Tight end Buzz Tatom played during a Dark Age of Texas Tech football (1981-84), which also was an era before the advent of the modern passing game. Consequently, Tatom is likely not recalled as readily as he would be had he played 20 years later. Still, he was a heck of a tight end. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, he was on the lean side, even by the standards of his day, but he was quick, mobile and had excellent hands. Over the course of his career he caught 61 passes for 760 yards and nine touchdowns. Donta Thompson may do that in two seasons. Like Tatom, Thompson is a tall, angular strider who high-points the ball and brings it in with regularity. Tatom played exclusively tight, but Thompson, in the modern spread, will see the field in tight, slot, and probably wide positions.
Receiver Carlos Francis was arguably the first prominent receiver of Mike Leach’s Texas Tech tenure. He played from 2000 to 2003, and was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the fourth round. Francis was not huge, but he had terrific straight-ahead speed and was fearless catching the ball over the middle. Thus he was a deep threat and a guy who made the tough intermediate grabs as well. Keke Coutee looks to be a similar receiver. Coutee has Francis’ height, speed and guts. Now all he needs to do is pack on a bit more muscle and perform.
Defensive end Brandon Williams must surely be one of the most lightly regarded Texas Tech football recruits who nevertheless managed to carve out an NFL career. A virtual unknown coming out of Fort Worth South Hills high school, Williams quickly established himself as a legitimate Big 12 defensive end, and as a junior in 2008, led the conference in sacks. Listed anywhere from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-5, Williams was a physical presence who played larger than his stature. Lonzell Gilmore does the same. One of Tech’s more obscure recruits, Gilmore is listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, but despite that relatively small size, really brings a load. He has an excellent swim move, an unerring nose for the football, and the ability to drop ball-carriers in their tracks directly he makes contact. Like Brandon Williams, Gilmore could prove to be a real sleeper of a defensive end.
One hesitates to compare any high school player to the great Michael Crabtree, but Furquan Shorts certainly shows some similarities to the Biletnikoff Award winner. At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Shorts has a frame that looks a lot like Crabtree’s. He also has a size/speed combination that, like Crabtree’s, often makes him look like a man playing against boys. But the strongest similarities are seen when Shorts runs after the catch. He has tremendous waggle and change of direction for a big receiver, and wastes no time or motion getting upfield with the ball once it gets to his hands. Shorts probably isn’t quite as physically strong as Crabtree, but if that’s his only “deficiency,” Shorts will be a great one.
Texas Tech has had hard luck with defensive tackles over the last 30 years or so, but one of Tech’s tackles who bucked the trend was Desmond Royal, a fireplug from Temple, Texas. Royal was 6-foot-1 and approximately 275 pounds, which was pretty good size for a college tackle in the mid- to late-eighties. He was not a spectacular player, but was solid and reliable. He also had a monster game on the road at Arkansas in 1986, which helped Tech spring a major upset and turn their season around. Courtney Wallace could be a similar player to Royal. Although Wallace is 300 pounds, he has a similar blocky build as Royal—indeed, even more so—and plays the game with good effort. He could be a fixture in Tech’s defensive line for years to come.