Should Texas Tech Stop Recruiting National Stars?


Shortly after being hired to coach the Texas Tech Red Raiders, head coach Kliff Kingsbury shared his philosophy that “Fortune favors the bold.” And nowhere have Kingsbury and his staff put this mantra to use more than in the area of recruiting.

In the 2014-15 recruiting cycle, the Red Raiders targeted a number of four, and five-star recruits from around the nation. After missing out on many of these recruits, fans have begun to question whether or not it is a waste of Tech’s time to focus on high-profile national recruits, rather than mining lesser known prospects out of the Lone Star State. The simple reality is that Tech needs a talent upgrade and if the Red Raiders want to compete on a national level, they must continue to pursue the best recruits in the nation.

Jan 2, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Team Highlight player Breiden Fehoko (18) cools off before the start of the 2015 Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Breiden Fheoko from Hawaii was the No. 51 ranked prospect in the nation. He had offers from Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Clemson–just to name a few. Fortunately, defensive line coach Mike Smith’s relationship with the Fehoko family and the fact that two of Breiden’s brothers played at Tech (and still reside in Lubbock) cemented Fehoko’s commitment to the Red Raiders.

The Smith-Fehoko relationship is proof that relationships are the key to recruiting. However, many fans are not satisfied by landing only one nationally prominent recruit,  and they lack the patience to see the relationships being built by Tech’s coaches pay off.

Too many complainers ignore the significant four-star talent Texas Tech signed in players like OL Conner Dyer, RB Corey Dauphine, and WR J.F. Thomas.  Rather, the Red Raider pessimists focus on the national recruits that landed elsewhere.

Being disappointed numerous times towards the end of the recruiting cycle, the disheartened fan began to criticize Kingsbury and his staff for chasing after top-ranked out of state players.

After months of courting Tyron Johnson, the top receiver in the nation, many fans were optimistic about Tech’s chances to land the New Orleans, Lousiana star. Johnson frequently posted social media comments about his love for Texas Tech and how he couldn’t wait to get back to Lubbock after his official visit. But when Johnson announced his decision during the Under Armor All-American game, the spirit of many Red Raiders was crushed as he held up an LSU jersey.

Conventional wisdom says that pulling top Louisiana prospects out of Louisiana and away from LSU is almost impossible, and most Tech fans bemoaned the amount of time and resources spent wooing Johnson to no avail.

In fact, Tech couldn’t even pry three-star DT Courtney Wallace out of Louisiana. Staying in state was so important to him that he switched his commitment from Texas Tech to Louisiana Tech. Most Red Raiders felt insulted by Wallace choosing a small, insignificant program over a Big 12 school, and the notion that Tech should quit recruiting Louisiana became a popular opinion.  These negative opinions grew louder when Tech was rejected by a third Louisiana prospect.

Johnson’s teammate, OLB Arthur McGinnis was one of Texas Tech’s highest priorities. Rated as a four-star recruit, McGinnis was exactly the type of player Texas Tech needs to improve its defense. Yet again, the Red Raiders were scorned by a Louisiana prospect. Though this player did leave his home state, where he landed was a worst case scenario.  McGinnis signed with Oklahoma adding extra frustration for Tech fans knowing they would have to face McGinnis for the next four years.

Another national prospect Tech wasn’t able to land is DE Joseph Wicker, who picked Arizona State over Tech. The four-star pass rusher from Long Beach, CA was thought to be a distinct possibility for Tech. The coaches put the full-court press on Wicker because Tech desperately needs pass rushing defensive linemen. When National Signing Day had come and gone, a large group of the Tech fan base complained that Tech was wasting time chasing after nationally prominent recruits and ignoring quality under-the-radar players in Texas.

Tech has already been burned by a national recruit in this year’s recruiting cycle. Desoto, TX QB Tristen Wallace committed to Tech in February, but when he started receiving interest from Ohio State, Notre Dame, UCLA, Nebraska, and other top programs, Wallace dropped Tech and reopened his recruitment. The cynical group of fans was given more ammunition for their claim that Tech should not chase the top recruits in the nation. 

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For the majority of Tech’s football history, the program has relied on recruiting and developing under-the-radar players. This has worked out well at times (Wes Welker, Zack Thomas, Kliff Kingsbury among others), but since 2008 when Texas Tech spent two weeks at No. 2 in the polls, expectations have risen.

It has been proven that Tech can compete on a national level, but in order to do so the mentality of recruiting players who are projects or overachievers while not even trying to recruit top prospects must change. Tech fans should no longer accept mediocrity on the field, especially after seeing Baylor, Oklahoma State, and TCU climb to the top of the polls. But if Texas Tech wants to become a national contender, the talent on the team must improve drastically.  For instance, National Champion Ohio State signed 14, four or five-star players this year.  Tech only signed seven, four-star players and zero five-star players.  Tech must close the talent gap to reach the program’s lofty goals.

Kingsbury and his staff work tirelessly on the recruiting trail. And even if a recruit from Louisiana or California doesn’t pick Tech, the coaches are building relationships with the coaches of high schools that frequently produce top talent. Eventually, these relationships may pay dividends.  Building relationships takes time and perseverance but the pay-off could be significant.

To better explain this, here’s a personal story, In college, I knew a guy who was neither handsome nor charming. In fact, he was really weird. He would sleep on the floor next to the fridge because he liked the hum of the motor. This odd ball fell in love with a beautiful girl who had men drooling at her feet. He spent years in the “friend zone” watching his love go through one relationship after another. Each time he was the shoulder she would cry on. Eventually the friendship he built with the girl paid off and she fell in love with him. They are now married and happy.

In short, Texas Tech must shed the mentality of being an average football program and approach the top recruits with pride and confidence. Red Raiders understand how special our university is, so we should be confident in our coaches’ ability to make any recruit fall in love with Texas Tech, just as each of us have.

Top national players like Fehoko, Nigel Bethel, Branden Jackson, and Rika Levi all saw what Texas Tech can offer and there is no reason to think that other players from across the nation won’t see the same virtues of our school.

Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Most schools lose more recruiting battles than they win. However, just because Tech has recently missed out on some highly-ranked national recruits, they should not stop pursing the players they want, regardless of ranking. As fans we must remember that with perseverance and self-confidence the average guy can land the woman of his dreams.