Texas Tech enjoyed a smooth mid-year football signing day until the jolt at the end.
Wide receiver Javon Bell headlined a group of nine newcomers Tech landed Wednesday, the first day mid-term transfers could sign with their new schools. It could have been even better for the Red Raiders if not for a signing-day switch by Pierce (Calif.) College cornerback Kasseim Everett, who went from saying he was Tech-bound at midday to signing with Oklahoma four hours later.
As it was, the Red Raiders came away with nine players, six of whom contributed to top-10 junior college teams this season.
“This is a great group and we are glad they made the decision to become Red Raiders,” Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said in a statement Tech released. “All of these guys are going to be afforded the opportunity for immediate playing time and we look forward to getting them on the practice field in February.”
Everett announced he’d chosen Tech during an early afternoon ceremony at his school, but apparently had a change of heart. At 6 p.m., Oklahoma announced he’d signed with the Sooners.
Everett would have been icing on the cake.
The seven junior-college players from whom Tech had received oral commitments in the week leading up to signing day all followed through.
Bell (6-foot, 184 pounds), offensive tackle Rashad Fortenberry (6-5, 283) and linebacker-safety Chris Payne (5-10, 190) — teammates on a sixth-ranked, 10-2 team at Mississippi Gulf Coast Communty College — signed early in the day.
Following suit not long after were three teammates from fifth-ranked, 11-0 Riverside (Calif.) Community College: Defensive end Lee Adams (6-3, 265), outside linebacker Will Smith (6-3, 220) and wide receiver-kick returner SaDale Foster (5-8, 190).
Tech started recruiting the Riverside players about two weeks ago. Smith said he was leaning toward Nevada before then, but the appeal of the Big 12 Conference made it easy to reconsider.
“It’s a dream of mine to play in a big conference since I was a kid,” said Smith, who this season made 88 tackles, three interceptions and four fumble recoveries.
Safety Austin Stewart (6-2, 200) from Pierce (Calif.) College rounded out the juco additions.
Payne and Stewart both will be sophomores next season with three years of eligibility remaining.
Tech also announced that center Jared Kaster (6-4, 268) from Altair Rice Consolidated and cornerback Thierry Nguema (5-11, 175) from Corona (Calif.) Santiago, both entering freshmen, have signed financial aid agreements to enroll at mid-term.
Bell might be most heralded of the signees, having been NJCAA first-team all-American in 2010 and second-team all-American in 2011. The two years combined, he made 111 catches for 2,252 yards and 27 touchdowns.
“Javon ought to be an impact player from the get-go,” Mississippi Gulf Coast coach Steve Campbell said. “He’s got explosive speed, tremendous hands, great work ethic.”
The Red Raiders hope Fortenberry continues trending the way he has the last two years. He came out of Bowling Green High School — a Class 2A private school in Franklinton, La. — as a 260-pound lineman. He gained weight and blossomed this year as the Bulldogs’ left tackle.
“They helped me out,” he said. “I got stronger, I got wiser about the game and a lot of things.”
Though improving the defense is Tech’s chief need, the Red Raiders added more than one potential playmaker.
Foster caught 12 touchdown passes last season, returned kickoffs for a 28.5-yard average and returned punts for a 13.4-yard average and one touchdown.
“They plan to use me as my junior college used me, which is multiple (roles), get the ball in open space and make plays,” Foster said. “Some opportunities can come in the running game as well.”
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TEXAS TECH SIGNEES/COMMITMENTS
The following players have signed with or committed to Texas Tech. Wednesday was the start of the signing period for mid-term transfers. The national signing period for spring graduates begins Feb. 1.
Signed at mid-term (9): 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; Jared Kaster, 6-4, 268, C, Altair Rice Consolidated; Rashad Fortenberry, 6-5, 283, OT, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC/Franklinton (La.) Bowling Green HS; Lee Adams, 6-3, 265, DE, Riverside (Calif.) CC/Corona (Calif.) Centennial HS; Will Smith, 6-3, 220, OLB, Riverside (Calif.) CC/Riverside (Calif.) Notre Dame HS; Chris Payne, 5-10, 190, LB-S, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC/Columbia (S.C.) HS; Thierry Nguema, 5-11, 175, CB, Corona (Calif.) Santiago; Austin Stewart, 6-2, 200, FS, Pierce (Calif.) College/Matthews (N.C.) Butler HS.
Oral commitments (15): 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; Reginald Davis, 6-1, 188, WR, Tenaha; Dominique Wheeler, 6-2, 175, WR, Crockett; Trey Keenan, 6-6, 270, OT, Argyle; Michael Starts, 6-4, 280, OT-DL, Waco La Vega; 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; Kris Williams, 6-2, 202, LB, Dallas Bryan Adams; La’Darius Newbold, 6-1, 180, CB, Lancaster.