Texas Tech's class of 2017 is projected to be a small class which acutely addresses needs, bolstering depth at a select few position groups (offensive line, defensive back). The class of 2018 will see more spots available, but more needs to fill, as big gaps at quarterback, wide receiver, defensive line, and running back will open up.
Coaches can begin contacting 2018 recruits on September 1st. In this piece, we will take an in-depth look at the players that will be gone once the 2018 season rolls around, and the prospects Texas Tech is recruiting now to provide depth at those spots.
Quarterback (Lose 2 after 2017 season; Projected 1-2 spots)
SITUATION: While you will have Jett Duffey and Xavier Martin (assuming he signs) on the roster (along with Tech's usual bevy of talented walk-ons), juniors Patrick Mahomes and Nic Shimonek will have departed Texas Tech by the time 2018 rolls around. We all know coach Kingsbury likes to play freshman quarterbacks, and this 2018 scholarship represents perhaps the most interesting and exciting spot in the 2017-2018 classes, as the prospect taken could have major implications on the program moving forward.
PROSPECTS: Early targets are Denton Ryan Raider Spencer Sanders and Waco Midway quarterback Tanner Mordecai. Both prospects are winners that are familiar with Tech's offensive scheme, can extend the play, and have some size to go with that mobility. However, Sanders is projected to go out-of-state, and Mordecai is being hotly pursued by others around the Big 12 including TCU, Oklahoma State, and Texas. Texas Tech will continue to evaluate prospects around the state; whoever they end up taking will have major expectations to live up to. It's possible Tech takes an early-enrollee JUCO prospect alongside the high school signee to provide more competition in the 2018 offseason, though that may happen sooner.
BOTTOM LINE: Ultimately, I think Texas Tech finds and makes a move on a quarterback gem not listed above who emerges this season.
Running Back (Lose 2 after 2017 season; Projected 2-3 spots)
SITUATION: Justin Stockton and Caleb Woodward (listed as a running back on Tech's online roster) will no longer be Red Raiders after the 2017 football season, with Quinton White departing this year. DeMarcus Felton will be a senior in 2018 with Corey Dauphine as a redshirt junior. Da'Leon Ward will likely be a redshirt sophomore. That means there will be plenty of holes to fill for new running backs coach DeShaun Foster.
PROSPECTS: Foster has got this class off to a great start with a commitment from blue-chip rusher Stanley Hackett, an elusive 6-foot-3 200-pounder who is the only pony for Pasadena Rayburn. Foster seemingly prefers big tailbacks with serious speed. AJ Carter is the top remaining target with the other running back spot along with Allen Scout300 prospect Kirby Bennett, who was offered shortly following an in-person evaluation at Texas Tech's Euless Trinity satellite camp. Scout300 back Craig "Squirrel" Williams is also a priority, although he would likely be taken more as a scat-back that would see some time in the slot.
BOTTOM LINE: Texas Tech is in great shape with all of the guys I mentioned and I think it's not out of the realm of possibility that they take the three-headed monster of Carter, Williams, and Hackett (perhaps the college rendition of 2008 Giants running back committee nicknamed Earth, Wind, and Fire?)
Wide Receiver (Lose up to 7 after 2017 season; Projected ??? spots)
SITUATION: How many guys Tech loses after 2017 largely depends upon whether any upperclassmen redshirt this year, whether due to injury or playing time concerns. Assuming nobody redshirts and everybody graduates after 2017, you will lose JUCO transfers Da'Quan Bowman and Derrick Willies, former walk-ons Ja'Deion High and Zach Austin, slot guys Ian Sadler and Cameron Batson, and Whitehouse playmaker Dylan Cantrell. Oh, and this is after losing Devin Lauderdale and Reginald Davis, who run out of eligibility after the 2016 season.
I have no idea how Texas Tech is going to manage the numbers problem they're about to face in these two rooms. Defensive line, which was in a similar quandry after 2015, was addressed by taking nearly a two-deep of high school players with the expectation you'll redshirt a few to hit the next class. The 2018 WR problem is exacerbated in that these scholarships all don't leave until after next year, so you cannot begin to really bolster depth with the 2017 class. Transfers, late qualifiers, and early-enrollee JUCOs are all on the table to bridge the gap, muddling the numbers.
PROSPECTS: However many spots Texas Tech has in 2018, there are plenty of talented receivers who Tech is targeting now. Their first commitment, Treveon Johnson, is a diamond-in-the-rough who is starting to attract notice from schools like TCU and Oklahoma. Scout300 prospects Al'vonte Woodard, Drue Jackson, Maureese Wren, C.J. Moore and Jaylen Waddle are all prospects that Texas Tech will remain in good shape with. Silsbee burner Kalon Barnes was offered right after being evaluated in-person at Tech's Bellaire Episcopal camp, and aforementioned Craig Williams could see a lot of time in the slot. Don't forget about Sulphur tight end Christian Trahan or Fort Worth Paschal offeree Jaylon Robinson, either.
BOTTOM LINE: How Texas Tech addresses this frankly dire need is a huge question mark now, nearly a year and a half out from NSD 2018. However, they have a lot of playing time to sell and relationships built up with prospects all over the state. This could end up being the best WR class in the Big 12 in 2018.
Offensive Line (Lose nobody after 2017 season; Projected 4 spots)
SITUATION: The O-line is more immediate of a need and is being addressed in the 2017 class with six plus the addition of Jack Reichel. There are a lot of young prospects that will be maturing after the 2017 season, and Conner Dyer's knee issues doesn't look good, so you'll take your fair share of guys to build out some future depth, but there are more urgent needs on offense this class and - at least early on - it doesn't look like 2018 is a very deep class in the state at this position group.
PROSPECTS: With the sizable 2017 class, you will be able to pick and choose prospects to go after. Franklin tackle Casey Phillips was offered after being evaluated in-person at the Euless camp, and has a good relationship with coach Hays. Scout300 prospect Owen Condon picked up his offer during the spring evaluation period and was Reese Moore, and Cedar Hill right tackle Parker Cupp are another segment of candidates there.
BOTTOM LINE: Coach Hays always seems to find a JUCO qualifier in the summer after his class is signed and I think he will do that here, along with signing a trio of talented high school prospects in Phillips, Condon, and a prospect not on radar now who blows up during the season. The following class could get interesting with many departures expected following the 2018 season.
Defensive Line (Lose 4 after 2017 season; Projected 4 spots)
SITUATION: A benefit of taking only one or two prospects here in the 2017 class is that you have made some room the following class for perhaps four additions. You'll need them, as prospects like Mych Thomas, Zach Barnes, Talor Nunez, and Gary Moore will all be gone after 2017.
PROSPECTS: The 2018 guys you've offered to date are a veritable who's who of Scout300 prospects, headlined by diamond-studded blue-chip Jarell Cherry out of Dallas Carter. Texas Tech's staff really got in on him early and offered as soon as they were able to after he showed out at the Euless Trinity camp. That offer was timely, too, as Texas and Alabama offered later this summer with nearly half the SEC sniffing around now. Four-stars Shabazz Dotson, Max Wright and Joshua Landry were also extended offers.
BOTTOM LINE: Cherry is going to be a tough land but I don't think the slew of offers he's going to get will make him forget about Kevin Patrick or Texas Tech - I knew they'd really be in it for him when he made the trip all the way back to Duncanville from the Under the Lights camp in Austin just to see coach Patrick again. Landry seems to like Tech as well. My prediction - Tech lands one of Cherry or Landry and takes a very nice class at defensive line after skimming Texas's mediocre 2017 pool. A JUCO addition or transfer is possible.
Linebacker (Lose 2 after 2017 season; Projected 2 spots)
SITUATION: The two players Texas Tech loses here after '17 (Khalee Woods, Jacarthy Mack) will likely not have seen the field much. Spinning Jamile Johnson down to linebacker and the expected (at least for me) addition of Dimitri Moore will have already addressed your needs here, in my opinion, but I believe you'll have a one or two openings to fill here in 2018.
PROSPECTS: Not many guys are on radar so far. Tech would have to fend off schools from all over the country to land Lovejoy linebacker Bumper Pool. Mykel Gates of Carthage made a splash after garnering first-team all-district honors as a sophomore and might earn an offer. Sachse linebacker Cedric Johnson or Manvel prospect Brian Johnson could emerge as Tech targets. Jameson Robinson out of Summer Creek might start seeing some interest come in, too.
BOTTOM LINE: I could be off-base here as these are just so hard to project, but there's not much to see here yet this class. Expect more names to emerge during the next spring evaluation period.
Defensive Back (Lose 2 after 2017 season; Projected 4-5 spots)
SITUATION: Losing so many guys after 2016 is going to hurt, and the bleeding will continue after 2017 with potential starters DJ Polite-Bray and Tevin Madison graduating. It's looking like there will be four or five spots in the 2018 class for defensive backs, depending on whether you land Devodrick Johnson in 2017. If Johnson commits to Texas Tech, you will only take four guys in the 2018 class.
PROSPECTS: The 2018 prospect likeliest to get things going in this position group is Scout300 safety Cameron Jones, who was offered after showing out at the Euless Trinity camp. Fellow four-star prospect Isaiah Humphries was evaluated at the same camp, but not offered. Four-star receiver JaQuayln Crawford was offered as a corner and would be a nice take. Texas Tech legacy and blue-chip DB Verone McKinley III is also a possibility. Corey Mayfield Jr. was very close to an offer this summer. There are a ton of other guys I'm leaving off here.
BOTTOM LINE: 2018 represents a deep, deep class of defensive backs and I don't think you're in any rush to fill those spots. I expect Cameron Jones to be the first commitment here but outside of him, I'm not sure who the next guys are. I wouldn't be surprised at all if none of the other eventual commits were named above. There's just so many guys out there you could really be in on, and so many guys that may emerge during the season/evaluation period.