For over a year, college athletics has had a freeze on in-person recruiting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, all official visits have been halted as virtual visits have become the norm.
That has hurt Texas Tech more than most programs because Tech has long thrived on getting prospects on campus to experience the university and the people of West Texas. Whereas some name-brand schools can recruit on tradition and pedigree alone, Tech usually has to put its best foot forward in person to persuade top talent to want to call the South Plains home.
But while the recruiting dead period remains in effect, this past weekend, the Red Raiders’ top defensive line target, Curlee Thomas IV, was in Lubbock to take in the spring game. That’s a significant development given that the Fort Worth native made the trip on his own dime and it’s an indication that he has a legitimate interest in becoming a Red Raider.
A 3-star prospect according to all major scouting services, the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder is rated by 247sports as the No. 34 strong-side defensive end in the nation and the No. 75 player in Texas. In addition to Texas Tech, he holds offers from Arkansas, Cal, Michigan State, and Oklahoma State.
Adding defensive linemen is essential in every recruiting class and Thomas is Tech’s top priority in the class of 2022. This past fall, he recorded 16 sacks and 22 tackles for loss and given his size, he could step in and play some meaningful snaps as soon as he steps on campus.
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In recent years, the Red Raiders have done a decent job of replenishing the stores along the defensive front. Thus, that position is one of considerable depth as we head into the offseason.
In 2019, the program added Tony Bradford Jr. and he’s become a force up-front. In two seasons, he’s racked up 48 tackles (8.5 for loss) and 2.5 sacks.
The 2020 recruiting cycle yielded Philip Blidi and L.B. Moore. Though Moore missed all of last season with an injury, Blidi earned significant playing time as a freshman amassing five tackles on the year. Both Blidi and Moore are likely to figure into the DE rotation this year and both are expected to take significant steps forward after a year in the strength and conditioning program.
The Red Raiders will also have former JUCO All-American Devin Drew and hopefully a finally healthy Nelson Mbanasor as well as former Texas A&M transfer Tyree Wilson to throw into the mix at end. Still, adding players of Thomas’ ability has to be a priority in every recruiting class.
Right now, the Red Raiders have yet to secure a verbal commitment from any player in the class of 2022. Could Curlee Thomas IV be the first? The fact that he took the time to attend Tech’s spring game on his own dime is a great sign and reason to feel hopeful that he will eventually join the Red Raiders.