Texas Tech football: 247Sports says Red Raider roster lacks overall talent

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 11: Jett Duffey #7 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders celebrates his touchdown against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 11, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 11: Jett Duffey #7 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders celebrates his touchdown against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 11, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

According to one metric used by 247Sports.com, the 2019 Texas Tech football team is one of the least talented in the Big 12 on paper.

Trying to quantify talent is impossible.  But according to at least one website’s ranking, the Texas Tech football team is just the 8th-most talented team in the Big 12 this fall.

247Sports.com has ranked every team in the FBS in terms of overall talent on the roster and Tech comes in at No. 63 nationally and ahead of only Kansas and Kansas State in the Big 12.  This ranking is put together by adding up the recruiting rating of every player on each roster so naturally, that does not bode well for the Red Raiders.

In the five signing classes that comprise the 2019 roster (2015-19), the highest any Texas Tech class was ranked was No. 32 (2015).  Over that time, the Red Raiders classes were ranked on average 51.6 overall.  What’s more, the 2018 class was ranked No. 72 overall, the lowest of any Power 5 school.

When it comes to the Big 12 rosters, Texas and Oklahoma are not surprisingly the top two teams this year with TCU coming in a distant third on the 247Sports ranking.  Baylor, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and Iowa State are next in line ahead of the Red Raiders.

What sets Tech back in this ranking is its lack of four and five-star recruits.  There are no current 5-star recruits on the Red Raider roster and the five 4-star signees Tech has on the current team is fewer than six other schools in the Big 12.

The five 4-stars on the 2019 roster are right guard Jack Anderson (who was a five-star in the eyes of some recruiting sites and is the second highest-ranked Texas Tech signee since scouting services have been issuing player grades), left guard Madison Akamnonu, wide receiver Erik Ezukanma, corner Zech McPhearson (a grad transfer who signed with Penn State out of high school), and wide receiver T.J. Vasher.

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Though Tech fans are not blind to the fact that our program has been lagging behind its conference rivals on the recruiting trail, the good news is that we know those ratings do not always translate to success on the field.  After all, a case could be made that the highest-rated class of Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure, the 2015 class, was his least productive and the one that eventually cost him his job.

Fortunately, we have seen quite a few Red Raiders outperform their recruiting rankings.  For example, if you go by the rankings in this 247Sports ranking, Alan Bowman would be considered just the 19th-best player on the roster.  Of course, after his standout freshman season we know that if he isn’t the best player on the team, he is easily in the top 3.

If there is a better player than Bowman on the roster, that distinction could go to linebacker Jordyn Brooks.  But by recruit rankings, he would be just the 28th-best player on the team.

The fact is that Texas Tech is a program that has always been built around player development more than elite talent acquisition.  In fact, of the five highest-rated recruits ever to sign with the Red Raiders, Anderson is the only one that became a contributor.  DTs Breiden Fehoko, Michael Starts, and Delvon Simmons, as well as WR Dominique Wheeler, all were busts who did not even finish their careers as Red Raiders.

Already in their time in Lubbock, some current Texas Tech players have surpassed what their recruiting rankings would have suggested they should have become.  The lowest-ranked 3-star recruit on the team, Travis Bruffy is set to begin his third season as a starting tackle on Saturday.

Likewise, the other starting tackle Terence Steele has started every game of his career despite being just a 3-star player with a grade of 0.8065 (which is very low for a 3-star).  By the time he ends his career at the end of this season, he will be among the all-time leaders in program history in terms of games started but he’s just the 64th-highest ranked Red Raider in terms of recruiting ranking.

How about the player on the roster who had the lowest recruiting ranking (among players that received a ranking as high school prospects), Eli Howard.  The definition of an overachiever, he is the roster’s leading pass-rusher despite being a two-star recruit in 2015.

So what do we make of this 247Sports ranking?  Is it just offseason filler or is there a way we can apply it to our understanding of the Texas Tech football program?

Certainly, the latter.  Where Texas Tech has struggled as a program has not been with the program’s best players.  Each year, the Red Raiders can put their top 15 players up against most other schools’ in the FBS and compare rather well.

But where the lack of overall talent has hurt Tech is when it comes to depth.  Injuries tend to be far more crippling for Tech than blue-chip programs.

For example, consider that last year OU lost its starting running back Rodney Anderson in the second week of the season.  So what did Lincoln Riley do?  He turned to Tre Sermon, a former 4-star recruit, who proceeded to run for 947 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Of course, what did Clemson do when QB Kelly Bryant struggled last year?  They turned to 5-star freshman Trevor Lawrence and got better on their way to a national title.

When Alabama’s former 5-star QB signee Jalen Hurts struggled in the National Title game in 2018, they went to the bench for another 5-star QB in Tua Tagovailoa who delivered them a comeback win and has since become one of the top QBs in the nation.   Imagine if Kingsbury would have had depth like that at the QB position last year.

Fishing in the four and five-star pond will yield better results across the board, that’s no revelation.  While teams like Tech can overcome low recruiting class rankings by developing players, the likelihood that their depth will be able to survive critical injuries is far lower than that of programs with rosters chalked full of elite prospects.

Next. The all-time Dallas-Fort Worth Red Raider football roster. dark

Keep an eye on that factor this year as the Red Raiders’ depth is once again questionable.  If Tech can stay healthy at key positions, this could be an interesting season for Matt Wells.  But until he can elevate the level of the talent on his roster across the board, Tech will always be facing an uphill battle.