Texas Tech football: 2019 recruiting class woefully unproductive in year one

LUBBOCK, TX - OCTOBER 11: General view of the end zone pylon prior to the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the West Virginia Mountaineers on October 11, 2014 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. West Virginia won the game 37-34. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - OCTOBER 11: General view of the end zone pylon prior to the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the West Virginia Mountaineers on October 11, 2014 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. West Virginia won the game 37-34. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images) /

In their first year on campus, the 2019 Texas Tech football signing class gave the Red Raiders less than virtually any first-year class in the last two decades.

Prior to 1972, freshmen couldn’t play Division 1 college football.  But since then, fans have continued to raise expectations for the next group of incoming signees, no matter how unwise that may be.  And in 2019, the harsh reality we must face is that the Texas Tech football freshman class gave the program almost no productivity.

Now, it is fair to wonder if that means that the first class of Matt Wells’ tenure is destined to be one that sets the program back.  If it does, it won’t be a tremendous surprise.  After all, it was ranked just No. 62 nationally and No. 8 in the Big 12.  What’s more, it will forever be known as Wells’ “transition class” as he had a mere two months to put together that group prior to the traditional February signing day.

But regardless, it remains rather concerning to look at just how little Tech got from last season’s freshmen.  What’s more, that group had opportunities to play meaningful roles due to the program’s lack of quality depth in the wake of several years of poor recruiting on the part of the previous coaching staff.

When the most productive player in a class proves to be a punter, it’s less than ideal and that’s what proved to be the case for the class of 2019 in their first college football experience.  It’s not a knock on Austin McNamara, who was a Freshman All-American and whose 45-yard per punt average was good for 4th best ever by a Red Raider.

Still, the punter is the player fans least want to see on the field.  He is the symbol of failure and give-up and he can’t be the best your program has to offer.

On the offensive side of the ball, the only two members of the 2019 class that made any contributions were JUCO transfers.  Tight end Travis Koontz and inside receiver Xavier White combined to give Tech 20 catches, 311 yards, and one TD.  That’s it for the skill position players.  Yikes.

It doesn’t get much better on the other side of the line.  DE Tony Bradford Jr. was a nice contributor who gave Tech 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks.  Meanwhile, DBs Alex Hogan and Dadrion Taylor combined for just 23 more tackles.  LB Tyrique Matthews came up with 10 tackles, most of which came on special teams and JUCO LB Kosi Eldridge came up with six tackles.

On a defense that was desperate for reinforcements, there were abundant opportunities for incoming freshmen to play right away and yet the class of 2019 couldn’t take advantage.  That’s disappointing seeing as in recent years, we’ve see some fantastic individual performances from freshmen defenders.

In 2016, Jordyn Brooks managed to come up with 85 tackles and a sack in his first year on campus.  That’s essentially double what the players listed above gave Tech last fall combined.

A year prior, it was Dakota Allen who made a splash in his first year with 87 tackles.  He also came up with two interceptions on his way to earning All-Big 12 recognition.

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There have also been some very good freshmen defensive backs to don the Double T in the modern era of the program. In 2009, a hard-nosed safety from Stephenville, Texas named Cody Davis started as a true freshman and came up with 81 tackles and six pass defenses.  A year later, Oklahoma product Tre Porter came up with 76 tackles, an interception, and six pass breakups in his first season as a collegiate.

Of course, the “Air Raid” era has given us plenty of true freshmen stars as well.  In 2001, RB Taurean Henderson amassed 1,426 total yards and 13 touchdowns on his way to being the best back in the last 20 years of Red Raider football.

One problem with the 2019 class was the fact that it did not have a high school or JUCO running back among the 19 signees.  That proved to be a problem as Tech had to finish last year with just one healthy RB, SaRodorick Thompson, and there are currently only two scholarship RBs in the program.  That ensures that freshman signee Tahj Brooks will have to play immediately in his freshman season this year.

We’ve also seen some true freshmen QBs make an impact.  Most notably was Pat Mahomes who started four games in 2014 racking up 1,547 yards and 16 TDs while essentially playing just those four games, one of which he left with a concussion in the first quarter.

The year prior, true freshmen Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield combined to start all 12 games for first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury.  But interestingly, neither would finish his career in Lubbock.

Perhaps therein lies the real lesson.  Freshmen are simply unpredictable and even those that seem to be set up for stardom after their first year are not guaranteed to be future pillars of the program.

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Perhaps, we should give the 2019 class some extra time to develop and come into its own.  But even when its members begin to make their mark, it’s fair to wonder just how impactful those marks will be given that none seemed to burst from the gates in their first season as Red Raiders.