Texas Tech football: Coveted Illinois DE has Red Raiders in top 5

The Texas Tech football program has made the cut for Illinois DE Ryan Keeler’s top five schools.

Defensive end is one of the most difficult positions to recruit for college football programs (other than the blue-bloods) because literally every school in the nation covets that position and there are not enough quality targets to fulfill the demand.  Texas Tech football fans know that all too well.

That’s why it’s worth keeping an eye on the recruitment of Illinois DE Ryan Keeler.  Recently including Tech in his top five, the 3-star prospect is one of the best DEs in the class of 2021 that the Red Raiders still have a shot at landing.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is ranked the No. 36 strongside defensive end in the nation and the No. 16 player in Illinois by the 247Sports composite rankings.  In addition to Tech, he is still considering Rutgers, Ole Miss, Michigan, and Virginia.  But he also holds offers from such programs as Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State, Louisville, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and West Virginia.

After being eliminated from the running for their top DE target in the 2021 recruiting cycle, 4-star DE Landyn Watson of Hutto, Texas, the Red Raiders likely now consider Keeler their biggest prize at the position.  But his timetable for a decision is up in the air meaning that this battle could last into the late summer or even early fall.

“I went on a few visits,” Keeler told Mike Clark of the Chicago Sun Times. “In May, I was planning on taking my official visits.

“That pushed back my commitment date. I was trying to commit sometime in June, but that won’t be possible.”

For what it’s worth, four of the five experts to have put in a crystal ball prediction for Keeler have done so for Rutgers.  But Keeler sounds wide open at this point.

“The fit — how I fit in with the coaches, the [other] players, the scheme,” he told Clark when asked what he’s looking for in a school.  “No. 2, I don’t want to just be used for football. I want them to care for me [as a person and an athlete]. Third is education. I want a good degree. Life after football is important.”

The Red Raiders already have one excellent DE prospect committed in the 20201 class, 3-star E’Maurion Banks from Wichita Falls.  But adding a second quality DE is a must given that the program will lose senior Eli Howard after this season and junior Nelson Mbanasor after next year.

The Red Raiders are banking on LB coach Kevin Cosgrove to win this recruiting battle.  Recently, Keeler talked to Allen Trieu of 247Sports about his relationship with the former LSU analyst who joined Wells’ staff this offseason.

“Coach Kevin Cosgrove is my primary recruiter,” he said.  “I have had a relationship with a coach since LSU. We have had a few zoom meetings with the entire defensive staff and Coach Wells. They are all great guys. Coach Randolph and I have gone over some defensive fronts. He loves my violence at the point of attack, how I use my hands, and how I flip my hips. I want to visit Lubbock because I hear it is a great place. Texas Tech is a program on the rise and it would be great to be part of a program on the rise. I can see Texas Tech winning the Big 12.”

If a Big 12 championship is ever going to be a reality for the Red Raiders, players like Keeler have to join the program in greater numbers than they have been in recent years.  That’s why this is a recruiting battle that bears watching for Texas Tech football fans.