Friday night, the exodus on the offensive side of the football continued for the Texas Tech Red Raiders when it was reported that running back Cam’Ron Valdez entered the transfer portal. No official word has come from Valdez at this time but the news is being reported by several outlets including Rivals.com.
This development has many Red Raider fans wondering if Valdez’s decision is tied to the future of senior running back Tahj Brooks, a first-team All-Big 12 performer in 2023 who is still deciding whether to return for one final year in Lubbock or test the NFL waters.
Though earlier this fall, running backs coach Kenny Perry implied that Brooks had played his last game at Jones Stadium, there remains the possibility that he could come back and enjoy what would be a rather lucrative N.I.L. deal. What’s more, the fact that Brooks is committed to playing in the upcoming Independence Bowl against Cal is making some fans wonder (and hope) that we might see him don the Double T next season.
Now, it is fair to wonder if Valdez’s decision to seek greener pastures is yet another indication that Brooks might be leaning toward returning to Joey McGuire’s program. After all, if Brooks does come back, there won’t be a ton of carries for Valdez.
This year, Brooks rushed the ball 268 times in the regular season while Valdez got only 40 rushing attempts. That likely wouldn’t change if both were on the roster in 2024.
It just doesn’t seem as if Valdez was ever able to earn the trust of either coaching staff he played for as a Red Raider. Despite showing occasional flashes of explosiveness, he was never consistently featured in the offense.
In 15 career games, he topped out at 11 carries in a single game, which came last season against Kansas (he picked up 66 yards that day). This year, his max was six carries, which he got four times.
Of course, his outburst against Houston was the highlight of his career thus far. In Tech’s 49-28 win, Valdez gashed the Cougars for 111 yards and a TD averaging 18.5 yards per carry on six attempts.
However, he never came close to replicating that performance. His second-best day this fall was a 5-carry, 38-yard effort against BYU.
Unfortunately, Valdez might be more remembered for some gaffes and lapses in judgment than for the positive things he did at Tech. In the 2022 Texas Bowl win over Ole Miss, he let up as he neared the goal line on what would have been a 30-yard TD run allowing a defender to catch up to him and punch the ball out of his hands resulting in a touchback for the Rebels. This season, he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for kicking at a defender following a play.
Instances like those might give us a glimpse as to why Valdez never earned the complete trust of his coaches. He also may have struggled to become a complete running back who was trusted to pick up the pass protection scheme and do the dirty work that the position requires. Of course, that is pure speculation and only those inside the program will know for sure why Valdez’s role remained limited throughout his tenure in Lubbock.
Additionally, the slight 195-pounder had a penchant for getting dinged up at Tech. This year, he missed three games due to minor injuries and his lack of size might give many pause at the thought of ever using Valdez as a featured running back.
What we do know is that his assumed departure will make Tech consider the running back options in the portal, especially until Brooks makes his decision. Tech has offered a scholarship to Tennessee-Martin running back Samuel Franklin who ran for over 1,300 yards this past season.
However, the number of RB targets could increase if both Valdez and Brooks depart this offseason. Of course, in the event that Brooks returns, Tech could decide to give second-team running back carries to a young player such as 2023 true freshman Anquan Willis, the Wichita Falls native who turned heads in fall camp but who redshirted this year, rather than bring in another scholarship RB.
Ultimately, Valdez’s decision to leave won’t rock the Red Raiders to their core. In fact, none of the 13 Red Raider offensive players to have put their names in the portal this far are irreplaceable.
What these defections do is give McGuire more openings to work with as he tries to churn the roster and improve the firepower offensive coordinator Zach Kittley has to work with. That should excite Red Raider fans given how effective this coaching staff has proven to be on the recruiting trail.