Having too many quality defensive ends is never a problem that any college football program will complain about. And for years, the Texas Tech football program has struggled to find enough talented pass rushers to man that position. But that all might be changing thanks to Matt Wells’ work in the transfer portal.
Already with former Texas A&M transfer Tyree Wilson set to begin his second season with the Red Raiders after he joined the program last August, Wells dipped back into the portal on Wednesday to add Virginia Tech transfer Robert Wooten to the mix.
The snag is that Wooten may not be eligible to play this year being as he did not enter the portal until after the July 1 cutoff for players to receive a no-questions-asked one-time immediate eligibility waiver. But on the other hand, there is great news concerning Wooten as he still has all four years of eligibility remaining thanks to the fact that 2020 did not count against any player’s eligibility.
The Stafford, Texas native appeared in eleven games for the Hokies last season racking up three tackles. But now, he’s ready to come back to his home state after what sounds like an unusual set of circumstances forced him to leave Blacksburg.
“I want to thank VT. With a heavy heart, I have decided to enter the transfer portal.” Wooten wrote on social media last week. “This has nothing to do with the coaches or the program. This is where I wanted to be. This was an issue that was out of their hands and mine. I accept responsibility and will move on to a different path. I look forward to seeing what my future holds.”
While Wooten doesn’t elaborate on his departure from Va. Tech, what is clear is that he’s the caliber of player that Texas Tech needs to continue to add to the mix. In the class of 2020, he was rated the No. 27 weakside defensive end in the nation and the No. 75 player in Texas by the 247Sports.com composite rankings.
In addition to Texas Tech and Virginia Tech, he held offers out of high school from the likes of Arizona, Missouri, SMU, Arizona, Arkansas, Cal, Houston, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, and Wisconsin among others.
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This year, Tech will be asking Tony Bradford Jr. and Tyree Wilson to man the starting DE positions with Wilson expected to be the team’s top pass rusher. But last season, that duo combined for just 2.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss meaning that for this year’s defense to take a step forward, their collective improvement will be one of the keys.
The Red Raiders will also ask former JUCO transfer Devin Drew to be more of a factor this season. After being a JUCO All-American in 2019, he put up 21 tackles last year (0.5 for loss) but had no sacks.
It would also be nice if senior Nelson Mbanasor and sophomore Gilbert Ibeneme were both able to return from season-ending injuries in 2020 to be key contributors this fall. Then there is sophomore Philip Blidi who had five tackles and 0.5 sacks last year as a true freshman. He too will look to take a step forward in his second year as a Red Raider.
Thus, even if Wooten is forced to sit out this season as a redshirt, Tech will have plenty of warm bodies to throw at the defensive end position. (That hasn’t always been the case on the South Plains.) But most of the players that the Red Raiders will run out there this fall are far from proven stars meaning that someone is going to have to take his game up a notch for this defense to be as good as many believe it could be.
Adding Wooten to the mix is a great move for this program and a coup for Wells and his staff. It helps solidify the future at a position that has been a problem for most of the last decade. Therefore, even if we have to wait a year to see him on the field, Wooten’s addition to the program is worth being excited about.