Texas Tech defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko, who started all 25 games in his first two seasons with the Red Raiders, has announced hisintent to transfer. On top of that, the Red Raiders’ defensive line depth will take a hit, too, as defensive ends Gary Moore and ClarenceHenderson weren’t on the spring roster Tech released Thursday.
A Tech spokesman said Moore is no longer with the program, and Henderson is “not with the team this spring, but has not beenpermanently dismissed.”
Fehoko arrived as one of the nation’s top-rated recruits at his position and, although he started every game his freshman andsophomore seasons, didn’t become the force many had hoped. In 2016, he was credited with 19 tackles, 3 1/2 tackles for loss, a sackand five quarterback pressures. In 2015, he was credited with 19 tackles, including four tackles for loss, a sack and an interception.
Breiden Fehoko’s the youngest of four brothers to play college football, three at Tech.
In a statement he posted Thursday on Twitter, Fehoko wrote he’s decided “with heavy heart” to transfer.
“Lubbock since I was a little kid has been my home for as long as I could remember,” he wrote. “My brothers VJ and Sam laid thefoundation for me to live out my dream wearing the scarlet and black. To wear the double T was a privilege to honor those before me.However, after a lot of self reflection and prayer, I have made the decision that it is in my best interest to pursue my academic andfootball career elsewhere.”
Fehoko thanked Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt, coach Kliff Kingsbury and staff and his teammates.
“To all Red Raider fans, y’all are the best showing up every game day rain or shine. To the community of Lubbock, it was an honor toserve you — thank you. I always enjoyed the children’s hospital visits as well as the schools. No matter where I end up, I’ll always havea piece of Texas Tech with me.”
Thursday is the first day of classes for Tech’s spring semester. Tech released a spring roster that also didn’t list Moore or Henderson.
Moore’s departure wasn’t unexpected. He didn’t suit up and play in the last five games last season, and Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury wasvague about Moore’s status other than to say he wasn’t injured. He played in seven games, starting two, and was credited with 15tackles including four behind the line. He has one year of eligibility left.
Henderson, a 2016 signee from Dallas Skyline, redshirted last season.
Fehoko’s departure leaves the Red Raiders with both defensive tackle spots to fill, but several young candidates. Ondre Pipkins, theother starter last season, was a senior. The Red Raiders return the other members of that rotation, though: Broderick Washington andJoe Wallace, who’ll be sophomores, and Mychealon Thomas, who’ll be a senior.
Washington played in all 12 games, starting one, and getting credit for 14 tackles. Wallace played in eight games, getting in on 10tackles, and Thomas played in 10 games, having a hand in eight tackles.
In addition, there are 2016 signees Nick McCann and Noah Jones, who redshirted last season, and Talor Nunez and North Texastransfer Eli Howard. Jones, Nunez and Howard all could play defensive end or defensive tackle.
Breiden Fehoko’s announcement Thursday that he plans to transfer, coupled with the graduation loss of Ondre Pipkins, will haveTexas Tech looking for a new pair of defensive tackles when spring practice rolls around. Most of the candidates areinexperienced. Here’s a look at each.
Broderick Washington, 6-3, 308, So.: An offensive lineman in high school, Washington converted to defensive tackle from day oneat Tech and consistently earns favorable reviews. He progressed quickly enough to play in all 12 games last season as a redshirtfreshman, and coaches have complimented the toughness with which he goes about the job. He’ll likely be a favorite to start.
Joe Wallace, 6-1, 320, So.: Back in August, the Dallas Skyline graduate needed only about a week to convince coaches he couldcontribute as a true freshman. While Wallace didn’t wow with numbers or extended playing time, he showed explosiveness andthe potential to be disruptive as a nose tackle. With a stumpy build, Wallace will have to watch his weight, and the next challengemight be upping his conditioning to the point he can play 50 or so snaps.
Mychealon Thomas, 6-1, 322, Sr.: Thomas came in overweight last summer, weighing 345 pounds, but trimmed back to the low320s by early in the season. His production was limited — eight tackles in 10 games — with coaches wanting to see moreconsistent play from him. Winter conditioning, spring practice and summer workouts should give him a better foundation to be afactor in 2017.
Nick McCann, 6-2, 300, Fr.: The Red Raiders managed to redshirt McCann last season. The Texarkana, Arkansas, graduate wasactive his last two high school seasons with 93- and 87-tackle campaigns, and Baylor, Kansas and Oklahoma State were amongthe other schools that recruited him. At 6-3 and 300 pounds, he already fits the physical profile.
Eli Howard: 6-3, 260, So.: Many power-five programs pay little or no attention to West Texas high school players, so Howard wentfrom being District 3-6A defensive player of the year as a senior at San Angelo Central to signing with North Texas. Then hefollowed defensive line coach Kevin Patrick from the Mean Green to the Red Raiders. While sitting out last season to fulfill transferrequirements, the 6-foot-3 Howard gained weight and made a good impression during practice. He could play either end ortackle.
Talor Nunez, 6-4, 267, Sr.: The Midland Lee product is more of an end than a tackle, though he’s done some of the latter in pass-rush packages. Nunez knows what it’s like in the Big 12, having played in 26 career games, including 12 each in 2014 and 2016sandwiched around his knee injury-shortened 2015 campaign. He’s more likely to continue in the same role he’s had lately as abackup end, sub-package and special-teams contributor.
Noah Jones, 6-3, 250, Fr.: Jones had an interesting first semester in the program. Early on, Kingsbury praised him for picking upthe scheme quickly and possibly having a chance to play. Late in the season, though, Jones’ future was in doubt; he was directedto focus on academics and wasn’t even practicing. If Jones gets it together, he could help as either an end or 3-technique tackle,having been an all-state and two-time district defensive player of the year at Class 6A Moore (Okla.) Southmoore.