Critical 20: No. 18 Jakeem Grant

Like any football team, Texas Tech has several players whose performance will be particularly critical to the squad's success. These players, whether by virtue of experience, leadership, importance of the position played, depth concerns, or sheer talent, are especially crucial. They may or not be the best players on the club, but they would be very conspicuous were they absent for any reason.

2014 was supposed to have been Jakeem Grant’s “breakout” season. After all, in a sophomore season where slumps are not uncommon, Grant showed terrific potential, starting eight games, catching 65 balls for 796 yards and seven touchdowns, and averaging 12.2 yards per grab. In that season of 2013, Grant caught just about everything that came his way, learned how to harness his explosive speed and acceleration, and proved to one and all that he was physical enough to be an every-down receiver in the Big 12. Grant’s future looked glorious.

He would only get better, right?

Well sometimes conventional wisdom gets turned on its head.

For while Grant caught two more passes for 142 more yards in 2014, he did that while starting 11 as opposed to eight games. The statistical jump was far less dramatic than expected.

But it was about more than just statistics. At some point in the season Grant appeared to lose all confidence in himself. He began dropping passes, and looked like he was flinching from expected hits. Grant’s blocking, traditionally a point of pride for Tech receivers, also deteriorated.

In short, while Grant was still a reasonably effective weapon, he just didn’t look like the receiver he was projected to be after a great sophomore campaign. Indeed, by the end of the season it was clear that Devin Lauderdale was Tech’s best receiver with Ian Sadler coming up fast on the outside.

But 2015 is a whole new season. It is also Jakeem Grant’s senior season. If he has the sort of year in 2015 that folks expected from him in 2014, he will climb very high in Texas Tech’s record books, not only in receiving categories, but in kickoff returns as well. He still has the potential to prove himself one of the greatest in school history.

But one gets the sense that, for Grant, a quick start to the season will be important. He needs to get the pill early and often, and he needs to do impressive things with it. That means no drops, no hesitation, no timid play.

When Grant is on his game, he’s got the heart of a titan. The upcoming season is his last opportunity to showcase that drive and determination. And if he does, then he will be far more critical to Tech’s success than his position in this series would indicate.

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