In a college football coach's ideal world, he would redshirt his entire recruiting class. But Tommy Tuberville does not currently inhabit the ideal world, and he dang sure didn't sign his latest class to sit on the bench. As evidenced by the fact that nine of Tech's 26 signees are junior college transfers, Tuberville sought shovel-ready players.
Fortunately, the newest Red Raiders comprise a skilled bunch, and several of them will indeed see the field in 2012. The following players should make the biggest immediate impacts.
Javon Bell: The Red Raiders have plenty of talent on the outside with Eric Ward, Marcus Kennard, Alex Torres, Darrin Moore and Tyson Williams. What they did not have, until now, was a true speed threat who could frighten opposing safeties. With the addition of Javon Bell, they now have a speedy deep threat. Bell should add a new dimension to the Texas Tech receiving corps.
Casey Gladney: There are two main things you should know about Gladney. First, Nick Saban wanted him. And second, Tuberville compares him to Carlos Rogers, who may be the best cornerback in the NFL right now.
Gladney is listed as a receiver, but you don't have to look hard between the lines to ascertain that cornerback is his most likely position with the Red Raiders. If he gets his academic house in order Gladney has a chance to start immediately in Tech's beleaguered secondary.
J. J. Lollar: Do we have the second coming of Colby Whitlock here? Like Whitlock, Lollar is a recruit who flew somewhat under the radar, but is physically ready to play as an interior defensive lineman right now. He is immensely strong and has a Big 12 body. And if he is technically sound, Lollar could step right in and really contribute on the inside.
LaDarius Newbold: This cornerback from Lancaster is a three-star recruit who feels like a four-star recruit. The Red Raider coaching staff recruited Newbold in the expectation that he would instantaneously improve Tech's ability to cope with spread passing attacks. Now it's up to Newbold to deliver. If he and Casey Gladney can take command at cornerback, Tech's pass defense will improve markedly in 2012.
Chris Payne: The canary in Tommy Tuberville's defensive coalmine will be five-foot-11 190-pound linebacker/safety Chris Payne. Despite the fact that Tech's defense got chewed up by the ground game in 2012, Tuberville seeks a speedier, smaller defense. Payne is Tuberville's kind of guy, and as such, will be given every opportunity to play.
Anthony Smith: The Red Raider defensive tackles were bulldozed at the point of attack in 2011, and that simply cannot happen again. Along with J. J. Lollar, Anthony Smith could receive a fiery baptism as a true freshman. Packing 290 pounds on a six-foot frame, he could provide a nice anchor for the line, but it's always scary to depend on young pups at this position. However, that is the situation that may confront new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman.
Will Smith: Tech's youthful linebackers were a disaster last season, and a relative lack of speed only compounded the inexperience problem. Junior college transfer Will Smith will be the fastest linebacker on Tech's roster, and he will also be one of the more inveterate.
Michael Starts: The Red Raiders will need an ace pass rusher next season, but they will also need a defensive end who can hold in against the ground game. Starts, a six-foot-four 280-pounder, could be just the ticket.
Reginald Davis: Dominique Wheeler is probably the glitzier receiver, but Davis has the size, strength, and balance to adjust more quickly to college football. He's cut somewhat from the Michael Crabtree/Justin Blackmon mold.