In response to recruiting improvements.

[Note by Seth C, 01/08/09 4:55 PM CST ]  Bumped to the front page.  Tremendous work.

In response to Seth's post about recruiting getting better and better for Tech, I started to post a comment but it got really long.  I just decided to make it into its own FanPost.

I think the biggest factor in Tech recruiting lately isn't how many top athletes we're getting, but what positions those athletes play.  This is now two recruiting classes in a row with a four-star running back (Eric Stephens this class), and those are the first two of the Leach era.  Kyle Clark and Joel Gray on the offensive line (and Lonnie Edwards in '07) are going to be beasts for their careers.  If Tech has made one of the best O-lines in the country out of walk-ons and two- and three-star players, just imagine what it'll be like in three years.

Speed is a huge factor, too.  From the Rivals recruiting archives, the following is a list of 4.5_/40 or better runners since 2002:

Johnnie Mack      RB    4.35
Ricky Wilson      ATH   4.4
Thomas Bachman    WR    4.45
Chris Campbell    LB    4.45
Micah Sweats      DB    4.45
Brandon Douglas   ATH   4.5
Vincent Meeks     ATH   4.5
Tim Norman        DB    4.5
Raymond Pierce    DB    4.5
Kellen Tillman    LB    4.5
Fletcher Session  LB    4.55

Not everybody on the list qualified, and there are certainly names there that I don't remember.  When were most of those guys playing as juniors and seniors though?  2005, the team that I think was a loss to Oklahoma State from maybe playing in a BCS game.  Manny Ramirez, Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani also signed that year.  I'm only 20 so I wasn't paying too much attention to Tech seven years ago, but I only recognize Session, Tillman, Meeks and Mack as ever playing.  So, if that's right, then 2002 yielded _just four players who ran under a 4.6/40_.

Jabari Smith      DB    4.38
Michael Brisco    ATH   4.4
Chauncey Clark    LB    4.4
Ryan Phillips     DB    4.4
Taurance Rawls    ATH   4.4
Chris Parker      DB    4.41
Antonio Huffman   DB    4.45
Jamaal Jackson    DB    4.45
Chad Johnson      DB    4.45
Darylan Carroll   DB    4.5
Sione Havili      RB    4.5
Paul Williams     LB    4.55

How many names from 2003 do you recognize?  Chris Parker, Antonio Huffman, Paul Williams...  Really only three burners in the entire class, and all three played defense.  The 2003 class' senior year ('06 for non-red-shirts), the team went 8-5 with a win in the Insight Bowl.  There were definitely solid players in the class, like Keyunta Dawson, Joe Garcia, Alex Reyes and Brock Stratton, but overall the class lacked speed.

Marcus Bunton     ATH   4.4
Anthony Jenkins   ATH   4.4
Marquis Johnson   WR    4.4
Shannon Woods     RB    4.4
Robert Johnson    QB    4.45
Eric Morris       ATH   4.47
Caldwell Brown    DB    4.5
Lance Fuller      DB    4.5
Darcel McBath     DB    4.5

Bunton played some this year but wasn't a huge factor, and I don't recognize Caldwell Brown.  Fuller has been alright, but the only names that stand out to me are Woods, RoJo, Morris and McBath.  I don't really remember Jenkins or Marquis Johnson, so that's really just four contributing speedsters.  RoJo was a JuCo, so by 2007 his eligibility was already up.  Others in the class: Amendola, Harrell, L.A. Reed and Dwayne Slay (also JuCo).  The 2007 postseason?  Gator Bowl.  (That one wasn't all about speed, as Crabtree's phenomenal rs-f season was a huge factor.)

Pete Richardson   RB    4.4
Todd Walker       ATH   4.4
Catron Houston    ATH   4.41
Chris Cunigan     WR    4.5
Brent Nickerson   DB    4.5
LaShawn Vation    DB    4.5
Edward Britton    ATH   4.51
McKinner Dixon    DE    4.58

Richardson was moved to CB and kicked off the team this year, I think.  Todd Walker was a good back-up receiver, but didn't injuries stifle him?  I don't recognize Houston or Cunigan, and Vation's career was ended prematurely by injuries this season.  Dixon had a great freshman season, and after a couple years at a JuCo is back.  Total real contributors from the list: three if you include Nickerson.  Other signees that year: Victor Hunter, Louis Vasquez, Brandon Carter, Shawn Byrnes, Marlon Winn.  2008 bowl: Cotton.

Baron Batch       RB    4.4
Daniel Johnson    DB    4.41
Leonard Hewitt    DB    4.42
Blake Collier     LB    4.46
Laron Moore       DB    4.49
Michael Crabtree  ATH   4.5
Jocques Crawford  RB    4.5
Julius Howard     LB    4.5
Lyle Leong        WR    4.5
Jamar Wall        ATH   4.5
Franklin Mitchem  DB    4.58
Steven Harris     WR    4.59
Marlon  Williams  LB    4.59

Now this is a list of contributors.  Batch, Collier, Moore, Crabtree, Leong, Wall, Mitchem, Williams.  Steven Harris had a hold on a safety spot until he was kicked off the team, but apparently will be given an opportunity to earn his way back.  These guys are all juniors or red-shirt sophomores, and all of the above-named will return next year except for Crabtree, most likely.  Most of the guys had big plays that directly contributed to the 2008 team reaching the Cotton Bowl, and in the process upsetting then-number-one-ranked Texas.  Even if Crabtree doesn't return, the 2009 season holds promise because of the rest of those guys, along with fellow '06 recruits Brian Duncan, Taylor Potts, Adam James, Brandon Williams and Ra'Jon Henley, plus some of these:

Taylor Charbonnet ATH   4.4
Aaron Crawford    RB    4.4
Rashad Hawk       WR    4.48
Jared Flannel     RB    4.5
Jacoby Franks     WR    4.5
Jacob Amie        WR    4.59

Only Aaron Crawford has really contributed a lot, and that was during his freshman season.  He red-shirted the '08 season thanks to injuries and the revival of Shannon Woods.  Rashad Hawk and Jacoby Franks have great potential as receivers, and Taylor Charbonnet (brother of senior Daniel) has his eyes on a starting safety spot for 2009.  I think Jared Flannel was moved to defense.  Other names worth mentioning: Detron Lewis, Sam Fehoko, Bront Bird, David Neill, Lonnie Edwards, Mickie Okafor, Daniel Howard, Jonathan LaCour, Brandon Sharpe, Tramain Swindall and Colby Whitlock.  Swindall probably runs a 4.5 or better, but his profile doesn't have a time listed.  All in all, they haven't done much yet, but they're still young and we will know their names.

Jarell Routt      DB    4.4
Austin Zouzalik   ATH   4.4
Harrison Jeffers  RB    4.41
Cornelius Douglas ATH   4.45
Cody Davis        DB    4.5
Brandon Reid      ATH   4.5

Routt was originally recruited in '06 but didn't qualify.  Zouzalik was overlooked because he played QB at Coronado, but he has the speed to become a huge threat as a receiver.  Jeffers is undoubtedly the best running back Leach will have coached at Tech, and I've heard that on Thursday nights he's the best back with the ball in his hands -- better than Woods, Batch or Crawford; he just needs to work on pass protection.  Douglas is a very good player, and good be the next in a long line of great players in the slot (Welker, Amendola, Morris before him).  Fortunately for Tech, he could run laps around all three of them.  Reid was moved to defense after playing as a running back in high school.  For once, every fast player qualified!  Others in the class: SeSay, Dixon, Deveric Gallington, Ryan Haliburton, Joe King, Seth Doege and Terry McDaniel.

D.J.  Johnson     ATH   4.4
Dion Chidozie     LB    4.45
Eric Stephens     RB    4.5
Yahshua Williams  DB    4.5
Jacob Karam       QB    4.55
Terrance Bullitt  DB    4.58
James Scott       LB    4.58

Here, everybody is expected to qualify again.  Williams and Bullitt, along with unlisted-40 Will Ford should all compete for playing time early in the depleted secondary in 2009.  By the time they're seniors, it's going to be unbelievable.  If Karam, who has the speed to be a mobile threat but rarely relied on it at Friendswood, can outplay Doege after Potts leaves, he could be the most dangerous quarterback at Tech in a long time.  He was said by one Houston Chronicle writer to have one of the strongest arms in the Houston area, and is pretty accurate with it, too.  If a few years when the three-deep at RB is Batch, Jeffers and Stephens, Tech might turn into a running team, anyway!  Others in the class: Four-star receiver Emory Blake (4.6/40), offensive linemen Kyle Clark and Joel Gray, and an underrated duo of receivers in Aaron Fisher and E.J. Celestie.  Both Fisher and Celestie have received accolades during their senior seasons -- Fisher was nominated for the Jerry Rice Award which goes to the nation's top receiver, and I think I remember Celestie being rated one of the top receivers in Louisiana by some publication (maybe a paper or online).

In 2002, four contributors were timed as recruits running below a 4.6.  In the 2003 class, only three.  Same in 2004 if you don't include JuCo transfers (or you can include Bunton and Fuller for five).  2005 yielded three, four if you generously count Todd Walker.  2006 loaded up on speed, and eight of the 13 are still with the team (nine if Harris comes back).  In 2007, it wasn't as large or as fast a speed-class, but five out of the six are still with the team (the percentage gets better each year, I think), and all will have the ability to contribute in the next couple of years.  2008 was the first year when the entire speed-class qualified, and I expect them all to see significant playing time in their careers.  2009's speed-class shifts the focus back to defense after several years of offensive domination, and only James Scott wasn't given three or more stars by Rivals.  He's been a huge contributor to his high school team though apparently, even carrying the ball as a running back at times.  I'll take that commitment and effort (and speed at LB) over star ratings any day.

So going back to my original hypothesis that success in the future will be based on highly-rated players being in new positions for Tech, I think that the higher percentage of qualifiers really has the most profound effect.  It seems like we're going after smarter, faster, and more versatile players than in the past, and settling for troubled left-overs less often, and the future looks brighter because of it.

My point kind of rambled, but I wan't going to not post that after looking it all up. I also forgot my CSS and couldn't get the names and stats in Courier New so they'd align.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Viva The Matadors' writers or editors.