Koch's Keys: Five Freshmen to Watch

With the the start of the Red Raider football season 100 days away, Joshua Koch begins a 10-part series breaking down the 2013 Red Raider football team.

It isn't always the upperclassmen that make the biggest difference on a team in a season but rather a newcomer can rise to be a star.

The old idea that freshmen are good just to be redshirted is done and gone an the idea that they could be the next Heisman Trophy winner is definitely a reality.

So for the Red Raiders and the first season of the Kliff Kingsbury era, who of the new players should you be watching in 2013?


5 – Keenon Ward (Freshman – Safety)


Ward is one of the many Red Raiders on the defensive side of the ball that helped make the spring game a success for their side of the ball.

In 2012, Ward was redshirted and a member of the scout tem but at Snyder High School, the 5-foot-9 player really shined.

Ward is one of those former quarterbacks transitioned to a defender considering he went 58-for-177 for 780 yards and 11 touchdowns in his senior campaign.

But it's his speed that will help him survey the vastness of the secondary as in high school he ran for 1,769 yards for 23 touchdowns as a senior.

In the spring game, Ward was one of six different Red Raiders finishing with four tackles, all solo.

Ward will be a fun player to watch and see what kind of impact he can make in an area that loses now-St. Louis Ram Cody Davis to the NFL Draft.



4 – Dominique Wheeler (Freshman – Wide Receiver)


This is going to be one fun young man to watch out on the field in 2013.

After redshirting in 2012, it is now his opportunity to shine in an area of the offense that lost 1,000-yard receiver Darrin Moore to the NFL.

Of course one player the Red Raiders are glad to have back is senior wide receiver Eric Ward, who joined Moore in the 1,000-yard receiving club in 2012.

But it will be the young crop of wideouts to watch and Wheeler will be one.

The Crockett, Texas native sports a 6-foot-1, 177 pound frame which will give him an advantage over some corners and safeties that will be covering him this season.

Wheeler was listed as a starter in the spring game but did not make a catch in a game that was sloppy to start off.

Despite the poor spring game, Wheeler brings a lot of tools to the table as a four-star prospect by Scout.com and ESPN.com.

In his senior season, Wheeler racked up 1,622 total yards, 753 receiving and 770 rushing, and 15 touchdowns as well.

Wheeler had options when picking a school including Baylor, Michigan, Oklahoma State, SMU, TCU, Texas A&M and Texas just to name a few.

But Wheeler chose Tech, which could pay off big dividends considering the new head coach and the system that Kingsbury has been known for in his previous stops at Texas A&M and Houston.

Wheeler could be a huge key not only in 2013 for Kingsbury's offense but also the next four seasons.



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3 – Quinton White (Freshman – Running Back)


Probably the greatest part in watching the spring game was watching a healthy core of running backs go at the defense.

Among that group was freshman Quinton White.

Last spring, White broke his foot during the spring workouts, sidelining him for the 2012 season but now the foot is better and White definitely showed off his ability to plant with it and make some great cuts as well.

There was one play in particular during the spring game where White got the ball and was running to the right, got into open space and found himself one-on-one with linebacker Will Smith.

White simply studder-stepped his way around the linebacker for a few more yards.

At the end of the game, White finished with 62 yards on 14 carries, just six yards behind Kenny Williams, who led the team with 68 yards rushing.

Not was his running from the backfield impressive but also going out for a pass as well finishing the game with five catches for 33 yards.

White will definitely be a staple part of the running back group in 2013, which will be fun to watch. Even though Kingsbury is known for the "Air Raid" offense and that's what many people are expecting to see in 2013, he will have a good group of running backs to work with, including White.

In high school, White was a three-star recruit by Scout.com finishing his senior campaign with 835 yards rushing after running for 1,201 yards his junior year.

White chose to come to Tech over Army, Louisiana Tech, Navy, Texas-San Antonio and Tulsa.

Along with Williams, White is going to be fun to watch in the backfield and also going out for passes as well.


2 – Davis Webb (Freshman – Quarterback)


Some people when looking at this list might think I am crazy for putting Davis Webb at No. 2 on the list of freshmen to watch.

Well the truth is, Michael Brewer is the man in the drivers seat to be the starting quarterback for the Red Raiders when they take the field on August 30 against SMU in Dallas.

But don't be mislead by that statement as Webb is definitely in the mix and the summer will be key to see who of the two comes out on top for the starting job.

Webb brings a plethora of skills, which earned him a spot in John Gruden's Elite 11 camp and was a three-star prospect coming out of Prosper High School.

In the spring game it was a fair share of snaps between Webb and Brewer, with Webb making some steps forward but still freshman mistakes.

The 6-foot-4 gunslinger finished the game going 17-for-30 for 224 yards and one touchdown, with his longest pass being 83 yards to Derek Edwards in the third quarter.

The only blemish on his afternoon was an interception, which Webb threw off his back foot into quadruple coverage downfield.

Besides the one throwing mistake, Webb definitely put his name into the running for the starting job.

Webb was ranked as the No. 3 quarterback in Texas coming out of high school finishing his senior season with 2,658 passing yards with 23 touchdowns and ran for another 589 yards and 12 touchdowns.

If Webb is not the starter, he could still be a key part of the offense in 2013 with his arm and legs.


1)   Trey Keenan (Freshman – Offensive Line)


 Finally, since J.J. Lollar has transferred away from Texas Tech. Trey Keenan is the top player to watch in 2013.

Keenan might just be a freshman but he will be playing in the one area that will be most watched coming up this season – the offensive line.

The offensive line lost two stellar linemen to the NFL, LaAdrian Waddle and Deverick Gallington, who both inked undrafted free agent deals with the Lions and Raiders, respectively.

Along with the Morales brothers, the Argyle, Texas native could play a big role on the offensive line this season.

Keenan was a three-star prospect coming out of high school and in his time at Argyle high school he helped lead his team to the Class 3A Division II State Championship game against Wimberly and was a 2011 Class AAA First-Team All-State selection by OldCoach.com.

Keenan was a starter during the spring game and might find himself on the offensive line starting August 30 against SMU.

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