According to one media report, the Texas Tech football program has moved sophomore Xavier White to RB after the Monterey H.S. alum played slot receiver last year.
Teams often talk about balance in regards to how the ball is distributed around the field. But months before the first game is played, the Texas Tech football program already has an imbalance issue in 2020.
That’s because the program has too many scholarship slot receivers and not enough scholarship running backs. That remains the case even after Tuesday’s commitment from Alabama transfer Chadarius Townsend, who will become the third Red Raider RB on the roster (not counting walk sons).
So to help ease the log jam at slot receiver while also fortifying the RB spot, Matt Wells and his offensive coordinator David Yost are reportedly moving Xavier White from inside receiver to running back. The move was reported by Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal on Sunday.
White came out of nowhere last fall to earn a spot in Tech’s 3-man slot receiver rotation to being the year. And before an injury cost him the final eight games of the season, he had performed well with 10 receptions for 159 yards and a TD.
After he went down, the other two slots that Tech turned to, Dalton Rigdon and McLane Mannix, were able to perform adequately enough to be included in the mix for this season’s two-deep rotation. Also adding congestion to the picture in the slot is the permanent move of junior KeSean Carter from outside to inside receiver after his career-best 150-yard game in last season’s finale at Texas, his first-ever start at slot receiver.
What’s more, as Williams points out in his piece, Tech now needs fewer inside receivers thanks to the presence of the tight end position that Yost prefers to use on virtually every offensive snap. The theory is that keeping the same personnel grouping on the field at all times makes it harder for defenses to diagnose what the offense is doing.
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Thus, having four capable slot receivers is now a waste of talent as there simply aren’t enough snaps for all four players. That’s why White is now going to try his hand in the backfield where his explosive athleticism and his elusiveness could be excellent compliments to the powerful backs Tech already has in sophomore SaRodorick Thompson and true freshman Tahj Brooks.
However it happens, White needs to ball in his hands plenty this fall. He’s got the type of speed that can break open a game and that was an element missing from the 2019 attack.
Explosiveness was supposed to be a hallmark of Yosts’ offense after a 2018 season that saw his Utah State offense rank 12th nationally with 22 plays of 40 or more yards in length. But last year, his first Red Raider offense ranked just 73rd with 13 such plays.
Also, don’t be surprised to see White also get his shot at returning kicks. As a freshman at Dodge City Community College, he averaged 20.8 yards per return on six kickoff runbacks.
That was an area where Tech was strong last fall. Ranking 3rd in the Big 12 and 49th nationally, the Red Raiders averaged over 21 yards per return in the first year of new special teams coordinator Mark Tommerdahl.
But as for punt returns, the results were nowhere near as encouraging. With an average of just 5.8 yards per return, Tech was merely 8th in the conference and 90th overall and that’s an area where Tommerdahl will want to see improvement because punt returns can often break open close games.
Getting the ball to White more consistently (provided that he’s on the field for all 12 games) could help take Tech’s offense to a new level in 2020. After all, he had a 45-yard TD catch in his Texas Tech football debut and he averaged 15.9 yards every time he touched the ball. But this year, the way the ball gets to him might look different than it did last season.