Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury had far more time to build his second recruiting class than his first. He hopes some cornerstones will come from the newest crop, players on which he and his staff spent a full year pursuing.
Tech, which already had three recruits enroll at mid-term, added another 22 when the national signing period opened Wednesday.
“I feel good about them, more the character than anything,” Kingsbury said. “(They are) good kids that are going to change the culture of this place. They’ll play hard, do the right thing on and off the field and that’s what we’re about here. So we’re excited about that.”
Tech coaches made it a point to shore up both lines and the secondary. Of the 25 newcomers, eight are offensive or defensive linemen, six being junior-college transfers. The Red Raiders signed seven defensive backs, having lost seven senior starters in the secondary over the last two years.
A couple of Tech concerns during its 8-5 season in 2013 were a lack of depth on the offensive line and not enough bulk on the defensive line. Coaches went after players that can help right away.
The four defensive linemen — Rika Levi (6-foot-2, 379 pounds), Brandon Thorpe (6-5, 290), Marcus Smith (6-3, 305) and Keland McElrath (6-6, 290) — have put in some development time at junior colleges. Based on their sizes, maybe they’ll be less vulnerable to the power run game that’s hurt the Red Raiders.
“All the pieces we’re talking about are building mass, building depth on the defensive front,” defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt said. “We’ve got some size to deal with some of these fronts that we’re going to see if somebody wants to line up and just try to jam the ball down our throat.”
Wallerstedt said Thorpe, at 290, is 20 pounds heavier than listed. He projects Thorpe as a defensive tackle in the Red Raiders’ scheme. And co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith said Levi recently weighed in at 379. He’s a classic run-stopper noseguard, and coaches don’t seem concerned about his weight.
“He’s got to stay around the 350 range,” Wallerstedt said. “He moves well for that. That’s what he’s played at.”
Tech offensive line coach Lee Hays often used only five or six players last season unless games were out of hand. He said he liked the aggressiveness and long-range potential of his two high-school signees, Robert Castaneda and Justin Murphy.
But he thinks his two older additions — Dominique Robertson and Shaquille Davis, both left tackles from California community colleges — can affect his depth chart in a hurry.
“Dominique, who has played left tackle forever, is a natural tackle who can come in and compete right away,” Hays said. “Shaq is a kid that was an all-American left tackle at Mt. SAC and comes from really good coaches down there. I think he can play tackle or guard and have a little bit of flexibility.”
Over the last two years, Tech has graduated cornerbacks Cornelius Douglas, Eugene Neboh, Bruce Jones, Olaluwa Falemi and Derrick Mays and safeties Cody Davis, D.J. Johnson and Tre Porter, not to mention losing Tanner Jacobson to a Mormon mission.
“We wanted to build depth,” Kingsbury said, in explaining a class with seven DBs. “A big part of that was improving our special teams play as well. We need bodies on special teams to cover kicks. We didn’t think we did that very well. So that was part of our thinking as well.”
With spots available to sign a full class, Tech didn’t have to do without elsewhere. Five receivers comprise the next most populous position.
The Red Raiders took only one quarterback, A-J Fabulous 44 prospect Patrick Mahomes. With Davis Webb being the only returning scholarship quarterback, Tech might not have the luxury of redshirting Mahomes.
“I think he’s going to have to come in and play right away,” Kingsbury said.
That’s provided Mahomes is still with Tech in the fall. Kingsbury acknowledged the chance Mahomes could be drafted and signed by a Major League Baseball team this summer.
“I know he wants to come to college,” Kingsbury said, “but you never know how that money’s going to be.”
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