Critical 20: No. 7 Justin Stockton

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.

Almost from the moment DeAndre Washington played his last snap for Texas Tech, head coach Kliff Kingsbury has been extolling the virtues of Washington’s presumptive replacement, Justin Stockton.

The gist of Kingsbury’s words, repeated frequently, was that if Washington hadn’t been at Texas Tech everybody would be talking about Stockton. One got the sense from listening to Kingsbury that the coach truly believed Stockton to be Washington’s equal.

Now coaches at football’s highest levels sometimes have ulterior motives for the pearls of wisdom they dispense to the public. Perhaps they are really sending messages of one sort or another to their own players, or even to their own assistant coaches or opposing football programs. This fact engenders a healthy skepticism in most media types. However, this particular scribe is convinced that Kingsbury was sincere in his praise of Stockton. The Tech boss truly believes that the new starting running back is soon to be a household name in the world of college football.

And Kingsbury may very well be right.

Stockton is certainly a different type of back from Washington. The latter, who is presently turning heads in the Oakland Raiders camp, was a bit of a grinder. Yes he was fast, and yes he had a drawer full of pretty moves, but he was also strong enough to tear through most arm tackles. For that reason, he ran well in the traffic of the middle of the field.

Stockton is a more dynamic back. He has the sort of acceleration and straight-line speed that turns 10-yard gains into 50-yard touchdowns. And while he probably is not as physical as Washington, his acceleration can devastate a defense on quick hitters straight up the gut. If a crease is there, Stockton will exploit it to lethal effect.

Another of Stockton’s strengths is as a receiver. An overlooked fact is that Stockton averaged an amazing 15.5 yards per catch last season on 22 receptions. Furthermore, his six touchdown catches were third best on the team behind Jakeem Grant and Reg Davis

Stockton’s speed makes him a tough cover coming out of the backfield on wheel routes, and if he catches the ball in the second level of the defense with just a little space to operate, he is a bona fide threat to take it to the house. 

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There is no guarantee that Stockton will repeat Washington’s thousand-plus rushing yardage—although it’s certainly possible—but as a complete back it is entirely conceivable that he will exceed Washington’s outstanding accomplishments. And if that happens, Stockton will be Tech’s second straight first team All-Big 12 running back. 

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