Texas Tech football: 2020 commits that Red Raiders could have used this year

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 16: Texas Tech Red Rainders mascot the Masked Rider leads the team onto the field before the college football game against the TCU Horned Frogs on November 16, 2019 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 16: Texas Tech Red Rainders mascot the Masked Rider leads the team onto the field before the college football game against the TCU Horned Frogs on November 16, 2019 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

This year, the Texas Tech football team’s biggest problem has been its lack of depth.  So let’s look at some of the current 2020 commits that would have been nice to already have in the program in 2019.

There’s a facet of college sports that makes it infinitely harder for teams to improve their overall status in their sport than any other organization or league, especially mid-level programs like the Texas Tech football program.   The difference is that that unlike in the professional ranks, college athletics is set up so that the rich continue to get richer.

The way the NCAA system works is actually very American.  It is a capitalistic society where success is rewarded.  The only way to improve yourself is to…well…get better at what you are trying to do so that more people want to be a part of what you have going on.  Meanwhile, American professional sports are set up in a socialistic capacity where the poor get the first crack at the greatest resources.  In other words, in our professional leagues, incompetence is rewarded.

But not in the NCAA.  Every year, the same teams will be atop the recruiting rankings.  In football, it will be Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Michigan, Georgia, Clemson and a handful of other programs that have spent the last decade atop the sport.  In basketball, the same can be said of Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Kansas.

But in basketball, there are more legitimate college prospects to go around because each team has only 13 scholarships it can fill at a time.  Football is much more geared towards keeping the rich teams rich because programs can have 85 scholarship players at any given time.

So whereas the top 200 basketball players in the nation will be dispersed among dozens of programs, the top 200 football players will mainly be headed to one of about 15 different programs.  That’s why it’s so much more of an uphill battle for Matt Wells to build a winning program than it was for Chris Beard.

Wells is going to have to find a few diamonds in the rough like Pat Mahomes or Jakeem Grant while also having a much higher success rate with the bulk of his players than Kliff Kingsbury managed.  While not every player he brings in has to develop into an All-Big 12 talent, Wells needs a better hit-rate when it comes to the number of high school players that eventually become starters.

What we need are more classes to pan out as the 2017 group did.  Though that class was rated just 49th in the nation, of the 19 players signed, 12 either became starters or project to be so before they are gone.

That class included Jack Anderson, Dawson Deaton, Riko Jeffers, Nelson Mbanasor, Casey Verhulst, Adrian Frye, and Will Farrar from the high school ranks.  It’s possible that this class could comprise 80% of next year’s starting offensive line with Anderson, Deaton, Farrar, and Verhulst likely joining 2018 signee Weston Wright up front next year.

Additionally, Tech hit big on the JUCO talent it added that year.  In addition to Dakota Allen, Tech signed Vaughnte Dorsey and Tony Jones (a pair of two-year starters) and Jacob Hines, a valuable backup offensive lineman, as well as punter Domonic Panazzolo.  What’s more, that class included a walk-on named Dalton Rigdon, who has emerged as this program’s best slot receiver this year.

What’s frightening is the 2018 class. Ranked No. 72 in the nation, the worst of any Power 5 program’s class that year, the 22-member haul has produced only 9 players that have made any type of impact in their two years on campus.

While players like Alan Bowman, Ta’Zhawn Henry, Erik Ezukanma, SaRodorick Thompson, Weston Wright, Trey Wolff, Xavier Benson and KeSean Carter all look to be part of this team’s future, there are some concerns that some big-time players from that class may not pan out.  4-star guard DeMarcus Marshall is nowhere to be found on the offensive line two-deep and no one in the program is speaking about him as a possible option next year despite the program losing three starters.

Receiver Myllar Royals has been nothing but a special teams player this year and can’t get on the field even in a year when the Tech receiving corps has been as weak as at any point in the spread offense era of the program.  Another highly-touted receiver, Corey Fulcher, didn’t even last a full year in the program.

Defensive lineman John Scott might have had some playing time this year but he’s missed the entire season while recovering from a gunshot wound sustained this summer at a Lubbock apartment complex pool party.  Whether or not he ever returns from his life-threatening injury to play again is a huge unknown at this point.

If more than half of the 2018 class, which should be juniors or redshirt sophomores next year, prove to be busts, there will be an added burden placed on the 2019 and 2020 classes.  That’s why we’ve seen Wells and his staff dabble so heavily in the JUCO and grad transfer markets and that’s likely going to continue this offseason.

The 2019 class, considered a transition class, has given us the likes of Tony Bradford Jr., Alex Hogan, Dadrion Taylor, and Tyrique Matthews on defense but virtually no productivity on the other side of the ball.  With no running back, the most recent Tech class is going to need players like OT Trevor Roberson, QB Maverick McIvor, and WR Trey Cleveland to eventually produce in order for it to be considered a success.

Thus, the 2020 class, the first true test of Wells’ ability to acquire talent at Tech, will be perhaps the most critical of his tenure.  It has to set the foundation for the majority of the remaining five years he has on his initial contract.

The good news is that Wells has the program’s class back to the level of most Texas Tech classes, No. 43 in the nation and No. 7 in the Big 12.  While that’s not elite, at least it is a forward step from the recent classes we’ve seen.  And the following players are the type of players that might step in and play immediately.  In fact, Tech could have used them this season.