Texas Tech football: T.J. Vasher needs more targets


Sophomore receiver T.J. Vasher continues to turn heads with acrobatic big-play receptions but that does not hide the fact that he must make a bigger impact on the outcome of games than he did against Ole Miss.

The 2018 Texas Tech football team has only one elite offensive weapon, wide receiver T.J. Vasher. So why was he not a bigger part of the game plan in the week one loss to Ole Miss?

The 6-foot-6 sophomore receiver ended the day with just four receptions for 66 yards as the Red Raiders struggled to move the ball for most of the afternoon.  In fairness, the offense was hamstrung by the first-quarter ankle injury that knocked starting QB McLane Carter out of the game.

Tech had scored on its first drive of the game with Carter orchestrating the offense.  But in the three quarters with true freshman Alan Bowman at QB, Tech put up just twenty points.

Thus, it would seem that an offense searching for an identity would want to feature its most explosive and talented weapon as much as possible.  But after Vasher made a 31-yard one-handed catch that sent social media into a frenzy on the team’s first offensive drive, he was not targeted again until midway through the third quarter.

Despite being matched-up with defensive backs against which he had a six-inch height advantage, Vasher was targeted only six times in the game.  What’s more, the bulk of those targets came after Ole Miss had taken a strangle-hold on the game.

In the quarter-and-a-half between Vasher’s first reception and his second, Tech targeted receivers Antoine Wesley and Ja’Deion High five times each, Zach Austin twice and running backs Ta’Zhawn Henry and Tre King one each. While the ball must be spread around the offense, there is no reason for a talent such as Vasher to go so long without seeing the ball.

Some may point out that Ole Miss likely gave extra defensive attention to Vasher, especially after his acrobatic catch in the first quarter and that the insertion of a true freshman at quarterback could have limited the game plan.  But Kliff Kingsbury should have made it a point to utilize his best weapon, especially as the offense sputtered.

What’s more, Vasher needs to be utilized in a more diverse manner.  On the six times Vasher was targeted, he ran a simple fade route on three plays while two of the other plays were just bubble screens.

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The only time Vasher was targeted on a route other than a fade or screen was on a 4th-and-goal post route late in the fourth quarter which was incomplete as he had the ball knocked out of his hands in the back of the end zone.

If Kingsbury is truly an offensive innovator, as is his reputation, he must figure out more creative ways to get the ball to T.J. Vasher.  But in the same breath, it must be admitted that Vasher must do his part by developing into a more complete receiver.

Thus far in his career, Vasher had been too much of a one-trick pony with the majority of his catches coming on deep fade routes.  The only big plays he has made on a different type of route came last year when he scored a touchdown against West Virginia on a slip screen and another touchdown against Kansas State on a post route.

Thus far, Vasher has not proven to be reliable on intermediate routes over the middle of the field.  Far too often he has had drops on routine passes that would have moved the chains.  That must not continue this year since he is now the team’s best receiver and will be called upon to make critical receptions in traffic.

Wen we start to see Vasher moving the chains with a catch on third-down slant routes or by making contested catches over the middle, we will know he is becoming the all-around receiver that this offense so desperately needs.  But that will also require the coaching staff send the ball his way with more regularity.

The 2018 Texas Tech offense features receivers that are less accomplished and less talented than most of the previous receiving corps in the “Air Raid” era.  Current starters Zach Austin, Ja’Deion High and Antoine Wesley are nice players but they have limited ceilings and will never be game-breakers like so many of their predecessors at Texas Tech.

Meanwhile, there are some true freshman like Erik Ezukanma, Myllar Royals and Kisean Carter who could develop into special players but they are not ready to be focal points of the offense at this time.  Thus, it could be argued that Vasher may be more important to this offense than any one single receiver has been to a Texas Tech offense since Michael Crabtree in 2008.

Next. Texas Tech football: Good; Bad; Ugly from Ole Miss game. dark

As such, T.J. Vasher needs to see the ball early and often this week against Lamar as he works on building a rapport with Bowman or Carter.  If this offense is going to be able to pull its weight this year, Vasher will have to do more of the heavy lifting than he did against Ole Miss.