Texas Tech football: The biggest JUCO flops in Red Raider history

LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 12: The Texas Tech Red Raiders mascot Fearless Champion leads the team onto the field prior to the game against the UTEP Miners September 12, 2015 at Jones AT
LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 12: The Texas Tech Red Raiders mascot Fearless Champion leads the team onto the field prior to the game against the UTEP Miners September 12, 2015 at Jones AT /
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(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

As we continue to enjoy the new season of Last Chance U, let’s take a look at the most disappointing JUCO players to have suited up for the Texas Tech football program.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Netflix’s Last Chance U is seeing players that were at one time high profile prospects try to earn another shot at realizing their dream.  But what we don’t get to see is how the players in the series fare when they leave the JUCO ranks.  In one instance though, Texas Tech football fans got to see one Last Chance U star, Dakota Allen, continue his football career when he returned to Lubbock after a year at East Mississippi Community College.

Unfortunately, Allen’s successful story of redemption is far from the norm when it comes to JUCO players.  That’s because far too often, JUCO players do not turn into difference-makers at the major college level.

Whether it be academic concerns, off-field issues, a lack of skill development while at the JUCO level, or simply a lack of talent, JUCO prospects are the most unpredictable risks in the college football recruiting process.  That’s why wise head coaches are leery of investing too heavily in that market.

We got an up-close look at how going all-in on JUCO talent can backfire on a program when one of our Big 12 rivals attempted to jumpstart the rebuilding of a program by doubling down on JUCOs.  In 2009, Kansas State head coach Ron Prince signed a massive 32-player recruiting class with 19 of those recruits coming from the JUCO ranks.

Kansas State has long been a school that has relied more heavily than most on JUCO players.  That was a tactic legendary KSU head coach Bill Snyder used to help turn around the program when he took over in 1989 putting his program on the leading edge of the JUCO talent rush.

What’s more, Prince, who succeeded Snyder after his first retirement in 2006, was a JUCO player himself.  So there was some thought that if any program could turn around its fortunes with a class comprised of over 50% JUCO players, KSU might be that program.

It wasn’t.  Prince struggled to just a 17-20 record overall in three seasons at the helm in Manhattan.  That included a 9-15 Big 12 mark and losing seasons in 2007-08.  He was fired following the 2008 season as Snyder returned to right the ship before it sailed any further off course.

There were certainly other factors that contributed to Prince’s downfall with the Wildcats but perhaps his greatest mistake was trying to take a shortcut by wading too deeply into the murky waters of the JUCO football cesspool.   That’s why it is always worth watching how many JUCO players the Red Raiders bring in each year.  The way they approach that avenue for acquiring talent speaks volumes about where the coaching staff feels the program is headed.

In the most recent Red Raider class, the Red Raiders signed just three JUCO players, TE Travis Koontz, LB Kosi Eldridge, and K John Garibay.  That’s a rather low number for a coaching staff that had to piece together a recruiting class after just a few weeks on the job.

But keep in mind that the new prevalence of graduate transfers has given programs alternative avenue through which they can supplement their rosters.  To that end, Tech added three grad transfers this year and the expectation is that all will play a role this fall.

During Kingsbury’s six years as head coach, Tech signed 26 JUCO players, an average of 4.3 per year.  The most Kingsbury added in one recruiting class was seven in 2017.

That JUCO haul turned out well with LB Dakota Allen, DE Tony Jones, and S Vaughnte Dorsey becoming multi-year starters and QB McLane Carter and OL Jacob Hines providing key depth.  And as we discussed yesterday, Tech has had its share of big-time JUCO contributors.

However, there is no question that Tech, like most programs, has had more misses than hits in the JUCO market.  Let’s take a look at some of the biggest flops the Red Raiders have experienced with JUCO players we expected great things from.