Replenishing the Ranks: The Big Three

Texas Tech ended the 2013 season triumphantly with a 37-23 Holiday Bowl win over Arizona State. Now the Red Raiders must replace some important outgoing pieces. The following is one in a series of updates on Tech 2014 recruits in the month leading up to National Signing Day. Tech already has a very good class in the works but adding any combination of these monsters could make it exceptional.

Texas Tech is in desperate need of front seven defensive players who can contribute immediately.

Senior leader Kerry Hyder, starting defensive end Dartwan Bush and backup defensive tackle Dennell Wesley have all used up their eligibility. That's 845 pounds, not to mention experience and leadership removed from an already light line.

The Red Raiders are also losing linebackers Will Smith, an All-Big 12 performer who led the team in tackles with 120, and Terrance Bullitt.

Tech currently has two junior college defensive tackle signees in Highland CC's Marcus Smith (6-3, 300) and Coahoma CC's Keland McElrath (6-5, 290). The Red Raiders also have commits from Munday defensive end L.J. Collier (6-3, 240) an athletic pass rusher with size. Houston Summer Creek's Dakota Allen (6-2, 225) is the only committed linebacker of the 2014 class.

Both Collier and Allen recently stated they are 100 percent solid with Tech. That still leaves the Red Raiders light along the defensive front, especially on the line.

The following are three viable targets who could contribute as soon as they hit campus:

  • DT Rika Levi (6-3, 355), San Mateo CC:

  • Levi is exactly what the doctor ordered. He's huge, active, productive, commands double teams and experienced.

    Levi, who was named Northern California Conference Defensive Player of the Year this past season, moved Texas Tech to the top of his list after visiting in December. He told on Saturday that Tech is still at the top of his list but Kentucky and Missouri are in the mix. He also stated that he's unsure when he'll make his decision.

    Prediction: I think Levi will pick Tech (60 percent sure), but it wouldn't shock me if he chose Missouri or Kentucky. Don't count out Washington, who was in the lead before coach Steve Sarkision left for USC.

  • DE Brandon Thorpe (6-5, 275), Highland CC:

  • Thorpe is a perfect fit for Tech's scheme in terms of size. At 275 pounds, Thorpe can hold up in the run game at the point of attack and theoretically would be a perfect compliment opposite the lighter Branden Jackson (240).

    Thorpe recently told he is down to Texas Tech and West Virginia and he plans on deciding after visiting Lubbock on Jan. 17. He visited West Virginia in early December.

    Prediction: I think Thorpe is leaning towards West Virginia, but Tech still has a shot with him coming to town. An unknown school could swoop in and scoop him up as Florida did last-second with former Texas Tech commit Drew Sarvary. I have to go with the Mountaineers right now (55 percent sure).

  • LB Vincent Jackson, (6-3, 235), Tampa (Fla.) Jesuit:

  • Jackson pops off the screen on film, he's just one of those guys who looks like the type of football player you want on your team. He is physically imposing, shows a great instinct for quickly deciphering what offenses want to do and is violent at the point of contact. His speed is questionable, which along with his natural size and physicality may lead to a move up to defensive end.

    Jackson visited during the Oklahoma State game and came away impressed. He has also stated a desire to join good friend and Texas Tech 2014 basketball signee Justin Gray, from Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep, in Lubbock.

    Predition: Jackson is a wildcard. He holds offers from pretty much everyone and recently stated his Top four as Alabama, Texas Tech, South Florida and Missouri. Jackson is believed to be deciding between Tech and USF. I honestly think it's a coin flip between the two. I don't think he's made his mind up yet.

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