Texas Tech’s 2012 Class Still Haunts the Football Program


After every National Signing Day, coaches across the country stand before the media and say they signed a “great class,” and helped themselves “address some of the team’s needs.” At the same time, recruiting services rank each program’s haul based on the number of star rankings that their recruits have been assigned. However, it is impossible to know the quality of a recruiting class for at least three years after the class arrives on campus. And unfortunately, the final recruiting class of the Tommy Tuberville still haunts the program.

Tommy Tuberville’s final recruiting class at Texas Tech was highly regarded by recruiting services. Tech signed 27 players and had the 26th ranked class in the nation. However, this class has been a huge disappointment. The players of the 2012 class should be the backbone of the 2014 team as seniors or RS – juniors. But unfortunately, the star rankings for this class did not translate to on-field success.

The Successes:

Linebacker Micah Awe is expected to start for Tech this year at one of the LB spots, likely middle linebacker, and was a 3-star recruit coming out of high school. He has been a solid backup, and now will get the chance to make his mark during his senior year.

Running back Sadale Foster was a 2-star recruit out of junior college in 2012. He was a reliable running back capable of making big plays on the ground, and was also versatile in returning kicks and playing slot receiver.

Offensive lineman Jared Kaster has played all three years of his career at Tech, and has become one of the most reliable centers in recent Texas Tech memory. It’s obvious that he’s been an anchor on the offensive line.

Linebacker Will Smith was the team’s leading tackler in 2013. The JUCO recruit was average in 2012, but made a huge improvement in 2013. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 7th round of the 2013 NFL draft.

The jury is still out on wide receiver Reginald Davis and running back Quinton White, who have shown flashes of potential but have yet to put together consistent performances.

The Misses:

Aug 30, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders wide receiver Dominique Wheeler (28) catches a pass while defended by Southern Methodist Mustangs defensive back JR Richardson (24) during the fourth quarter of the game at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Texas Tech won 41-23. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Dominique Wheeler was a 4-star recruit out of high school but he has not been able to force his way onto the field in college. Tech was counting on Wheeler to be the next star outside receiver, but his success in high school never translated to the college game, and he’s been surpassed on the depth chart by true freshmen and sophomores. His struggles are a huge reason why Tech’s receiving corps was so young and inconsistent last season.

Wide receiver Casey Gladney — another 4-star WR out of high school — was once an Alabama commit, so when he officially signed with the Red Raiders, expectations were high. Gladney did not qualify academically out of high school, so he signed with a JUCO but has never played a snap for the Red Raiders.

Linebacker Ryan Flannigan was a 3-star recruit out of high school who also failed to post qualifying grades. He’s never played a snap for Tech, leaving the LB position thin.

Wide receiver Javon Bell was another 3-star recruit out of junior college. The speedy receiver had his 2012 season cut short by a foot injury, and was dismissed from the team by Kliff Kingsbury in 2013. Bell missed all of that year’s spring practices due to failing grades and it is probable that poor grades led to his permanent dismissal.

Three receivers from this class were busts, leaving Tech with a shortage at receiver that has carried on into 2015, which is why Tech signed seven high school receivers in the 2015 class.

Defensive tackle J.J. Lollar never played a down for Texas Tech. The 3-star high school recruit suffered an eye injury that required two operations. And eventually, Lollar (who squatted 800 lbs. in high school) had to give up his dream of playing football. He now is a high school football coach. Had Lollar still been the team, he would be a RS-JR on this year’s roster providing depth to Tech’s thinnest position.

Defensive end Chase Robinson from Memphis transferred to Auburn after the Kingsbury staff moved him to outside linebacker. The former 3-star recruit never played a down for Tech, again adding to the lack of pass rushers on the team. Robinson is one of the reasons that players like Pete Robinson and Branden Jackson often have to play up to 80 plays in a game.

DT/DE Michael Starts was perhaps the most exciting defensive prospect of the class. The 4-star prospect out of Waco picked Tech over Texas because Tech was willing to let him play on defense. Starts transferred to a junior college after the Kingsbury staff took over. And despite numerous social media postings saying he was returning to Tech, Starts did not return to the football team, again leading to a lack of depth on the defensive line.

Defensive back La’Darius Newbold was a huge commit for Tech in 2012. He possessed the size and speed programs covet in a corner. And while Newbold remains on the Tech roster, he has never contributed on the field.

Last year, Tech started two true freshmen and a WR who converted mid-season to DB over Newbold, the former 3-star recruit.

Other Misses: LB Kris Williams, DB Austin Stewart, DT Anthony Smith, LB Chris Payne, QB Clayton Nicholas, and JUCO DE Lee Adams.

Trying to predict what a 17 – 18 year-old-kid will develop into is a difficult task. The star rankings do not take into consideration the player’s mental toughness, work ethic, or attitude. And of the 27 players Tech signed in 2012, only 11 made even minimal contributions to the team, while only seven or eight have become starters.

This class should be the foundation of the 2014 and 2015 teams, but the misses by Tuberville’s staff left Kingsbury with a lack of depth and senior leadership, from which Tech is yet to recover.