Texas Tech football: Poor 2019 class could have serious ramifications

LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 12: A general view of play between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jones AT
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 12: A general view of play between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jones AT /

The Texas Tech football program’s 2019 signing class has been ranked as the worst in the Big 12 and one of the worst in the nation for a Power 5 school.  That means there is a very real possibility that it could have serious long-term ramifications for the Red Raiders.

National Signing Day for college football programs has come and gone and as the dust settles on another recruiting cycle, it appears that Texas Tech is once again in danger of losing ground to its conference rivals.  This year, the Red Raiders signed the lowest rated class in the Big 12 and the No. 67 class in the nation according to 247Sports.com.

In fact, only two Power 5 schools, Oregon State and Louisville, have lower-ranked 2019 classes.  Tech is behind such notable football powers as Rutgers (61) and Florida Atlantic (57) as well as checking in two spots behind perennial Big 12 laughing stock Kansas.  And speaking of Kansas, the Jayhawks closed this year’s recruiting cycle by beating Texas Tech out for three key signees in 4-star DE Steven Parker, 3-star running back Velton Gardner and 3-star linebacker Gavin Potter.

Certainly, most expected this year’s class to be less than stellar given how the new early signing period in December, when nearly 80% of this year’s prospects signed, has changed the recruiting game.  That new window makes life especially difficult for teams, such as Texas Tech, that make a coaching change after the season.

But Tech’s new coaching staff still did a worse job than other news staffs at programs of a similar stature.  Colorado managed to land the No. 44 class in the nation despite firing Mike MacIntyre and hiring Georgia DC Mel Tucker.  After the retirement of Paul Johnson, new Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins signed the No. 51 overall class and Maryland was able to cobble together the No. 60 class even after a year of chaos surrounding the firing of former head coach D.J. Durkin.

If this were only a one-year blip on the recruiting radar, it would be far less concerning.  But unfortunately, years of poor recruiting by the Kingsbury staff has left the Texas Tech roster perilously thin.

Last year, Tech signed the lowest-ranked and smallest class in the Big 12.  The rationale was that the 2017 team did not graduate a high number of seniors meaning that the 2018 class would be small and target only positions of need with the 2019 class being larger to help replenish the depth on the roster.

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But when Kingsbury was fired, Tech’s plan to sign as many as 25 players in 2019 was derailed.  As a result, Tech has signed only 17 players this year meaning that there are as many as eight open scholarships that are not filled.

Some believe that Tech will be heavy players in the graduate transfer market as well as in the JUCO ranks this summer.  But those measures are often as useful as using bubble gum to patch the hole in the bow of the Titanic as the majority of transfers and JUCO signees fail to become difference-makers.

While Tech needs to add impact players for 2019, especially on defense where the losses of Dakota Allen, Jah’Shawn Johnson, Kolin Hill and Tony Jones leave plenty of holes to fill, where the failings of this class could really become a problem is in 2021-22 when this year’s class will be upperclassmen and should comprise the core of the roster.

Being as Tech inked two JUCO players this year, only 15 of the 2019 signees will even be on campus in 2021.  And given the normal rate of player attrition, years three and four of the Matt Wells era could be yet another season in which we constantly point to the fact that the Red Raiders are extremely young as a reason for their struggles.  That is an excuse that we have used far too often in recent seasons and one that doesn’t help offset the reality of life at the bottom of the conference standings.

And we need look no further than the 2015 class to see how one poor recruiting cycle can derail a program down the line.  In the wake of the Kingsbury firing we took a look at how the failures of the 2015 class was a huge reason for the 2018 team’s failures.

Ironically, that class was the highest-ranked of the Kingsbury tenure (No. 32 overall) and featured four 4-star signees, one fewer than the total number Kingsbury landed in his other five classes combined.  But in 2018, only four members of that group were starters and almost half of the 2015 signees were either not on the roster last fall or were non-factors.  And we saw how the lack of depth came back to bite Tech in the final month of the season.

It is possible that the 2019 class will wind up producing a high number of starters, especially if Wells and his staff prove to be better talent evaluators than their predecessors.  But this class has the third-lowest ranking per recruit of any in the Big 12 (84.4) making it seem highly unlikely that we will be lauding this class as a success in three or four years.

The constant refrain from the optimistic side of the Texas Tech football fan base is that Wells and his staff will put together a better class in 2020 and that certainly seems like a fair assumption.  If they do not, it will be a telling indication of the program’s downward trajectory.

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But even if Wells is able to get Tech back on track in the next two classes, he will still be hamstrung by the fact that his roster will likely have to overcome two extremely lean classes from 2018-19.  Just because we are willing to reserve judgement on the new coaching staff’s ability to recruit until next February, we must not also turn a blind eye to the unfortunate fact that the last two signing classes may only help perpetuate the cycle of mediocrity that has defined Red Raider football for far too long.