- K Clayton Hatfield (5-10/185): Think I’m crazy to pick Hatfield as the most important senior? No, I know that you feel the same way that I did. To remind you, for all other kickers other that Hatfield, Texas Tech made 6 of 13 field goals last year and when Hatfield finally was healthy enough to play, he was 6 of 10 in the final 5 games of 2017. So, it 2017, there were only 1.8 attempts per game and 0.9 made field goals per game, so basically the team made 1 field goal per game. Compared to 2016, Texas Tech only attempted 1.2 field goals per game and made 1.1. So, in 2016, Kingsbury was less likely (Mahomes was at quarterback, so that makes a difference) to kick field goals, but Hatfield, who was the only kicker, still only made 1 field goal a game, but made more. If I had to guess, 2018 will be more similar to 2017 than 2016 in that it is more likely that Texas Tech will kick more field goals and with Hatfield at the helm, I think that’s closer to having 6 points per game than 3 and that’s essentially a touchdown a game.
- LB Dakota Allen (6-1/235): Allen led the team in tackles (by only 5) finishing with 102 tackles, and led the team with 11 run stuffs (this was by a wide margin, Mychealon Thomas was second with 7). Allen finished with a success rate of 37%, which was nearly the best on the team. Maybe more than that though is the growth of the defense, which you cannot completely credit to Allen, but because that’s not how football works, but as a team, Texas Tech’s Rushing S&P+ went from ranked 120th overall to 59, Rushing Success Rate from 123rd to 67th, and Rushing IsoPPP from 74th to 39th. Again, that’s not all Allen, but he’s a really big cog in that success and I think you can point to Allen having a large part of that success.
- S Jah’Shawn Johnson (5-10/185): Johnson led the team with 82.5 tackles and he has seemingly done so for the past 5 years. Johnson has always played bigger than his paper and he has 4 tackles for loss, 6 run stuffs, 5 pass break-ups and 1 force fumble his junior year. When putting this top five together, I considered Vaughnte Dorsey for this spot, but Johnson’s numbers are just better, but quite a bit. I think the combination of Dorsey and Johnson is actually pretty good and the one thing that I think Johnson lacks, which is range, was seemingly much better last year. I’d argue that judging safety play is one of the toughest to determine, but with a 60% success rate compared to 72% for Dorsey, Johnson was simply better overall.
- C Paul Stawarz (6-6/295): The most underreported story from the spring was the suspension of Stawarz, who was suspended for the first four practices of the sping. If you think about it, the four players that got into the Bash’s altercation were essentially suspended for a week, same as Stawarz. Whatever negative feelings you might have about those four players (hopefully you don’t have any) should perhaps feel the same way about Stawarz who did something to earn that suspension. Considering how Kliff Kingsbury has always been a pretty straight shooter and the punishments essentially being the same, we’re looking at a similar situation (please don’t read that I think that Stawarz got into an altercation, I have no idea, but whatever it was, it was the same punishment as those four players). Stawarz is a good, but not great player. He’s your solid mid-sized car that won’t impress your friends, but is relatively reliable. The reason why Stawarz is so important is because if he doesn’t play, then you’re most likely looking at a redshirt freshman like Dawson Deaton taking over at the center position.
- S Vaughnte Dorsey (5-11/200): Perhaps the more unheralded of the three JUCO defensive backs that committed as part of the 2017 class, Dorsey really was the best of the three (Octavious Morgan and Jaylon Lane) and it wasn’t close. Dorsey almost immediately became a starter and as a run supporter, he was really good. Dorsey finished with 49.5 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, 3 run stuffs, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble. While maybe 49.5 tackles doesn’t sound like a lot, this was actually 4th on the team. And as a group, the defensive backs had a havoc rate of 5.7 in 2016 and 6.9 in 2017 (again, Dorsey is part of that equation, maybe the biggest part of that was Justus Parker).
Who are the top 5 seniors headed into the 2018 season?