Texas Tech is looking to add a few early-enrollee junior college offensive linemen to help bolster the depth at that spot during the spring, and one prospect who was offered recently actually took an official visit out to check out Lubbock. Robert Valencia, a 6-foot-6, 295-pound lineman out of City College of San Francisco, was offered earlier in November and was in Lubbock last Tuesday through Thanksgiving morning.
"The trip was really good. I got to talk to the coaches, get to know all of them, and I got to hang out with some of the guys on the O-line. It was a good experience. I got a good feel for the team. I ended up watching practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, it was a good experience because I got to see how they run their practice and how coach Hays coaches in practice."
Valencia discussed what offensive line coach Lee Hays, his primary recruiter, was telling him during the visit.
"He was just explaining the situation that they have, how they're going to lose their tackle, and how it would be a good thing for me to come in and be able to compete right away for a spot, playing time. He gave me a rundown on the school and how good it is, how the program has a lot of returners coming back next year. All they need is to get some O-line recruits to commit and they should be good."
Did the JUCO prospect get to spend a lot of time with the coaches while on the visit?
"Yeah, definitely. I was with coach Hays a lot and their assistant [Jared Kaster]. We went to meals, we went to lunch and dinner with the coaching staff, a lot of the coaching staff came. On one of the dinners, coach Kingsbury came out and ate dinner too. It was a good experience. I got to get a feel for all of them."
What was Valencia's favorite part of the visit?
"Probably just getting to know all the coaches and hanging out with the guys both nights. I think that might have been my favorite part, getting to know the guys on the O-line and hanging out with them."
A Houston-area offensive lineman who saw significant playing time as a true freshman hosted the Bay Area lineman on the visit.
"Travis Bruffy, he was hosting me. We ended up going to dinner and we'd go off with them, we just went back to his room or another lineman's room and just chill and talk. There weren't that many students on the campus so I didn't get to see the campus life that much but it was a good time getting to relax and getting to know the guys."
Valencia also got to observe practice during the week and see how the coaching staff operates.
"I think the biggest thing that stood out is the amount of plays they run during practice. They're real up-tempo and they call a lot of plays. During practice I noticed they were going over a lot of plays and running them a lot."
Though Texas Tech was the first Power Five program to pull the trigger and offer Valencia, plenty of other schools are throwing their hats into the arena for him.
"Some of the new ones, I got Oregon, and then I got Utah and Cal. Some schools that are a little closer in the Pac-12. I've started hearing from Georgia. Some schools, the coaching staffs, like Oregon, they're going to be at City next week trying to talk to me. I believe coach Pittman from Georgia is going to be talking to me after the game on the 3rd."
Valencia also mentioned that coach Hays will be coming out to visit him on Thursday December 1st.
The fact that Tech was the first Power Five school to offer him means a lot to the big lineman.
"Yeah, yeah, it definitely does. It shows that coach Hays and the whole staff there, they believe in me and they just wanted to pull the trigger. They didn't want to wait and see. It showed that they were really serious about me and they wanted me to really consider going to Texas Tech."
Lubbock, Texas is about as different as you can get from San Francisco, California, but did the lineman enjoy his time in the Hub City?
"Yeah! Like you said, it was a real different environment than San Francisco, but it was a real nice town. There were a lot of buildings, the area seemed like it was really getting built up. Like I said, most of the kids went home for Thanksgiving while I was on my visit, so I didn't get to see that part of the school culture, but I really liked the feeling in Lubbock."
As a December grad, Valencia is on a short timeline and only has a couple weeks left to make a decision.
"I don't know. I'm getting more and more feedback and I'm thinking a lot more about it and doing my research, but I think I'm not going to end up making my decision until closer to my signing day because I've still got to take some visits, I've still got some visits left, so I've got to visit some other schools and see what they say, do some more research. I'm going to be signing on December 14th."
With an official visit in the books, and other schools offering and showing significant interest, Valencia is setting up other official visits within the next two weeks.
"I'm trying to get a visit set up with Oregon, they're wanting me to come up. I'm thinking I might go up to their school on the weekend of the 9th, and then I'll be thinking about which schools I'll try to fit in over these next couple of weeks."
The junior college prospect, who will have two years to play two after he graduates this December, doesn't have a top school or group of schools at the moment, but admits that the schools he has visited so far (including Texas Tech) have the edge.
"I haven't really had the opportunity to visit that many schools, but the schools that I have visited, they've really shown me a lot and I've just got to keep on doing my research and try to get on those visits so I can compare the different schools and narrow it down."
Valencia holds offers from Cal, Iowa State, Nevada, Oregon, Texas Tech, and Utah, among others. He reports interest from Georgia, TCU, Michigan State, Miami, and Kansas, among others.