Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said late in the year the Red Raiders would dip a little more heavily into the junior-college ranks than first planned to seek a quick fix for a 5-7 season.
On Wednesday, three teammates from Riverside (Calif.) Community College committed to Tech, and now the Red Raiders have added at least two teammates from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston, Miss. Wide receiver Javon Bell (6-foot, 184 pounds) and offensive tackle Rashad Fortenberry (6-5, 283) both said Saturday they are in the fold.
“I like the people out there in Lubbock,” Bell said. “I felt comfortable around there. I feel like I can make that my second home. It wasn’t just because of the football program. It was all about the people there and the environment.”
All five juco pledges said they are mid-term graduates who plan to enroll at Tech in January so they can go through spring practice. Mid-term transfers can sign financial aid agreements starting Wednesday.
Bell, who expects to be an outside receiver in the Red Raiders’ offense, said he also had scholarship offers from Southern Mississippi, Middle Tennessee State, Oklahoma State and Mississippi State.
Fortenberry said he picked Tech over offers from South Florida, Louisiana-Lafayette and Middle Tennessee State.
“I fit in well with the program,” Fortenberry said. “I’m more of a passing (pass-blocking) tackle, and I feel like I’ll do good in this program.”
Tech might have more on the way from Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, which finished 10-2 and ranked No. 6 in the nation. Fortenberry said teammate Chris Payne, listed on the team’s web site as a 5-10, 215-pound linebacker, also has picked the Red Raiders. Payne was not immediately available to confirm that.
Fortenberry played offensive guard for the Bulldogs as a freshman, then shifted to what he considers his more natural position of tackle this season.
“Rashad’s a great kid, great player,” Mississippi Gulf Coast coach Steve Campbell said. “He started every game for us this year and was an all-state selection in what I think is the toughest junior-college league in the country. He has great feet, good punch, excellent pass blocker, good run blocker.”
Campbell speaks even more strongly about Bell, who was an NJCAA first-team all-American as a freshman and a second-team all-American as a sophomore. Bell, from Jacksonville, Fla., signed out of high school with South Carolina, but failed to meet freshman eligibility requirements.
At Mississippi Gulf Coast, he caught 46 passes for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2010 and 65 passes for 939 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011.
“Javon will be a great player,” Campbell said. “I will be disappointed if he’s not a Biletnikoff (Award) watch guy and have a chance to be an NFL player. We’ve had quite a few guys make it to that level. He’s got as much ability as anybody to come through this program.”
Campbell said Bell can have the same kind of impact at his position as Gulf Coast alums such as Terrence Cody and Vick Ballard have had at theirs. Cody, a defensive tackle, became a two-time consensus all-American at Alabama. Ballard, a running back, has rushed for 1,977 yards the last two seasons for Mississippi State, setting a single-season school record with 20 touchdowns in 2010.
“Javon’s of that caliber,” Campbell said. “He’s, I think, the best in the country.”
After Bell’s outstanding freshman season, Campbell said, opposing defenses devoted more coverage his way this year. Often, he faced cornerback coverage with a safety over the top. Campbell said Bell can be “very explosive down the field,” but defenses tried to take away that option this season.
“We used him a lot more on the sweeps and the bubbles (screens) and things of that nature,” Campbell said. “We tried to get him the ball in space and let him run with it, and he did a great job with that as well.”
“I just do what I do best. I still scored touchdowns,” Bell said. “That’s what I wanted to do: score touchdowns, catch the ball and do whatever it takes for my team to win. They probably did plan for me, but I just went with the flow.”
TEXAS TECH COMMITMENTS
The following players have made commitments to sign with Texas Tech. The national signing period begins Wednesday for mid-term transfers and Feb. 1 for spring graduates.
Clayton Nicholas, 6-3, 210, QB, Abilene Cooper; Quinton White, 5-8, 188, RB, College Station A&M Consolidated; Keenon Ward, 5-10, 180, IR, Snyder; Sadale Foster, 5-8, 190, IR-KR, Riverside (Calif.) CC/Riverside North HS; Javon Bell, 6-0, 184, WR, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC/Jacksonville (Fla.) Ribault HS; Reginald Davis, 6-1, 188, WR, Tenaha; Dominique Wheeler, 6-2, 175, WR, Crockett; Jared Kaster, 6-4, 268, C, Altair Rice Consolidated; Rashad Fortenberry, 6-5, 283, OT, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC/Franklinton (La.) Bowling Green HS; Trey Keenan, 6-6, 270, OT, Argyle; Halapoulivaati Vaitai, 6-6 1/2, 267, OT, Haltom; Michael Starts, 6-4, 280, OT-DL, Waco La Vega; Lee Adams, 6-3, 265, DE, Riverside (Calif.) CC/Corona (Calif.) Centennial HS; Desimon Green, 6-4, 230, DE, Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy/McKeesport (Penn.) HS; Chase Robison, 6-4, 225, DE, Memphis (Tenn.) Christian Brothers; J.J. Bynum, 6-3, 280, DT, College Station A&M Consolidated; Anthony Smith, 5-11, 288, DT, Spring Westfield; Micah Awe, 6-0, 196, LB, Mansfield Summit; Ryan Flannigan, 6-1, 200, LB, Sugar Land Marshall; Will Smith, 6-3, 220, OLB, Riverside (Calif.) CC/Riverside (Calif.) Notre Dame HS; Kris Williams, 6-2, 202, LB, Dallas Bryan Adams; La’Darius Newbold, 6-1, 180, CB, Lancaster.