When a team takes a hard fall from recent residence in the top 25, many college football observers would agree the fastest way back is to sign a top 25 recruiting class.
Texas Tech more or less managed to do that Wednesday, landing a well-regarded class on the heels of its first losing season since 1992. On national signing day, Tech added 17 newcomers to the nine who already enrolled at mid-term.
Four major recruiting services all ranked the Red Raiders’ haul among the top 30 in the nation, and an average of the four rankings actually had Tech’s class No. 25.
Tech coach Tommy Tuberville will be counting on those players to make a 5-7 season a rarity.
“We’re selling the prospect of playing on the next four years’ teams, not last year’s,” Tuberville said, “so it really wasn’t brought up too much.”
Perhaps not so much by the Tech staff, but Red Raiders recruits probably encountered some question about the 2011 record as they were pursued by other schools.
“I think when it was brought up, it was given very little credence by players we were recruiting,” Tuberville said, “and most (opposing coaches) just went on to the next thing and tried to use whatever they needed to use to recruit.”
The 26-man crop consisted of 14 Texas high school signees, nine junior college prospects and three recruits from out-of-state high schools. Among the 14 homegrown schoolboys, Tech landed 10 members of The Avalanche-Journal state Top 100 list, three of whom were in the Fabulous 44.
Those three might have been difference makers in more than one way. Tuberville said aside from their individual skills, the steadfast commitments by Michael Starts from Waco La Vega, Reginald Davis from Tenaha and Dominique Wheeler from Crockett might have helped the class stick together even as the Red Raiders were losing seven of their last eight games.
All three were heavily recruited nationally.
“Once we got guys like Michael Starts, who everybody wanted up until the last day, Dominique Wheeler, Reginald Davis — all those guys that were sticking with us — it gives you some stability,” Tuberville said. “Other players say, ‘Hey, they’re going (to Tech). Something must be good about it.’
“A lot of these kids Facebook each other and say, ‘Hey, come with us. We’re going to make this a lot better than what it is now.”
The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Starts showed up on most blue-chip lists as an offensive lineman, but will begin his Tech career training at defensive end.
Several skill-position signees aren’t locked into one position, Tuberville said.
The only signing-day surprise, either for or against Tech, was provided by Casey Gladney, a long-time Alabama commitment who signed with the Red Raiders. The 6-foot-1, 177-pound South Carolina high school standout could play wide receiver or defensive back. That’s provided he makes it into school.
Tuberville acknowledged Gladney has ground to cover to satisfy eligibility requirements, but said Tech’s staff thinks he has a chance. If so, watch out.
Tuberville called Gladney “an exact replica” of San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rogers, whom he coached at Auburn.
“Gladney is one of those same guys,” Tuberville said. “He could probably come in tomorrow and be a starter or backup for us at corner with his athletic ability and his height.”
Tech went heavy on receivers, signing six, plus getting five each of defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.
Defensive ends coach Robert Prunty said the defensive influx addressed a variety of needs.
“In the secondary, we got cover guys,” Prunty said. “We got speed at linebacker. We got guys that can play the run, but also play the pass and play in space. We got some run stoppers on the defensive line. We got guys who can rotate in and out, and in this league, with the spread offense, guys get tired. We met some needs today.”
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