We've tackled the 2007 and 2008 recruiting classes. I think the general consensus has been that there were some really rough spots in both of those classes. Some ups and downs, but as I looked back on both of those classes, there very few long-term difference-makers on defense in either of these classes, but I think the tide turned in the 2009 recruiting class. There was some serious talent in this class and I should remind everyone, that classes look a lot better the closer you are to them. In other words, the 2008 recruiting class may look really bad, but that's because there's been three years for players to leave the program or we have a more clear idea if a player is going to work out or not.
And this was a full class, as Leach signed the limit of 25 players. Obviously there were some players that didn't make it on campus, but a full class was signed and I get the feeling that the staff obviously saw the writing on the wall with the absolutely awful 2008 defensive class and signed 16 defensive players, including five players that were projected to be defensive backs and Mays, who actually converted late this year. Let's get to it.
2009 Recruiting Class
This class graded out much better than the 2007 and 2008 class. There was only one JUCO player, which significantly helped the ESPN grade, which typically gives JUCO players a zero grade. As I think back at this class there were a handful of players that never made it on campus or didn't last for more than a year, including Romario Cathey, Brandon Mahoney, James Scott, Yashua Williams and Matt Goetz. Right now that's only five players, which is a pretty good rate. And to be fair, Mahoney, Williams and Goetz all made it onto campus but were let go while for a variety of reasons and Mahoney was let go this past summer.
Again, this is a pretty good rate and there are handful of players on both sides of the ball that are seeing significant time and that's a good thing. It would be idea for the 2007 and 2008 classes to be a big part of the 2011 team, but this is a good start.
More after the jump.
2009 Recruiting Class | Defense
I remember that when this class signed that Leach and McNeill wanted to recruit a team, and they did, especially on defense. For me, looking back, I think the things that stood out to me was the number of defensive backs and the fact that McNeill was able to lure to Texas Tech. The strange thing is that with the defensive backs, they're not necessarily defensive backs at this point. Bullitt and Cobb have been moved to linebacker. I think you need to watch out for Ford, who was out for almost the entire year (except for 4 games) with a hamstring injury. I'm guessing that if you're looking for players that may not be on the roster in the spring, Ford is one of those guys.
Meanwhile Johnson, Phillips and now Mays, are essentially your starting cornerbacks. And if you ever wanted a reason as to why the defense is struggling is that there is a difference between the type of athlete that plays man coverage and a cornerback that plays zone. In looking back at the type of athletes that we now know, I don't think there's any question that what DC Willis tried to do with the talent he had on hand is a testament to the fact that he wants cornerbacks that are capable of playing man coverage while McNeill wanted cornerbacks that could keep a play in front of them and play a cover-2 zone. They're completely different type of players, and perhaps Willis was a bit crazy to try and implement his system without the right type of players, but if he didn't, then he's a year behind if he decides to wait.
The other big part of this defensive class was the number of defensive linemen, and defensive linemen that are thankfully still on the team. There were two highly-rated defensive tackles, Wade and Graves, that had some years to develop. Although Wade was a JUCO, he was merely a sophomore when he first played for Texas Tech and he's still got one year remaining to make an impact. Add to that a guy like Barr, Hyder and Knighton still on the team is a good thing. They may get passed up on the depth chart, but this is the type of depth that helps a program, especially a program that had a ton of injuries along the line like Texas Tech did.
I mentioned that some of the defensive backs are now linebackers under DC Willis, but I think it's also interesting two of the three linebackers, Scott, Mahoney and Chidozie, only Chidozie is still with the team. Chidozie didn't get a ton of playing time this year and I'm thinking that he was always behind some of his peers in terms of development, but he's pretty smart. He was always a good athlete, we'll see if he can make that translate on the field next year.
2009 Recruiting Class | Offense
A pretty small class and you're starting to see a trend of only a couple of offensive linemen that are in each class. Now that there are some rumblings that Joel Gray may not be back next year, possibly due to long-term injuries. Just something to watch. And Clark, despite being a highly rated lineman, hasn't been able to crack the depth chart and has been passed up by young offensive linemen. Waddle was the recruit with the least amount of fanfare, but has turned out to be incredibly solid for Texas Tech.
With the skill position players, Stephens forced himself into the lineup and we're somewhat waiting for Ward to do the same thing. I'm not necessarily down on Ward, but this year is his year to make an impact. Fisher finally saw a bit of time late this year and the fact that he's made a bit of a name for himself on special teams tells me a bit about his attitude more than anything else. I'm very comfortable with Karam and what he can do. I know that a lot of people think that one of the quarterbacks is going to transfer, but I'm not certain that's going to happen. Celestie may be another guy that walks away from the program this spring.
2009 Recruiting Class | Overall
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Improvement, or maintaining grades in the various recruiting services and huge improvement on the ESPN grade due to the fact that there was only one JUCO player.
2009 Recruiting Class | Overall | Offense
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This was the second year where Texas Tech had less than 50% of their recruiting class on the offensive side of the ball, but had higher grades than the defense. I have no doubt that Leach, Harrell, Crabtree and the success of the 2008 season had an impact on this class. At some point, you start to get a bit worried about the low percentage of offensive players being recruited as this trend continues for a least another year (2010).
2009 Recruiting Class | Overall | Defense
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Despite the high grades given by the recruiting serves, except for ESPN, this looks like this class was a bit worse than the 2008 class, but as linked in this first paragraph there is only 1 player from that 2008 class that's still on the team, Cody Davis. That's a high attrition rate and although the 2009 class is rated a bit lower, it's significantly better because of the players that still have an opportunity to make an impact. This is the first full year that McNeill had an opportunity to be the coordinator and recruit his type of player and I think that this class is an overall success.