T.J. Vasher Could Be Best Texas Tech WR Not Named Crabtree


Texas Tech sophomore wide receiver T.J. Vasher is set to be the focal point of the offense this fall and should he reach his full potential, he could very well become the best Red Raider receiver not named Michael Crabtree.

Wide receivers are as synonymous with Texas Tech football as sunburns are with summer.  In fact, Texas Tech’s reputation for producing outstanding wide receivers long predates the modern “Air Raid” era of the program.

In fact, the first Red Raider ever drafted by an NFL team was a receiver named (fittingly) “Red” Ramsey who was taken by Philadelphia in 1938.  Since then, players like Dave Parks, Loyd Hill, Wes Welker, Jakeem Grant, Danny Amendola and, of course, Michael Crabtree have all cemented Texas Tech’s reputation as perhaps the top program in the country for producing wide receivers.

And headed into 2018, many expect sophomore wide receiver T.J. Vasher to take his place among the best pass-catchers to ever don the Double-T.  And after the excellent freshman season the Wichita Falls, native turned in, there is reason to believe he could be the best wide receiver Texas Tech has seen since Michael Crabtree took home his second-consecutive Biletnikoff Award in 2008.

The 6-foot-6, 180-pounder was a four-star recruit and the bell cow of the Red Raiders’ 2016 signing class.  But he was granted a medical redshirt after playing on only one game that year.

Last season, Vasher did not crack the starting lineup out of fall camp but by the end of the season, he was not only starting but was Texas Tech’s second-best weapon behind inside receiver Keke Coutee.  Appearing in all 13 games and starting the final five, Vasher amassed 545 yards and six touchdowns on just 29 receptions.

Better Start Than Almost Anyone

For a freshman, those numbers are off the charts. What Vasher did in year one compares favorably to virtually every “Air Raid” receiver not named Crabtree.  But first, let’s just remember how dominant Crabtree was in his first season.

In 2007, Crabtree had one of the most amazing years ever seen by a collegiate wide receiver, regardless of class.  His 1,962 yards still rank as the third-highest single-season output ever and are a Big 12 record.  In addition, he put up 22 touchdowns, which ranks fifth in college football history.

So obviously, comparing any receiver (freshman or otherwise) to Crabtree is unfair because he was a once-in-a-generation talent.  But of all the other star Red Raider receivers to put up mind-boggling numbers, none had freshman seasons as impressive as Vasher’s 2017.

For example, compare Vasher’s 2017 to the freshman season of the program’s all-time leading receiver, Jakeem Grant.  In 2012, Grant had 32 catches for 284 yards and three touchdowns.  Grant had more catches, than Vasher (which makes sense because he was playing in the slot) but he was not nearly the big play threat that Vasher was (ironic because most people think of Grant as a home-run hitter).

Speaking of legendary inside receivers, Wes Welker, had a nice freshman season and surpassed expectations.  But he came no where near putting up the kind of first season Vasher did.

In 2000, Welker’s arrival in Lubbock coincided with new head coach Mike Leach’s hiring.  In Leach’s revolutionary passing attack, the unheralded Oklahoma product appeared in 12 games grabbing 26 passes for 334 yards but zero touchdowns.

While Welker and Vasher could not be more different as players, another Wichita Falls native, Eric Ward makes for an interesting comparison.  Like Vasher, Ward was a four-star recruit out of Rider High School who chose Texas Tech over offers from some of the top programs in the nation.

Ward had a stellar career in Lubbock finishing sixth in school history with 2,863 career yards.  But his freshman season totals don’t even add up to the numbers Vasher put up in his best game last season.

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In 2012, Ward caught only 6 passes for 63 yards and he failed to find the end zone.  Against Texas in 2017, Vasher had five catches for 127 yards (both season highs) and a huge 4th quarter touchdown.

During the 2017 season, former Texas Tech offensive coordinator Eric Morris said that Vasher is a future first round NFL Draft pick.  Should that come to fruition, perhaps he can have a career that resembles former Red Raider Danny Amendola who has had 21 catches for 278 yards and two touchdowns in three Super Bowl appearances.

But in 2004, the freshman out of The Woodlands, put up 13 catches for 119 yards and a TD in his first season of college ball. That year, his most productive game was a five-catch, 33-yard effort against Oklahoma State.  Vasher had six games with more than 33 receiving yards in 2017 and in four games he had twice that total.

A Complete Wide Receiver

With his rare blend of size, speed, and body control, Vasher is the type of receiver spread offenses dream about.  He averaged 18.7 yards per catch last season and it is easy to understand how.

His long arms gives him a huge catch radius which makes him a preferred target on slants and comebacks making him a top third-down option.  And while he has struggled with drops at times, he also has fantastic hands and unlike many young receivers, he rarely makes catches using his body.

On the other hand, his speed is deceptive and he is a threat to take even a short pass to the house as he did on his 60-yard touchdown reception against West Virginia.  Normally, players with the ability to take a slip-screen 60 yards are slot receivers like Keke Coutee.

But Vasher could be a weapon on the screen pass to the outside, which was a staple of the offense when Crabtree was on the field. Watch the video of the TD below and notice how at the start of the play he loses his footing but still makes the catch and gets to full speed in just a few strides.

What’s more, he is a weapon on jump balls as the former high school basketball star is able to out jump virtually any defensive back he is matched up against.  The play below from the Texas game was perhaps the most amazing catch of the year in college football.  What is impressive is the body control he displays, which is unusual for 6-foot-6 freshmen who usually have the coordination of a infant giraffe. Also, appreciate how he is able to track the ball in the air while he is engaged in hand-fighting with the defender.

His second touchdown in the WVU game was a fantastic example of how his basketball background helps him as a receiver.  He is able to find the ball and out jump the defender while grabbing the ball at its highest point.  This skill could make him a terror on jump balls, especially in the end zone where the Texas Tech passing game tends to struggle as the field shrinks.

Next: Texas Tech Will See Numerous Elite Receivers In 2018

At times last year, Texas Tech fans had to remind themselves they were watching a freshman as T.J. Vasher did things on the football field that few receivers in program history have had the ability to do.  Now, he is the unquestioned leader of a Red Raider receiving corps that is replacing three starters from 2017.  But if you have to go into a season with only one proven option at receiver, it is nice to know that option has the potential to be one of the greatest in your program’s history.