Texas Tech football: 5 questions that emerged after the Texas Bowl


Last night’s blowout loss in Houston exposed some gaping holes in the Texas Tech football team and left us with significant questions as we head into the long dark night that is the offseason.

Below are five questions left burning in the rubble of the Texas Bowl massacre of 2015.

  1. How much money did Le’Raven Clark lose in last night’s game?

Thought by most to be a certain top 65 NFL Draft pick in April, Clark was whipped all night by a bevy of LSU pass rushers. Most disconcerting was the senior’s inability to handle LSU freshman defensive end Arden Key.

I don’t know how much stock the NFL puts into one game and we all know that the workouts Clark does for scouts between now and April will be a huge determining factor in his draft status but this was his worst game of the season, if not his career.

The film of Clark versus an elite pass rush is now out there for the NFL to see and it wasn’t pretty. Clark will have an opportunity to redeem himself when he plays in the Senior Bowl on January 30th.

  1. How much money did Jakeem Grant earn last night?

Despite dropping some passes early, Jakeem Grant made a statement to NFL scouts in his final game at Texas Tech. Grant caught 10 passes for 125 yards and three touchdowns against one of the nation’s elite defenses.

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Grant displayed his speed in numerous ways. He beat LSU defenders on go routes where he simply flew by them while at other times he used his lateral quickness to make the defenders whiff.

The questions about Grant’s height will remain and the drops he had were against tight coverage and on routes more typical to what he will run in the NFL. But his talent was evident and NFL personnel had to take notice.

  1. How can Texas Tech improve the quality of athlete it has on the roster?

People that say recruiting class rankings don’t matter should look at last night’s game as proof to the contrary. Annually, LSU brings in a top-10 signing class and that talent was evident last night.

Texas Tech simply did not have the athletes that LSU did.

Texas Tech’s recruiting must improve and finding ace recruiters to fill the five vacant position coach spots must be a key. It will always be tough for Texas Tech to bring in a top-10 class but the program should strive to be in the top-25 every year.

Yes, factors such as the size of the class and the bias of the recruiting analysts that score the classes are what many who don’t feel that recruiting rankings mean squat will point to. They also will point out players like Jakeem Grant, Zach Thomas and Wes Welker as star players that no one recruited.

However, recruiting is not just a numbers game, it is a quality numbers game. In other words, the more top ranked talent a program can bring in, the more likely the team is to have success.

Every team will have high profile misses on the recruiting front but Texas Tech needs better players. Last night was proof of that. Diamonds in the rough should be rare exceptions not the foundation of a program’s roster.

  1. Who will replace Jakeem Grant as Texas Tech’s go-to playmaker?

The best weapon Texas Tech has had over the last two years played his final game for the Red Raiders last night. Inside receiver Jakeem Grant was the only weapon quarterback Pat Mahomes had against the vicious LSU defense.

Now Kliff Kingsbury must have someone emerge to be the co-star of the offense along with Mahomes. Ideally, two or three receivers will develop into all-conference caliber players.

There are plenty of candidates on the roster, players that the coaching staff seems high on. Wide receivers Tony Brown, Keke Coutee, Cameron Batson, Dylan Cantrell, Michael Coley, Jonathan Giles, Quan Shorts, and Donta Thompson are among the most highly thought-of players Texas Tech has on campus. At least three of them need to be significant contributors next season to compliment inside receiver Ian Sadler who goes into 2016 as the only starting receiver anywhere near having a starting spot secured.

Perhaps Texas Tech will receive instant help from JUCO all-Americans Derrick Willies and DeQuan Bowman who have already signed binding letters of intent with Texas Tech. Or will an incoming freshman like T.J. Vasher or Antoine Cox-Wesley make a splash? Who will step up is a huge question moving forward because Texas Tech will have to find a new playmaker in 2016.

  1. Can anyone on the Texas Tech roster rush the passer?

Anyone watching last night’s game saw how devastating a dominant pass rush can be. Likewise, we saw how the lack of a pass rush can give even the most inconsistent passers like LSU’s Brandon Harris time to make some quality throws.

In the Big 12, teams must have a pass rush to neutralize all of the high-powered offenses. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both had excellent pass rushers this year and they were the top two schools in the conference standings.

Meanwhile, Texas Tech had a woeful pass rush all season. Opposing quarterbacks could sit in the pocket and work on a paragraph of their biology term paper before having to get rid of the ball.

Heading into 2016, Texas Tech will be without the best pass rushers it had this season, Pete Robertson and Brandon Jackson (though neither were effective in 2015). So is there anyone on the roster capable of getting to the quarterback?

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Defensive end Gary Moore will be a junior and has long been thought to be the heir apparent at rush end. But at just 235 pounds, can he put on enough weight this off season to be an every down player in the Big 12?

Can linebacker Kolin Hill, a transfer from Notre Dame that sat out 2015, be an answer as a hybrid linebacker/pass rusher? He will be only a sophomore and played sparingly as a freshman in South Bend so he remains an enigma.

Finding a pass rush will be every bit as important to Texas Tech in 2016 as reinforcing of run defense.