Matt Wells Discusses 2021 Recruiting Class

It’s a really long non-transcript.

Yes, it’s that time to do the National Signing Day Press Conference non-transcript, where you don’t get actual quotes, but you do get the gist of what’s being said. Gist is a funny word.

Let’s go.

Excited about this class, knew it would be a smaller number of high school signees, a mix of high school signees, transfers, JUCO transfers, I think this 10 an impact our team quickly. We recruited these guys for over a year. These guys were the last to come to our football and basketball games, Kansas and Kentucky and they haven’t been on campus since. No official visits, what stands out for me, smaller in high school numbers, we have several scholarships that we have for transfers and grad transfers, what stands out to me is their loyalty. the staff and I, I have respect for how loyal these guys are.

Defensive End E’Maurion Banks: Rider High School, still playing in high school, a true 4-technique in our odd front, he can be an inside guy, is very athletic, great young man and mom, he’s done great job with his grades. We signed 2 this year.

Receiver Jerand Bradley: A tall outside receiver, been committed for a long time, DeSoto high school this year, was at john Paul II before, explosive, can high point the football, very good route runner for high school. JB will be here in a month, DeSoto is on a quest for another championship.

Tight End Jed Castles: Second guy from Rider, tall athletic tight end, coaches kid, can run and block, has good hands, has good speed that is a tough mismatch for linebackers.

Defensive End Charles Esters: Cedar Hill, great high school program, true d-end, very athletic.

Offensive Line Jacoby Jackson: Great family and story, dad played at another school and Big 12, he has stuck with us and is loyal, is a road grader, can play multiple spots.

Quarterback Behren Morton: Really the first one to commit and last one to sign. Born right down the street, lived here until he was 9, was born throwing his guns up and it is hometown and school. has intangibles, physical skills, accurate, thrown for over 10,000 yards and a ton of touchdowns and has enough athletic ability to keep linebackers and safeties at bay. Has a bright future. Neat story for him.

Defensive End Issac Smith: A d-end, could grow into a bigger guy, the only one from out of state, Wagoner state championship, has a great high school program, has some guys that has sent guys to the Big 12, multi-sport guy, 66/235

Tight End Mason Tharp: Tall, athletic, Klein, plays basketball, athletic enough to play in the Big 12. Both of the tight ends, soft hands, good route runner, excited about these two tight ends, play in some more tight end packages because of how we’ve recruited.

Offensive Line Jack Tucker: Playing for a state championship, Todd Rogers does a great job, a legitimate left tackle, has room to grown, tough and football junkie.

Running Back Cam’Ron Valdez: Really good program, has it all, can run with speed, take off and hit a home run, can run with power.

These guys can impact our team quickly, we’ve seen the impact our freshman class has made. The grad transfers, we have scholarships held back. I didn’t mention, but Colin Schooler and Tyree Wilson came here as non-scholarship walk-ons, they go on scholarship in January, they paid their own way. I’ve got to get old and experienced in some positions. I’m proud of these players, but others as well. This year has been a grind and a fight. Been fighting since March 12th, and I’m proud of these guys. They have bonded together, spilled their guts, so many comments from veterans, how much they spilled their guts every Friday night. This program you can see is that they shows character is that they fought. We improved on defense, we have some guys coming back, Riko, Colin, and Demarcus.

We have to get better on offense, I own it. We’re making an OC change, I own it. David Yost is an excellent man and friend and I respect him, a good football coach, but the direction we need to move on offense needs to be back to Texas Tech football, needs to be dynamic, target receivers, need to play in multiple personnel groups, play in some 12 and use that in a big way, everyone back in the running back room. Need to change the tempo and play fast, but need to change up the tempo. Explosive in the downfield passing game and the running back and tight end room need to be used, they are talented young men, have to get back to Texas Tech football. That’s our roots and I own that and we’ll get back to that.

I took this job 2 years and 16 days ago, I was taught what Raider Power means, and want to inspire people to chant Raider power, my family has lived here for 2 years, a lot of West Texas is in me and I think you can face tough times and tough stuff when you are sincere and have a passion. I can be clear about what our expectations are and I own it and we’ll get this thing right and have to play winning football. The guys in the locker room are inspiring me and I can’t wait for these guys to get back January 20th.

As I saw Texas Tech, there has been 4 wides, flexed out tight ends, bigger receivers flexed out, tremendous receivers here, so when I say 12, we can get into some 12 personnel, condensed, formations that look like 10 personnel sets, and then it can minimize the pressures that the defense can do to you, we’ve been predominantly 11 personnel and have some more tight ends in the program and they are really good, those guys have the ability to flex out and run routes, or come inside and help the run game out.

I reached out to Morton all of the time, when you have a small amount, I am very involved in recruiting and part of my passion and part of what we do here, I feel like I personally recruited all of these guys. Morton and I have talked weekly for a year and were in constant communication, talked to him a lot on Monday and Tuesday, as he took time to take a deep breath, I won’t try to speak for him, but he’s a Red Raider and it is childhood dream. He believes in us and the program. He knows that I’ll hire an offensive coordinator that is a dynamic coordinator.

Returners: Koontz, Mannix, Schooler, Fields, Jeffers. There are 3 of 4 that are yet to decide.

Missing the Kansas game, that is a first for me, not to dramatize it, that was excruciating for me. Covid hit me real, the Rona as my players say, I had very heavy symptoms for a week, didn’t come out of the fog until Wednesday of last week and get out of quarantine until the weekend. It hit me hard, the family tested negative, it was tough and real. And time for a head coach to take a deep dive into the program and talking and giving information to the seniors and helping the parents make decisions about the NFL.

There is still more to go in this class and are holding scholarships. There will be high school guys considered in January, potential for the 4-4 transfers that we are bracing for, and the graduate transfers. Also dealing with which seniors coming back, and trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. By May, not taking a linebacker or defensive back, won’t be the case.

I think the biggest thing, the focus has not changed, we want to keep players in West Texas, and with scholarship limitations, can’t take at a certain position. Speaks volumes as to the level of football in Lubbock and West Texas. The football out here continues to improve. Certainly is the biggest thing is the amount of scholarships at certain positions, it limits how many you can take.

The biggest thing is what fits with us schematically, fit with our staff and be a great teacher of the quarterback position and molder of men. I have guys that are pros and great recruiters, that’s the kind of man and person I want in West Texas.

You saw everybody in the offensive skill class, with the exception of Donovan Smith and J.J. Sparkman get playing time, from last year’s class. That’s just the offensive skill guys, I think that speaks volumes about them and how smart they were and worked, great job by the offensive staff and bringing those men here. Four of the current offensive guys will be here in a month, Morton, Tharp, Bradley, and Castles will be here in January. All 5 offensive skill guys will compete for playing time.

Tough to predict on how much weight the tight ends could add, I would never put a cap on what Dave Scholz can do, they are both multi-sport guys and when their metabolism slows down, I don’t know what their body is going to do, they are tall and lean and can run, for me as a head coach and as an offensive guy, still need to be able to run.

The timetable, could be this weekend, this week, or 2 weeks. Some are hurdles I can’t control, sometime there are professional timelines you have to wait out. As soon as I get out of here, there are more calls to be made. We have a great offensive staff, and the vibe with the offensive staff is great with this room. I will want the offensive coordinator to be comfortable. Relationships could be previously established with guys we have here. That’s very normal, I think the vibe and cohesion is extremely important.

Aaron Burks, Preston Pearson, Christina DeRuyter, that’s why I have a great recruiting staff. It is hard, because one of hte strengths of Texas Tech is the people and 60,000 fans cheering Raider Power, Tony Bradford told that to me the other day. With the basketball games, the vibe of the arena and Beard and the basketball team. And it makes it extremely tough to not have high school players on campus. I want Covid to clear tomorrow. Have not been on the road in 11 months. One of the last things I did was watch Tharp and Morton play basketball. We recruit and are out and about. That’s what makes Lubbock great.

Am hiring the best offensive coordinator that works the best with the offensive staff and quarterbacks.

The waiver is going to get voted in January, fully expect it to go through. Not sure if there is a deadline time limit, hopefully there is a deadline, and get roster under control.

Junior college has been hurt more than anything. High schools figured out how to play and have struggled, some have moved to spring, some didn’t play this fall. The tape was tough to evaluate. There are some junior college guys that slip through the cracks, there is going to be some leagues play in the spring, but also JUCO guys extended their clock so they can play and get some tape out there. Tough situation for the JUCO guys out there.

There is going to be a couple of offensive linemen, need some old offensive linemen, some defense, the linebacker and cornerback, the position group is dependent on who is coming back.

T.J. Vasher got his knee cleaned up and is going to train for the draft. Eli Howard is moving on, Thomas Leggett. Zech McPhearson and Jacob Morganstern are still deciding.

My thoughts:

  • Wells did confirm that he did have heavy symptoms from the Coronavirus, so if you were curious as to the delay from the end of the season and something happening on the offensive coordinator front, that appears to be it. I’ll take him at face value that he was sick and have no reason not to believe that. Sometimes we (maybe collectively fans) tend to forget the human element of how things work sometimes.
  • I had no idea that Colin Schooler and Tyree Wilson were walk-ons that paid their own way last year. I have a significant amount more respect for them for that. Salute.
  • I think that Wells absolutely loves what Matt Campbell does at Iowa State. Being so versatile with what you can throw out there and having these huge tight ends that are fast and are incredibly difficult covers for linebackers is exactly what he wants. So it appears that the next offensive coordinator won’t be so rigid in personnel groups, which I’ll enjoy. I think having a tight end is a good thing, from a blocking perspective or match-up problem for defense. Maybe I should clarify that having talented tight ends is good.
  • The timeline for an offensive coordinator hire is this weekend to two weeks. I think that he should hire someone out of Division II that absolutely slaps when it comes to offensive production for a few years and go that route. Most of those guys have to figure out how to do more with less in terms of talent or facilities and are able to implement a scheme that is player friendly. I don’t have a clue who is an option at offensive coordinator so I won’t speculate, that’s just my two cents.
  • I would have more thoughts, but there’s a big basketball game tonight. Let’s get with the program!

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