than almost anyone is take talent and develop it for their type of playing style. The average Texas Tech recruit has averaged 2.9 stars over the last four seasons which puts them in the same class as Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia. Having similar talent is important but developing depth and stocking talent is where Tech differs from the other three as well as Kansas State. When Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia take the field they’re playing with red shirt sophomores, juniors and seniors. The fact of the matter is that Tech has relied the last few seasons on too many true and red shirt freshman to compete with upperclassmen and the results haven’t been good.
The 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes aren’t flashy or exciting in many ways but they are filled with kids who should make a nice base of talent to build on long term. The recruiting recipe for success at Tech like any school is balance with an eye towards building long term depth across the board. With each successive winning season better players with more stars will be more interested in Tech, for now Tech has to take what they can get on the recruiting trail. No matter what signing day looks like next week the kids who sign more than likely won’t be the ones that make or break this season for Coach Kingsbury, this season will be built on how successful the staff has been at developing the young talent from previous years signing days.