Big 12 Sports Articles

HCS Op-Ed: Upon Further Review, Texas Tech’s 2015 Recruiting Class Can Make Immediate Impact in Big 12

I will be honest with you: after Texas Tech concluded its final recruitment signings of 2015, I wasn’t nearly as impressed as I am now. I knew Tech got some highly touted recruits, but I was unsure how those commits could help in the upcoming 2015 season. The December decommitment of top-three quarterback prospect Jarett Stidham really took the wind out of my sails, because I knew how great of a fit he would have been for head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The Tech community is dying to recapture its dominance of the Mike Leach era and the rush felt with their high early season ranking in 2013. But, as I took a closer look, I realized the future and success of this class might come sooner than many believe.

The marquee signing for Tech was defensive lineman Breiden Fahoko from Honolulu, Hawaii. The 6’3, 295 lb mammoth will immediately impact Tech’s less than stellar defensive line. His size and strength alone will help the Red Raiders interior defense immensely, which opposing running backs were able to attack at will last season. Out of all the 2015 recruits, Fahoko is probably is the most ready to play Division 1 football. He’s actually known defensive line coach and co- defensive coordinator Mike Smith since the 4th grade, so the familiarity and communication between one another should be excellent from the get-go.

The next recruit I knew had all the physical tools, but I wasn’t sure about his potential role, is wide receiver J.F. Thomas from South Oak Cliff High School. Thomas measures in at an impressive 6’4’’ and can really go up and get the ball. While you can never have enough of these types of players, I didn’t know if Tech would be able to fully implement him in the offense this year. The Red Raider offense is predicated on short quick routes where receivers can get in space and make plays with their quickness and elusive ability. Many of the receivers last season that excelled were smaller guys like Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez, who are both under 6’ feet tall, with Grant listed at 5’6’’. Thomas has something Tech lacks and you can’t teach: size and explosive deep ball ability. I envision his talents helping immediately, especially in the red zone where Tech can definitely improve from last season. Thomas was able to record a whopping 26 touchdowns his senior season, and I’m willing to bet offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Eric Morris will be able to design plays to get Thomas in the best situations possible.

But, despite both of the studs I just listed, the guy I’m looking forward to dawning the red and black the most is running back Corey Dauphine from Port Arthur, Texas. When I say this guy has speed, I mean he has some “turn the light switch off and get into bed before the lights go off” speed. Even in the final hours of recruiting, new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was campaigning for Dauphine to come up to Ann Arbor. Dauphine was the 2014 200 meter state champ in Texas and averaged a robust 6.8 yards a carry on the gridiron. When he signed I was ecstatic. But, I knew there was a plethora of talented backs that were in front of him on the depth chart, which in theory, would have immediate touches hard to come by. With Deandre Washington and Justin Stockton holding seniority, I just didn’t think he would get the plays he needed to flash that track star speed. However, like the old adage states speed kills. I believe he will be able to make an immediate impact in the kick and punt return game, which can be so crucial for the outcome of any game. As the year goes on I think he will be able to work himself into more meaningful plays on the Red Raider offense.

The last recruit that really had me optimistic for this upcoming season is linebacker D’Vonta Hinton from Texas City, Texas. I will admit I didn’t know too much about him coming into signing day. Then, after looking at his measurables, 5’10 and 210 lbs, I was less than impressed. Then I took a closer look at the player and his impact on the field and my perception completely changed. Hinton has such a high motor and really is a physical tackler at the point of attack. He just seems to have a nose for the football, dare I say like former Texas Tech Hall of Famer Zach Thomas? The similarities are definitely there, as Thomas was an undersized linebacker listed as 5’11 with a nose for the football and defensive play making ability. Hinton is a true linebacker and has such a high football IQ, like Thomas once did while quarterbacking the Tech defensive front. I’m sure defensive coordinator David Gibbs is excited to get to work with Hinton, and possibly develop an extension of himself on the field with Hinton’s intellect and student-of-the-game attitude.

Overall, I think these four players can really help turn the tides in the 2015 campaign for Texas Tech. They will definitely have a shot to compete for starting spots and major playing time. I feel foolish for jumping the gun and judging this class so quickly, because now I wouldn’t be surprised if any or all of these players made cases to be put on the All-Big 12 Freshman team after the season. Like my mother always said, “never judge a book by its cover.”

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