One of college football's iron rules is that programs will experience player attrition. It is an accepted fact that a significant percentage of any recruiting class will vanish because of academic problems, injury, legal issues, loss of interest, etc. This happens to every program, every year.
In most cases, the washouts were unlikely to be stars anyway. But occasionally, players with supreme ability either throw it all away or have it jerked out from under them. Those are the painful losses for all concerned.
Texas Tech, naturally, has experienced its fair share of early departures and non-arrivals. Many of them could have been among the great ones. Below are some of the more disappointing washouts in recent Tech history.
Willy Reyneveld: Imagine Gabe Rivera relegated to the bench. After the spring of 1982 Texas Tech's defensive coaches were talking about that very possibility for two reasons. First, Rivera had been ineligible that spring. Second, a California JUCO import by the name of Willy Reyneveld had tongues a-waggin'.
He was six-foot-one, 255 pounds and strong as a mule. The coaches openly mused that even if Rivera returned, he might not be good enough to reclaim his spot from Reyneveld.
Alas, just the opposite transpired. A homesick Reyneveld returned to central California, Rivera regained his eligibility and the rest is history. But, my, oh my what might have been with Rivera and Reyneveld in the middle of Tech's defense.
Michael Brisco: The expulsion of Michael Brisco from the Red Raider program is one of the more puzzling mysteries of Tech football over the last quarter century or so. Brisco was a blue chip linebacker from wholesome little New Deal, Texas. Brisco was also student body president his senior year.
Once Brisco arrived in Lubbock, early returns were very positive. He saw the field frequently as a freshman, did very well on special teams, and looked to have a glowing future. But in 1990 Spike Dykes kicked Brisco off the team for the proverbial "violation of team rules." And that, as they say, was that.
Stoney Garland: Most football programs are constantly searching high and low for quality defensive tackles, and Texas Tech in the late 90s was no exception. Coach Spike Dykes certainly found one in rawboned six-foot-six 290-pound Stoney Garland, a junior college transfer who played high school football in Plains, Texas.
Garland was a major contributor to the Red Raider defense in 1997 and was poised to have a huge senior season until his involvement in a motor vehicle accident left him a quadriplegic. After several years of immobility, Garland passed away at the age of 33 in 2008.
Taylor Charbonnet: Taylor Charbonnet's name sounds like a California winery, but the little cornerback was rougher than a 10-dollar bottle of rotgut. Unfortunately, the younger brother of starting Tech safety Daniel Charbonnet, was plagued by recurring neck/back injuries.
But watching Charbonnet in practice, and occasionally in games, you would never have known he was hurt. Although not more than 155 pounds, Charbonnet hurled his small frame at massive ball-carriers with reckless abandon. Charbonnet was also a heck of a cover corner, although he was rarely given the opportunity to display his talents. Ultimately, the injuries forced Charbonnet to abandon football after his sophomore season.
McKinner Dixon: Texas Tech has had precious few defensive ends with talent to equal Lufkin's McKinner Dixon. Alas, Dixon was the very opposite of a Phi Beta Kappa, and this academic weakness derailed a surefire NFL career.
Dixon, one of Tech's more highly prized recruits of the aughties, truly had the complete package. He was a relentless and instinctive pass rusher with an unerring radar for the quarterback. And he was very stout against the run. Dixon also had a nasty disposition. But it takes more than physical ability and the proper football attitude to make it to football's highest level.
Jonathan Gray: Johnathan Gray was a Lubbock legend before he ever set foot on the football field for Estacado high school. Before he was out of he early teens, Gray was a hulking behemoth who already looked like a D-1 offensive lineman. Certainly Spike Dykes heard about him. And although Gray was in and out of his high school's program, Dykes convinced him to join the Red Raiders.
Dykes' investment in Gray was rewarded initially. Gray was a prototype tackle and he played like it, earning meaningful snaps early on and starting later. Unfortunately, Gray had a penchant for committing dumb personal fouls and playing with poor effort. He also had problems with his weight.
Gray quit the program prior to his senior season, declared for the NFL draft and was not selected. Like McKinner Dixon, Gray could have been just about as good as he wanted to be if he had had the proper mental approach.
Tony Pullings: Along with Nate Stone, the player who suffered the most serious on-field injury in recent memory was Tony Pullings. The sophomore linebacker from Aldine was a big, hard-hitting player with stardom written all over him. Then, during the 1982 Red-Black Scrimmage, No. 49 crashed into the middle of the line on a routine running play and did not get up. And he would not get up.
Pullings, showing no signs of movement, was removed from the field on a stretcher and taken to the hospital. There was damage to the spinal cord. Fortunately, Pullings suffered no permanent impairment, but he never played football again.