Photo By Steven Chapman

5 Breakout Texas Tech Players for 2016

The following five players are expected to break out in a big way for Texas Tech in 2016 after not playing much in the past for one reason or another.

Cameron Batson

The player: The 5-foot-9, 175-pound junior out of Millwood High School in Oklahoma City has primarily been a backup the past two seasons at the H-receiver position in the slot. He has caught 38 passes for 398 yards and one touchdown in 25 games played over that span. He has also served as the primary punt returner the past two years.

Photo By Steven Chapman

Reason for optimism: You could make the argument Batson had the best offseason of any player on the roster. He won the fastest player championship belt in spring workouts and then fended off competition to emerge from spring ball as the primary option to replace Jakeem Grant, who is now with the Miami Dolphins. He's also close with quarterback Patrick Mahomes and is a trusted receiver in the slot.

Reason for not playing in the past: He backed up the most prolific receiver in Texas Tech history, Jakeem Grant. 

Notable: Batson was named to the 2015 Academic All-Big 12 first team with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Quote: "Cameron Batson probably had the best spring out of all the receivers."-Patrick Mahomes

D.J. Polite-Bray

The player: The 6-foot, 195-pound junior cornerback out of Martin Luther King High School in Lithonia (Ga.) is coming off a redshirt season due to a knee injury. Polite-Bray's played in 20 games as a Red Raider, mostly at receiver, but held his own in the 2014 season finale against Baylor at corner in his only extended duty on defense.

Photo By Steven Chapman

Reason for optimism: He's big, fast--a rare combination at defensive back for Texas Tech recently--and several sources from spring ball indicate he's made a leap forward since the 2014 season to the point it would be a surprise if he didn't start at one of the corner spots and play well in 2016.

Reason for not playing in the past: Polite-Bray missed all of last season with a knee injury and has had to adjust to a position change. 

Notable: Bray started two games at receiver as a sophomore in 2014.

Quote: "Physicality [is something they were looking for in him]. He's a bigger guy we have, 195 pounds. He can run, he played receiver his freshman year so very athletic, very physical and brings a bigger body."-Kliff Kingsbury

Demarcus Felton

The player: The 5-foot-7, 190-pound sophomore running back out of Spring (Tex.) Dekaney High School played in all 13 games last season, mostly on special teams, after redshirting in 2014. He didn't get many carries last year, but he did provide one of the highlights of the season with his 53-yard touchdown scamper against Iowa State. He finished the season with 73 yards on six carries.

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Reason for optimism: For over a year now anyone and everyone, when prompted, has sung the praises of Felton. He was prolific in high school, has shined in practice both witnessed by and according to word of mouth. He will split carries with Justin Stockton, a home run hitter of a back who will likely grab headlines not reserved for Mahomes and the receiving corps, but Felton might be the go-to, between the tackles rusher who churns out the tough yards.

Reason for not playing in the past: He backed up first-team All-Big 12 running back DeAndre Washington, who posted back-to-back 1,000-yard plus seasons on the ground and is playing for the Oakland Raiders now.

Notable: As a senior at Dekaney High School in consecutive district games just six days apart Felton carried the ball a combined 85 times for 643 yards and three touchdowns.

Quote: "Felton is a pure runner. You can see that he has great vision, he has great rhythm."-Kliff Kingsbury

Terence Steele

The player: The 6-foot-6, 305-pound redshirt freshman offensive lineman out of Steele High School in Cibolo (Tex.) has yet to make an appearance as a Red Raider. 

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Reason for optimism: On National Signing Day 2015, both then running backs coach (and now Bowling Green head coach) Mike Jinks and offensive line coach Lee Hays made little effort to hide the fact they thought they made out like bandits in signing Steele. His performance since then has only enhanced that idea to the point he was actually in consideration for the starting left tackle spot. As it stands Steele emerged from spring ball entrenched as the starter at right tackle. Some around the program are already talking about him as the next great Texas Tech offensive lineman.

Reason for not playing in the past: He redshirted last season behind a veteran group comprised mostly of seniors, including first-team All-Big 12 left tackle Le'Raven Clark, who is now with the Indianapolis Colts.

Notable: Steele lost 55 pounds between his junior and senior seasons in high school.

Quote: "Terence Steele is one of the strongest guys in our room. He benches in the upper 4's, which is surprising because his arms are about as long as this table."-Baylen Brown

Gary Moore

The player: The 6-foot-5, 240-pound junior out of Clarksville (Tex.) High School is a converted receiver who served mostly as a backup defensive end the past two seasons after redshirting as a freshman in 2013. Moore finished second on the team in sacks last season with three despite playing in only 11 games with one start. In 22 games as a Red Raider he has tallied 20 tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks.

Photo By Steven Chapman

Reason for optimism: Moore is one of the best athletes on the team. Though he originally struggled to add weight, he is now a seasoned player who has packed on considerable muscle. He wreaked havoc on the Tech offense all spring from his defensive end position. The potential of the hammer and anvil bookend tandem of Moore and rush linebacker Kolin Hill (who should probably be on this list) is arguably the biggest reason for optimism on that side of the ball heading into the the 2016 season. 

Reason for not playing in the past: A little bit of everything including injuries. 

Notable: Moore was a first-team all-state performer in both football and basketball at Clarksville High School, won a state title on the hardwood and was named district defensive MVP as a senior on the gridiron. 

Quote: "Gary Moore gained 20-30 pounds already. He looks like a guy who could really be a force in the Big 12. Yeah, he made one of the probably athletic plays I have ever seen a D-lineman make against me (during spring ball). I tried to throw a ball over him and he was running full speed at me, tipped the ball and then somehow caught it with his left hand and then ran it in for a touchdown. I was like, 'I mean I'll just give you that, you just made a play on that."-Patrick Mahomes 

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