Part one of a series of posts on the marginalization of the Texas Tech football program.
As the season winds down I've sorta wanted to clarify some of my thoughts on what I think about how a program works (this is just my opinion) in terms of coaching and success.
I've always hesitated to do this because there's a lot of thoughts that go through my head and it is important for me to remain somewhat logical about the situation. I've written a lot of this in the comments, but I don't think I've ever really sat down and put down these thoughts in some sort of order.
First things first, I've always maintained that I cheer for laundry. The coaches, players and administrators will change, but my loyalty will not. So when I write these things, it's not about me wanting one guy to succeed or fail. I've already written about how I want Tuberville replaced because I've become an uninspired fan so I've put myself out there. I'm not hiding anything. I was a great fan of Leach while he's here, but he's not wearing scarlet and black any more.
So, these are all of the things that I think about coaching, about coaching in college, about strength and conditioning, about recruiting, and just anything else that I can think of that makes a difference. I'd also say that this is a waste of time on some level because although I would like for things to change, I don't think anything will change this year. I think Tuberville gets an additional year. That's not what I want, just what I think will happen. And yes, I still trust in Hocutt. It's really hard to be patient, but sometimes it is incredibly important. The topics that I have on tap for the next week or so are the NFL draft, recruiting, injuries, coaching and/or coach hirings and player defections.
One of the things that I've had people push back on me is the idea of the talent on the field for Texas Tech isn't as good as it had been in previous year and part of the problem with the talent on the field. When a new coach is hired he's obviously using the players that were left by the former staff, in this case Leach. So my thought has always been that a good and somewhat objective way to judge whether or not your seniors had a lot of talent was whether or not a player is drafted.
On some level, I tend to think that this is something, that talent wins, and isn't a discussion at most schools. The theory is this: if you give a coach 22 players who were to all be drafted in the first round and all players that were starters at their respective colleges, but not draftable players, which team wins? Remember, it's the same coach. Again, this is just a talent question and the answer seems obvious to me, but I think there will be discussion about how the not-draftable players will play harder and are scrappers so they might have a chance. Again, anywhere else, this really isn't a discussion.
I don't think this is revolutionary thinking by any means, but I've gotten quite a bit of push-back because I've said that I thought that Leach failed to bring in and/or develop the type of talent that he had after the 2008 year. After the 2008 year I don't think it was a coincidence that there were four players drafted in the 2009 NFL Draft and Harrell is still on an NFL roster, so he's stuck around. That's actually pretty good and I think a good indicator of Leach finding guys that could play. I don't think it's ever been a coincidence that Leach's best year also resulted in the highest number of players drafted in any of his draft classes.
One of the other discussion points is that Leach won without talent. That's true in some respect, but it is also true that the pinnacle of Leach's coaching career happened when he had a handful of players with NFL talent on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. And I've always thought it was a bit unfair with people saying that Leach should get credit for guys like Michael Crabtree or Graham Harrell or Wes Welker. He gets credit for some, but those guys were special players in some respects and those guys obviously have some physical abilities that can't be coached one way or another. Welker is the easiest example because he was lightly recruited and that this is an example of what Leach can do, but I've always thought is that Welker came along at the exact right time, to the perfect coach that would highlight his skill set. It was a culmination of some really perfect things that happened and it's a terrific story. But Welker has a tremendous amount of athletic ability that shouldn't be discounted. There is a reason why NFL defensive backs haven't been able to cover him for a decade. Welker is largely who he is because of Welker.
Adding to this equation is that other programs, like Baylor and Oklahoma St., have done a terrific job of finding and developing talent and both programs have done an excellent job of putting players in the NFL draft. Again, it's an indication of what has happened to the players once they get onto campus. In the 2011 and 2012 classes, there was only one player drafted and one player invited to the NFL combine. I think that's pretty telling. We'll have to wait for the 2013 draft and I think that this draft, Tuberville has some culpability in not necessarily developing some players, but they are still Leach's guys. And at some point Tuberville we get to start to assign credit/blame for developing players.
I think that guys like LaAdrian Waddle and Deveric Gallington had the potential to be drafted. Waddle has never mastered the footwork, or has the consistency, or has the genetic quickness to play left tackle at the NFL level. Gallington could stand to lose 25 pounds and I think he could be a real option at center or guard for an NFL team. But those things didn't happen. I don't know whether or not to blame Tuberville for Waddle's lack of quickness or Gallington's inability to lose weight. There is a gray area, at least for me, as to who is responsible. But a large part of who players are, whether it be Gallington or Waddle or Doege, are who they are and their abilities. I do believe that Doege is who he is and I don't think that any amount of coaching was going to get Doege drafted.
I do believe that Eric Ward and Kerry Hyder are this team's best players. Ward and Hyder are good because they are physically gifted. They both signed with Texas Tech and Leach, so that's the reason why they are in Lubbock. I think his position coaches should get some credit for who they have become as players, but you can tell by simply watching Ward and Hyder play that they are physically gifted. I think we should be giving credit to the player, Ward and Hyder, for who they are and who they have become. Coaching is a part of the equation and there are some players that will simply take off as a result of coaching highlighting the strengths of a player, but these players are who they are because they are blessed with physical ability, a good mental make-up and a hard-working attitude. I think the same think about Welker in that he had the unique genetics and traits that no coach could have changed.
I'd also like to point you to the direction of College Station, where some folks would say that, well, Sumlin is doing a pretty good job with another coach's players, why can't Tuberville? Well, Sumlin didn't do anything, but just inherit Luke Joeckel, Damontre Moore, and Jake Matthews. Those three players are all projected to be the top 20 of players in the 2013 NFL draft and they are all juniors this year. So they really all have another year to be even better. Sumlin inheriting those top 20 players in the nation isn't anything he did and doesn't speak at all to his ability to coach. I think Sumlin can coach, but having that sort of talent helps. And then add to that some additional players that are third round prospects and you've got the makings of a team that Sumlin could turn around pretty quickly. Again, Sumlin gets a ton of credit for the actual coaching, but I also don't think it's entirely accurate to say that Sherman didn't leave any talent on the roster or very little talent on the roster. Heck, Sherman is the one that signed Johnny Manziel. Sumlin and Kingsbury are doing terrific jobs, but Manziel was already talented.
So Tuberville didn't inherit any projected first round players or third round players. Just one sixth round draft prospect his first year in RB Baron Batch and LB Bront Bird that has stuck around on San Diego's roster. That's been it. If you want an idea as to why Texas Tech won eight games that year, this is a start. I don't think that any player gets drafted in 2013. I hope that's not true, but I think it will be.
The fact that this might be true doesn't make me happy.
I don't take any pride in this.
It is, in fact, embarrassing.
I've also said that recruiting rankings do matter, to a point, but you don't get to judge that talent for maybe three years after the fact. We'll delve this into in a later post, but briefly, I know that it stinks and it takes away from some of the luster that we get to judge these commits the day that they sign, but that's not really accurate and never has been. What is the reality is that recruiting rankings are an indication of the type of talent. Not a clear-cut idea of exactly what the player will be. That takes time, it takes coaches to develop players, it takes the players working things out on their own, etc. There will be a day in the very near future where we will be able to judge the talent, or lack thereof, that Tuberville has brought to West Texas.
We’ll talk more about recruiting in a later post, but we shouldn’t discount NFL talent and to me, the most objective way to judge talent is the NFL Draft or the number of players on an NFL roster. If we’re going to take an objective look at the state of the program, we have to be honest. We have to be willing to criticize Tuberville and Leach when it’s appropriate and actually put some thought into the process. Criticizing Leach is not fun. Again, this is not something that I take pride in writing. I don't like admitting how Baylor, Oklahoma St., TCU and other schools have had players that are drafted in recent years. If we’re trying to get to the root of some of the problems that this team is having, and it’s just part of the equation, I think we would not be taking a realistic approach as to what’s wrong with the Texas Tech football program.
And in no way shape or form do I believe that this is the sole reason why I think that Texas Tech is losing. This is just one cog and we're going to get into the topics listed above and try to draw some conclusions after we try to figure some thing out on our own.