After showing off his incredible athleticism in a workout video that has gone viral, new Texas Tech wide receiver Derrick Willies is making a name for himself off the field. But what will he bring to the Texas Tech offense on the field in 2016?
The video is as jaw dropping as is the video of Jakeem Grant’s 40-yard-dash from the Texas Tech pro day. Wide receiver Derrick Willies, a JUCO transfer, recently posted a video on Twitter in which he jumps from a seated position onto a 60-inch-tall box all while wearing a 10-pound weighted vest.
The footage is memorizing, partly because it is in slow motion. Many Texas Tech fans (including this writer) have watched it in awe multiple times. In case you are yet to see it, it is posted below.
Since Willies signed to play for Texas Tech last fall, fans have heard about the abilities of the No. 1 ranked JUCO wide receiver in the nation but this video is the first glimpse of Willies in action, albeit in the weight room. This video makes fans wonder and dream about what Derrick Willies will be able to do on the field this year.
With the loss of the program’s all-time leading receiver, Jakeem Grant there is a need for someone to step up as quarterback Pat Mahomes’ go-to target this fall. Though he is currently sitting out spring practices with a hand injury, Willies seems to be the logical option.
The native of San Bernardino, California provides something in a receiver that Mahomes has not had in his time as Texas Tech’s starting quarterback…size at wide receiver. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Willies has drawn comparisons to another former Big 12 wide receiver that was also a JUCO transfer, Kevin White.
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The former West Virginia wide receiver had virtually the same measurables as Willies and was drafted No. 7 overall in the 2015 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. Texas Tech got an up close view of what White is capable of in 2014 when he caught 13 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown as the Mountaineers rallied to beat the Red Raiders in Lubbock.
After the 2014 season, Kliff Kingsbury has been trying to add size to the wide receiver position. He has signed at least five receivers over 6-feet-tall in the last two recruiting classes but none entered the program with the expectations and hype that Derrick Willies does.
"The Ft. Worth Star Telegram says Derrick Willies, “instantly reminds observers of TCU’s Josh Doctson” who caught 79 balls for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns in only 10 games played last season."
Doctson used his size to his advantage in TCU’s wild last-second win in Lubbock last season. Catching 18 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns. Doctson abused the smaller Texas Tech defensive backs all game and was the main reason TCU escaped with the win. Texas Tech is hoping Willies can do the same to its opponents in 2016.
Texas Tech has been searching for a true No. 1 wide receiver since Eric Ward of Wichita Falls, Texas graduated in 2013. That season was also the final year in Lubbock for 6-foot-5 tight end Jace Amaro, a second round pick of the New York Jets in 2014.
Since the graduation of Ward, Texas Tech has lacked physicality and size at the outside receiver position with 5-foot-10 Devin Lauderdale and 6-foot-0 Reginald Davis starting the past two seasons. Neither of these players weighs over 188-pounds and both have been inconsistent often struggling to beat press coverage or make tough catches on contested passes.
This is where Willies should make the biggest impact. He will have the size advantage over every defensive back he faces and when covered he is capable of out jumping defenders to make the play.
Look for him to also be a huge factor in the red zone where the Texas Tech offense loves to throw fade routes. Between Derrick Willies and 6-foot-3 junior wide receiver Dylan Cantrell, who is known for his acrobatic catches, the Texas Tech offense should be lethal near the goal line.
So what is a reasonable expectation for Willies in 2016? In Kevin White’s first season in the Big 12, he caught a modest 35 passes for 507 yards and five scores. Given that Texas Tech has one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and has a more explosive offense than the 2013 West Virginia Mountaineers (which went 4-8 on the season) it is not outrageous to expect Derrick Willies to double what White did in his first season.
If Willies becomes the go-to wide receiver Texas Tech has been lacking, Kliff Kingsbury’s 2016 offense could be even better than the record-setting 2015 unit that is considered one of the best in program history. We will have to wait until September to see Willies in action on the field but for now, I’m going to watch that box jump video again and imagine what Derrick Willies will do this season.