'15 Class Overview: Strengths, Glaring Needs

National Signing Day is a little over a month away and Texas Tech still has some work to do to fill out the 2015 recruiting class. RaiderPower.com takes a look at who the Red Raiders have committed so far, how those pledges could fit in with the roster, what positions must be addressed and some likely candidates to fill those spots.

Madison AkamnonuOTHSArlington (Bowie HS)6-5270
Tony BrownWRHSLa Mirada, Calif.6-1175
Corey DauphineRBHSPort Arthur (Memorial HS)6-1180
Conner DyerOTHSMesquite (Horn HS)6-5275
Trace EllisonOTHSFrisco (Centennial HS)6-6285
Breiden FehokoDTHSHonolulu, HI (Farrington HS) 6-3280
Jonathan GilesWRHSFort Bend (Elkins HS)6-0170
Lonzell GilmoreDE/LBHSSpring6-3210
D'Vonta HintonLBHSTexas City5-10210
Darreon JacksonDBHSDerby, KS 6-2185
Furquan ShortsWRHSHumble (Atascocita)6-2195
Terrence SteeleOLHSCibolo (Steele)6-6310
Carlos StricklandWRHSDallas (Skyline)6-4190
Christian TaylorDBHSHouston Jersey Village6-2185
Courtney WallaceDTHSNeville, LA6-2310
Broderick WashingtonDLHSLongview6-3285

As it currently stands, Texas Tech has 16 commitments in its 2015 recruiting class and looks to round it out with approximately nine more. Seven of the commitments are presently slated to play defense, which, combined with Tech’s continued woes on that side of the football, suggests that most of the remaining scholarships will go to defensive players.

Position-wise, Kliff Kingsbury currently has three interior defensive linemen (Breiden Fehoko, Courtney Wallace and Broderick Washington) in the fold, one defensive end (Lonzell Gilmore), one linebacker (D’Vonta Hinton), and two safeties (Christian Taylor and Darreon Jackson).

Of those defensive commits, Wallace, Fehoko, Hinton and Jackson appear most likely to be early contributors.

Fehoko, arguably the best prep player in the nation at his position, needs no introduction.

Breiden Fehoko

He is this class’ headliner, and the Hawaiian Headhunter is already penciled in as a starter for the Red Raiders in 2015.

Wallace, by comparison, has flown somewhat under the radar, but is no slouch himself. At 6-foot-2 and 310 pounds, he already has the physique to play at the next level, and his skill level comes close to matching his physiognomy. Wallace has a very quick first step, explodes at the snap and delivers a blow, and actually tackles well in the backfield, something that was a problem for Tech’s defenders last season.

Hinton, at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, is a bit undersized right now, but plays much larger than he is. The Texas City product brings a load and is a relentless player. Hinton is not unlike current Tech linebacker Micah Awe.

Safety Jackson, a Scout two-star recruit out of Derby, Kansas, would certainly rate three and perhaps four stars if he played in urban Texas rather than rural Kansas. He is big, fast, athletic and has exceptional ball skills.

Defensive linemen Wallace, Fehoko and Washington will join a group that features Rika Levi, Marcus Smith, Keland McElrath, Demetrius Alston, Donte Phillips and Anthony Smith. (Offensive lineman Josh Outlaw also saw action on the defensive line late in the season.) Alston was hurt most of 2014, and JUCO transfers Levi, Marcus Smith and McElrath were uneven performers at best. Then again, JUCO players often make a significant jump in their second season at the D-1 level. At any rate, Fehoko will be a huge factor in this unit and it is not unreasonable to think Wallace could also be in the rotation.

As usual, linebacker is a confused position at Tech, and the possibility of a switch from the 3-4 to a 4-3 alignment muddies the waters even further. But at the end of the day, Tech’s defensive coordinator will see that his three (or four) best linebackers are on the field at once. All Big 12 performer Pete Robertson is obviously a part of that elite. Mike Mitchell, a transfer from Ohio State, also looks like a cinch to start. Robertson will stay on the outside, but Mitchell could play inside or out.

Mike Mitchell

Beyond these two players, the situation is murky.

Micah Awe certainly had his moments in 2014, and so did Andre Ross before injuries slowed him down. And there are big expectations for redshirt freshman Dakota Allen.

It is improbable that Hinton could crash the starting unit, but it is conceivable that he could apprentice with the second team.

Tech has numbers and a certain amount of talent at safety. J.J. Gaines, who blew hot and cold, is a returning starter. So is Keenon Ward, a solid tackler but a bit of a liability in coverage. Sophomore Jalen Barnes played many snaps as a redshirt freshman, and Justis Nelson, pressed into duty at safety because of injuries at that position, looked like a natural there. Perhaps he has found a new home.

But despite the numbers and the experience, no returning player at safety is a lock to start. If Darreon Jackson picks up the scheme quickly enough, he could be an immediate factor.

Even if Jackson redshirts, his presence, along with that of Christian Taylor, provides Tech with a wealth of young talent in the secondary. This is not a need area for the remainder of the recruiting class, so I would not expect Kingsbury to add more than one additional defensive back to the current group.

Linebacker is another story. Tech has many young players in this group, but thus far none have signified that they are surefire Big 12 material. Further additions to this group would be more than welcome.

And the defensive line is even more of a need position than linebacker. Promising underclassmen are scarce on the roster, and Fehoko, Wallace and Washington only partly shore up the lack. Interior linemen and defensive ends are encouraged to apply.

On the offensive side of the ball, Tech has a crying need for young talent in the line, but in Conner Dyer, Madison Akamnonu, and Trace Ellison, the Red Raiders receive a good infusion of real ability. Terrence Steele is a player who may eventually develop into a contributor. In short, don’t look for Tech to add more than one more offensive lineman—if that—to the current recruiting class. An interior mauler such as Semisi Uluave or Jalin Barnett would be a perfect fit.

At running back the Red Raiders are stacked with talent, both young and old. And current commit Corey Dauphine, only cramps an already crowded house.

Corey Dauphine

He is an Eric Dickerson look alike who has quick feet, great balance, and a willingness to finish off runs the hard way. Needless to say, he also has elite speed. Despite all the talent in the backfield, the Red Raiders would gladly welcome one more into the fold in the person of 6-foot-2, 240-pound four-star rusher Chris Warren of Rockwall. Warren recently named Tech one of his top four teams (along with Texas, Oklahoma State and Washington) and plans on making an official visit to Tech on Jan. 23.

In sophomore Ian Sadler, Tech looks to have a young talent who will start for the next three seasons. Devin Lauderdale still has two more seasons of eligibility as well. Beyond them, the young talent is a question mark. But in the persons of Carlos Strickland, Furquan Shorts, Tony Brown and Jonathan Giles, this class offers exclamation points.

Shorts, who is underrated, should be the surprise of this group.

Quan Shorts

His routes are sharp, his hands gluey, and he has tremendous quicks and moves in the open field for a player his size. Strickland is a 6-foot-5 nightmare with astonishing hands, the ability to get deep, and the willingness to block with everything he’s got.

Still, receiver is a four-position unit, which means that numbers are needed. Tyron Johnson obviously has a place in this class waiting for him if he wants it. And even if Johnson commits Friday, it is not out of the question that Kingsbury could take one more wideout if the right one fell his way. Ennis 6-foot-5 tight end/receiver hybrid Donta Thompson would round out the receiver class nicely.

Quarterback, of course, is the 64-dollar question. The fact that Tech recruited Jarrett Stidham is obvious proof that Kingsbury wants another quarterback on the roster. But when backup plan Ben Hicks committed to SMU, the situation became more complex. Does Kingsbury go for Option C at quarterback rather than take a talented defensive lineman or linebacker?

The guess here is that Kingsbury pursues Option C vigorously. Quarterback is simply too important, particularly in Tech’s offense, to move forward with depth concerns, particularly given that Davis Webb is not reconciled to being Pat Mahomes’ backup. Should Webb bolt, Tech would be in trouble if they don’t sign a quarterback in this class. This is not a risk Kingsbury can afford to take.

Raider Power Top Stories