Texas Tech football: The most important target still on Matt Wells’ recruiting board

LAWRENCE, KS - OCTOBER 7: A Texas Tech Red Raiders helmet rest on the field during a game against the Kansas Jayhawks at Memorial Stadium on October 7, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
LAWRENCE, KS - OCTOBER 7: A Texas Tech Red Raiders helmet rest on the field during a game against the Kansas Jayhawks at Memorial Stadium on October 7, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

Though the Texas Tech football program’s 2021 recruiting class is off to an encouraging start, it is imperative that Matt Wells lands 4-star RB Camron Valdez.

Over the last two months, Texas Tech football fans have been pleasantly surprised by the results Matt Wells has had on the recruiting trail.  Picking up six commitments since the first of April, the second-year head coach has the foundation for a strong class, especially since he’s already got a 4-star QB (Behren Morton) and a 4-star WR (Jerand Bradley) on board.

But this class also needs to add a difference-making running back and as the days and weeks tick off the calendar, that market is beginning to grow rather thin.  That’s why it is imperative that Wells finds a way to land 4-star RB Camron Valdez.

The Rockdale, TX product has held an offer from the Red Raiders for over a year and he’s been highly interested in Wells’ program.  But as you can imagine is the case for the No. 23 RB in the nation and the No. 52 player in Texas, he has plenty of options to sort through.

In addition to Tech, the 5-foot-10, 187-pounder has offers from TCU, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Arizona, Arizona State, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Purdue, Utah, and West Virginia among others.  And according to 247Sports, he is set to visit Lubbock in June but of course, no one knows if that will happen given the coronavirus pandemic.

Recently, Arkansas has put on the virtual full-court press in this race.  Media outlets in The Natural State are touting these video tours of the Razorbacks’ facilities as important developments in their efforts to lure yet another big-time Texas high school talent out of the Lone Star State.

It’s easy to see why the Hogs and all the other schools in the hunt for Valdez are so invested in bringing him into the fold.   Last fall, Valdez rushed for 1,697 yards and 30 touchdowns.  He picked up the Offensive MVP award in his district and he’s only going to get better as a senior as well as when he hits a college campus.

The problem for Tech is that all of Wells’ eggs at RB may be in this basket.  That’s because recent developments have taken some of Tech’s best targets at that position off of the board.

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On May 15, 3-star target Jonathan Brooks committed to Texas and on the first day of this month, 3-star RB Brandon Epton decided to commit to SMU.  Both had offers from the Red Raiders but they are off to other programs in the state meaning the RB pool continues to shrink.

In fact, only five of the eleven RBs in 2021 to hold an offer from Tech remain uncommitted.  What’s more, the three most highly-rated of those players aren’t considered viable options.  Five-star RB Camar Wheaton and four-star backs Ahmonte Watkins and LJ Johnson seem to be out of Tech’s league.

That leaves Valdez or 3-star RB Tavierre Dunlap from Del Valle, Texas as the only realistic options for Wells unless he is able to identify some new targets.  And make no mistake, this program is in desperate need of quality running backs.

Right now, there is only one scholarship RB in the program, sophomore SaRodorick Thompson, who had a strong redshirt freshman season with 756 yards and 12 TDs in 2019.  This summer, 2020 signee Tahj Brooks, a 3-star RB from Manor, TX will also join the program.

But after that, there are no RBs in the pipeline.  And as we saw in 2019 when Tech began the year with a three-headed attack in the backfield, injuries are always a concern for running backs given the brutal nature of the position.

By the time that last season ended, Thompson was the only Red Raider RB that was healthy enough to play and even he had to fight through a bum ankle.  Thus, going back into battle in 2020 with just two RBs would be a frightening proposition.

Unfortunately, Ta’Zhawn Henry has transferred to Houston this offseason after being a decent backup for the last two years.  What’s more, Tech tried to get a sixth year of eligibility for grad transfer Armand Shyne but the former Utah transfer who missed the last six games of the year was unable to receive the grace of the NCAA leaving the Red Raiders perilously thin at RB.

Thus, it seems almost guaranteed that Wells will add at least one JUCO or grad transfer RB prior to the start of the season.  However, doing so will only provide a short-term fix for a problem that has been plaguing Tech for several years.

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That’s why Valdez has to be the top priority for the coaching staff in this recruiting cycle.  He’s got the makings of a game-breaking back and he could be a long-term answer in the backfield.  The pickings are becoming alarmingly thin at RB in the class of 2021 and as a result, the significance of Camron Valdez to a number of programs is only going to rise.  Here’s hoping this is one big fish that Wells can get in the boat.