High Ceilings, Makeup and Projectable Athletes

Phil Walter

I think Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury has a recruiting plan. Let's delve into some baseball thoughts and football recruiting all in the same post.

I really don't keep up with baseball all that much, but I do enjoy it. I try to follow things on the major league, minor league and draft level because I find it interesting, but I try not to get into the nitty-gritty detail because there is really just too much for someone like me to learn and be an expert.

So I leave it to other sites to opine on how things are run with the Rangers, in particular Lone Star Ball and Baseball Time In Arlington. They do a fantastic job of covering the Rangers and do a great job of getting into the nitty-gritty detail.

To bring this around to Texas Tech, there has been some folks worried about the recruiting prospects of some of the players that have committed to Texas Tech. I do think that there is some reason to be concerned, but not overly concerned right now. There is a lot of time between now and February of 2014. It's not fun or easy being patient.

Back in 2011, the Rangers had a strange draft. It really didn't make sense. So much so there were scouts and writers who really questioned what was happening with the Rangers front office. They were picking players that were rated significantly lower than what all of the scouting services had them. Reaching for players and these folks were scratching their heads as to what exactly was happening. In fact, BBTIA wrote a lengthy explanation about the process, about how this was essentially the scouts that worked for Baseball America and ESPN versus the scouting department for the Rangers. Both types of scouts are well compensated, so this isn't a situation where it is a guy just spouting off things on some random website, but good old fashioned sports debate about which scouting service was right:

This is a classic scouts vs. scouts battle -- a battle the Rangers can't outwardly win unless their scouts' opinions conform with those on the opposing side. And in this case, the opposing side happens to have a nice, sturdy, safe track record, but that doesn't make them infallible, nor does it automatically make the Rangers fools for running counter to it.

You can read through the two scouting reports on Kevin Matthews and Zach Cone, but I'll give you the Kliff's Notes version, which is that they drafted two players, well above their slot, with the thought that they would be easy to sign (they were), that they would have additional money to spend on the second day, and that both Matthews and Cone were high upside players, terrific athleticism and had good makeup.

So then 2012 rolls around and then the Rangers haul off and do it again. They take players that aren't even projected in the same area code in the first round (for the most part), but they are all high ceiling, projectable players with good baseball makeup. Now, there's not the long explanation as to a defense of their picks, but an understanding of the Rangers draft philosophy. You want to guess what the general concensus of Lewis Brinson, Joey Gallo and Collin Wiles? Let me give you some quotes on these players, again from BBTIA:

Brinson: The scouting book on Brinson isn't too terribly complicated, and could probably be replicated with a fair degree of accuracy by smashing your head into your keyboard until you had spelled out "TOOLS UPSIDE ATHLETICISM" a few hundred times consecutively, but the specifics are where the narrative takes an interesting turn.

Gallo: Gallo's raw power is "staggering" in nature, and commonly draws 70-plus grades from scouts, and provided that the hit tool develops to the necessary extent, he will stand a good chance of becoming the rare player capable of banging 35-40 homers on a seasonal basis.

Wiles: In any event, though, Wiles is a prototypical Rangers draft pick -- a tall, projectable high school kid with improving velocity (upper-80s at present and touching the low-90s on occasion, with room for growth as he reaches physical maturity), an advanced breaking ball and change-up, feel for the art of pitching, and good mechanics that allow him to spin his offerings into the plate with command.

Hopefully, you get the idea here. The Rangers have a plan, and no scouting service or website or anything else is going to determine who they draft and where they slot guys. They have their own internal methodology of determining where they perceive players should be drafted. To offer a baseball analogy, they seem to swing for the fences in the draft with the thought that these guys that have so much athleticism, such a high ceiling and a good baseball makeup that it will out-perform how the more traditional draft prognosticators slot players.

I think that this is where things sit with Kingsbury and the staff. There is no doubt that Texas Tech may be "losing" battles on the recruiting trail, but it seems to me that they have a real plan about who they want, whether there are five stars next to their names or no stars next to their names.

And whatever you do when you walk away or decide to comment on this post. I'm not really trying to ease your uneasiness, but rather I'm offering a possible explanation and seemingly a correlation between two sports that interest me. This isn't a defense, but an attempt at an explanation. And I'm not here to judge, at least not yet. I have a tough time defending or damning something that hasn't happened yet (it is a long time from February) and something that we can't fully see a complete picture until the players at least see the field or arrive in Lubbock.

Overall, it feels like they are also swinging for the fences on the 2014 draft class. It seems like they want projectable high school athletes in that they are fast, they aren't done growing and they have a high ceiling. Then they want to target JUCO offensive and defensive linemen where they know where they are at physically and can contribute immediately. This is a plan that will either work spectacularly or fall completely on it's face. I hadn't ever looked at this before but I wanted an idea as to how many JUCO offensive and defensive linemen had Texas Tech as a school of interest according to Scout and I was a little surprised.

Offensive Tackle: Jermaine Eluemunor (6-5/315), Avery Gennesy (6-5/315), Dominick Jackson (6-7/315), Chad Maverty (6-6/32), Pearce Slater (6-7/325), A.J. Allen (6-5/315), and Brendan Slaight (6-7/330).
Offensive Guard: Jordan Barge (6-5/325)
Defensive Tackle: Abu Lamin (6-5/315)
Defensive End: Anthony Olobia (6-5/245), Devonte Lambert (6-3/275), Will Coleman (6-5/240), Roosevelt Pearson (6-4/255), and Mason Ruiz (6-4/255)

You notice anything about that list of players, again just JUCO guys? The offensive linemen are pretty much all in the same range in terms of size. I'd also add that four of the five top offensive tackles have interest in Texas Tech. I don't know if that means an offer, but there's at least some interest. With the defensive linemen is the same thing. The Texas Tech staff really isn't recruiting the true and traditional defensive tackles, but they are all over the defensive ends that can maybe flip from tackle to end in a 3-4.

So I do think there is a plan.

And that's not to say that Kingsbury isn't going to deviate from his plan. Coaches always make exceptions for certain players. I know that Kingsbury has a handful of offers out to high school offensive linemen, but I think he's really focused on a handful of them, but not blanket offers. In other words, if you are a high school offensive or defensive lineman, then I think that Kingsbury thinks that you're such a special player that he's deviating from his plan for you.

Not only that, I think we have to give it some time to get a full overhead perspective of what Kingsbury is going to do. And he may not have the same plan from year to year, so there's a lot to discuss and figure out.

And to add to this even further, you have the scouting services that are or were in direct opposition as to how the Texas Tech coaching staff was recruiting players. Players with few offers and relative unknowns were getting offers from Texas Tech seemingly out of the blue and there really isn't any defense other than the tried and true, "Well . . . Kliff knows a hell of a lot more about football than you'll ever know, so I'll trust him to your opinion any day of the week and twice on Sunday." Well, that really don't leave much room for any sort of discussion.

Just as BBTIA initially laments about the Rangers, Kingsbury cannot outwardly win any battle against any of the recruiting services unless they conform to his and his staff's way of thinking about players. Coaches can't comment on players, so the fans are left wondering what's happening and then I get to write this post or the recruiting services change their grades and then you're left feeling better. The reality is that the situation hasn't changed except for the recruiting services are changing their grades based upon a coaching staff or because their opinions changed or because they were able to scout a player.

Ed. Note: Last night, Texas Tech received a commitment from a 2-star offensive lineman in Mildren Montgomery. Montgomery hasn't even been rated by three of the four services and he only weighs 245, which seems to add to this thought that Kingsbury and the coaching staff have their own plan about who they want playing for Texas Tech. Be damned scouting services. Be damned!

Last, but certainly not least, I'm already expanding this post into some additional recruiting thoughts, including trying to define "football makeup" and other stuff. Let's party.

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