Photo By Steven Chapman

Critical 20: No. 13 Derrick Willies

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.

In Derrick Willies, a junior college transfer wideout originally from Banning, California, Kliff Kingsbury may well have the greatest single athlete on Texas Tech’s roster, and one of the best in the Big 12. 

The junior is a load at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds (about the same size as Pat Mahomes), has a vertical leap that would make many an NBA shooting guard envious, and he can run like the wind. He’s clocked as a 4.4 forty guy, and in his Illinois high school days, won the state title in the 110-meter hurdles, the 300-meter hurdles, and the 300-meter dash. If that’s not the complete physical package, I don’t know what is. 

But can he run routes and catch the football? The evidence points toward an affirmative answer. At Trinity Valley Community College, Willies was a monster. He earned first team JUCO All America honors after grabbing 49 passes for 1,115 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging a super salty 24 yards per catch. 

In consequence of his demonstrated skills as a receiver, and his NFL first-round athleticism, Willies was tabbed a consensus four-star recruit, the No. 3 JUCO recruit by ESPN, and he earned scholarship offers from Oklahoma, Arizona State, BYU, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma State, and TCU, among others. 

Photo By Steven Chapman

What little we’ve been able to see of Willies in action only reinforces the data above. He made a few terrific catches in the Petro Scrimmage, looking particularly nasty on the end of the sort of deep balls Mahomes throws so well. His size, strength, leaping ability, and knack for adjusting to the ball all suggest that he will be a Jarrett Hicks/Darrin Moore type, only better. Perhaps much better. 

The only reasons Willies does not rank higher on this list are the fact that he has never played an actual down in the Big 12, and that Texas Tech has so many receiving weapons on the roster. As marvelous as Willies may be, he will still have to fight the likes of Ian Sadler, Cameron Batson, Devin Lauderdale, and Justin Stockton coming out of the backfield, for touches. And the depth behind those players must be seen to be believed.

So, no matter how good Willies may be, he will still be a cog in the machine rather than being the machine itself. And a machine Texas Tech’s offense very likely will be.   

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