Football

Football Is Embracing West Texas

In recent memory, it seemed Texas Tech Football hasn’t recruited West Texas very well. Over the past year, all that has seemed to change.

One of the coolest things in sports is when a local kid stays home and thrives in his hometown. You get to watch that athlete grow up before your very eyes and become a star in the college or professional ranks. It’s always neat to see the Joe Mauer and Cal Ripkin’s of the world. Recently, we’ve seen some of the best athletes in our programs come from local schools.

Obviously, the first one that comes to mind is Jarrett Culver (Lubbock). When Chris Beard was hired, his main priority was to keep Culver home. And he did so, helping Culver become lottery pick. Beard also went to South Plains College to get signees from DeShawn Corprew and Josh Webster.

But they aren’t the only program to have major contributors from the area. In Track and Field, Norman Grimes (Amarillo) placed second in the 400 hurdles. Keion Sutton (South Plains College) helped the 400 meter relay team. Duke Kicinski (West Texas A&M) won the discus.

In baseball, current starting catcher Braxton Fulford attended Lubbock Monterey. From previous teams, Michael Davis went to school down the road at Lubbock High, Stephen Smith attended Frenship, and Ryan Mosley went to Lubbock-Cooper. Even Women’s basketball grabbed Brittney Brewer from Abilene.

That being said, it seems like over the last several years, the Texas Tech football team has let some good, local athletes get away. We’ve seen players like James Washington and Taylor Cornelius head to Stillwater, Eli Howard head to North Texas, McLane Mannix went to Nevada, and Ty Thomas went to Arizona State.

And from when I started following recruiting from the 2014 class up to the 2018 class, there seemed to be a lack of effort when it came to recruiting West Texas guys. There was a couple guys signed in 2016 (Ivory Jackson and Desmond Smith), but that was really it.

Part of it was because of the lack of recruiting in the area, but the other part was just there wasn’t a whole lot of attention in area for D-1 schools. However, starting this past year, I started to notice a huge increase in talent in the area, especially in the Lubbock area. We started noticing a whole lot more of these guys go to D-1 programs in the 2019 class.

Name Position Location Rating (247) Class School
Jaelyn Nolan DT-QB Brownfield 80 2018 OKST
Reese Moore OT Seminole 90 2018 Texas
Cade Barnard ILB Seminole 81 2018 Army
Peyton Powell DT-QB Odessa Permian 89 2019 Baylor
Matt Jones WDE Odessa Permian 88 2019 Baylor
Landon Peterson OT Odessa Permian 87 2019 TTU
Maverick McIvor DT-QB San Angelo Central 84 2019 TTU
Brandon White CB Amarillo Tascosa 86 2019 Baylor
Trevor Roberson OT Wellington 87 2019 TTU
King Doerue RB Amarillo Tascosa 87 2019 Purdue
LB Moore WDE Amarillo Tascosa 86 2020 TTU
Jalin Conyers TE Gruver 96 2020 OU
John Holcomb TE Wellington 86 2020 TTU

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and the East Texas area have more athletes as far as quantity and quality goes, but there’s a huge benefit for Texas Tech to recruiting in West Texas.¬†Texas Tech is by far the closest major D-1 school around, with the second being TCU, who is 320 miles away.

Fortunately, during the last year of his tenure with the Red Raiders, Kingsbury finally was reeling in home grown talent. First off, he got local players like Eli Howard to come to Lubbock and make an impact right away. This past class, he got Trevor Roberson (Wellington) and Maverick McIvor (San Angelo) to commit.

When Wells took over the helm in December, he knew he needed to recruit West Texas right away, not only the players but the coaches and fan base as well. Much like Beard, the first schools he visited were the ones in his own backyard. They may not be stacked with D-1 talent, but there’s still good players at these schools.

It paid off immediately, as Tech got a commitment from Cooper linebacker Kobie McKinzie, who is a part of the 2022 class. Wells also spent time recruiting current West Texas athletes for the current class, including Landon Peterson, re-recruiting Maverick McIvor and Trevor Roberson, and getting a transfer in McLane Mannix.

That being said, it still felt like a lot of good local talent got away. Obviously you can’t get everyone, but there was some guys I felt Texas Tech would’ve benefited from signing. For example, I was happy Blair Conwright signed with a Power 5 school after performing so well as Coronado, but it sucked that he went to a rival and wasn’t really recruited to stay home.

Name Position Location Rating (247) Class School
Garrison Johnson RB Frenship (formally) 84 2019 Syracuse
Blair Conwright WR Lubbock Coronado 87 2019 TCU
DK Blaylock WR New Deal 84 2019 Boise St
Donovan Smith DT-QB Frenship 85 2020 TTU
Isaiah Johnson RB Lubbock-Cooper 84 2020 UNT
Erik Williams OT Lubbock Coronado 85 2020 UNT
Sawyer Robertson Pro-QB Lubbock Coronado 94 2021 N/A
Kobie McKinzie OLB Lubbock-Cooper NR 2022 TTU

But the staff is working on getting local kids to commit to Texas Tech. It started with McKinzie, and even though he’s technically not a local kid, Donovan Smith from Frenship committed as well. The staff also got commits from LB Moore (Tascosa) and John Holcomb (Wellington) recently.

Heck, according to RedRaiderSports, Texas Tech’s top 2021 prospect is DT-QB Behren Morton from Eastland (just outside of Abilene), and Lubbock is home to one of the top Pro-QBs in the 2021 class in Sawyer Robertson.

You don’t see many names past 2019 on this list above, I’m sure we’re going to start to see a few more once fall begins. Although it is important to recruit all the major areas within the state of Texas, it’s become important for the Texas Tech athletic programs to gain commitments from the athletes right in their backyard.

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