Texas Tech expects D.J. Polite-Bray, Devin Lauderdale, Reginald Davis and Dylan Cantrell all to make a bunch of memorable plays over the course of their college careers. The Red Raiders need the highlights to start accumulating this season, even if none of the above have much experience to speak of.
Tech’s two-deep at the two outside receiver positions consists entirely of the four sophomores, putting the Red Raiders in a historically young spot. Polite-Bray and Lauderdale are the 1-2 at split end, Davis and Cantrell the 1-2 at flanker.
“It’ll be fun to watch those guys battle it out and see who comes out on top in this fall camp,” said offensive coordinator Eric Morris, who doubles as receivers coach.
Tech has run a four-receiver spread offense since Mike Leach became head coach before the 2000 season, and this is the first time since that the Red Raiders have had a two-deep with only sophomores or younger at the two outside spots.
The last time Tech started two sophomores on the outside was 2007 with Michael Crabtree and Edward Britton, but Crabtree was a once-a-generation talent who won the Biletnikoff Award each of his first two years.
In 2004, then-sophomores Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani opened the season as the starters, but then-junior Cody Fuller bumped Filani by the third game and kept the job.
Tech appears ready to sink or swim with the young guys, knowing there could be a learning curve but expecting more good than bad.
The Red Raiders have a lot of speed at the spot with Polite-Bray and Lauderdale.
“D.J’s more of a deep-threat guy — posts, verticals, curls, stuff like that,” Morris said. “Devin’s stronger. He might be the strongest receiver we have in the entire room, remarkably. He loves to block, really physical and gets after people.”
The latter description sounds a lot like 2013 senior Eric Ward, one of the Red Raiders’ all-time leading receivers who loved to block, too.
“Yeah, but different,” Morris said when asked if Lauderdale was similar to Ward. “He’s not that big, but he’s that strong. He bench presses more than Eric ever did right now.
“He’s probably not as fast as D.J., but he’s a lot stronger than D.J.”
Lauderdale, listed at 6-foot and 180 pounds, said he’s bench pressed 325. Coming out of Houston Bellaire, Lauderdale’s reputation was built on how fast he is.
“I feel like I can go deep any time I want to,” he said, “but I feel like I’m more of a guy that can catch a short ball and go to the house with it. I can get loose with it.”
The Red Raiders had to wait on Lauderdale for a season — he played last fall at Navarro College — but no one in the group and few players on the team were more widely recruited.
Lauderdale chose Tech over Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio State coming out of high school. He became recruitable again while at Navarro and said he stuck with Tech despite hearing from OU again, plus Kansas State and Oregon, a program that didn’t pursue him out of high school, but made him an offer last year.
“My mind was set on Texas Tech,” he said. “I like the coaching staff here. They’re young, energetic, and coach Morris, I respect that guy a lot.”
All but Lauderdale played for the Red Raiders last season. The other three sophomores accounted for 26 catches for 275 yards and four touchdowns, nearly all of that from Davis.
It spoke volumes what coaches think of the former Tenaha star when they moved 2013 flanker Bradley Marquez to inside receiver to put Davis in the starting lineup before spring practice.
Cantrell, a 6-3, 211-pound sophomore, is behind him. Davis profiles as a playmaker, Cantrell as a big-bodied possession receiver who can be effective on fade routes and in the red zone.
“He’s a guy that really progressed, and the quarterbacks really like throwing to him,” Morris said. “He has a big catch radius, and the quarterbacks have raved about him all summer long. If you put anything close to him, he’s going and getting it.”
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