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Recruiting on the South Plains | A Change in Recruiting Strategy?

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Last Monday, Double-T 104.3's Chris Level was asked on the segment "Ask Level" if Texas Tech fans should be disappointed about the current recruiting status of the Texas Tech football team. Again, because there's no archive you'll just have to trust me and to assist a bit more, here's a transcript of the conversation between Level and KLBK's Brandon Rawe:

Level: They are going to dip into junior colleges a lot this year.
Rawe: Again?
Level: Yes. I would say the difference being that this time of year, where as last year that was a conscious decision they had to make at the tail end of the cycle. And this year, they are clearly going to take two offensive linemen, I think they are going to take another skill player on offense, and I think they are going to take as many as three defensive front-seven guys from the JC ranks, and then maybe a DB. So you could see as many as six to eight guys from the JC ranks taken. And again, I think they already know these things. There are already players identified and this isn't a deal where, "Huh, we got this linebacker named Will Smith if you are interested in talking to him too, well okay, let's take a look." These are guys they've already identified. So again, that's not going to happen until down the road.
Rawe: Is it a desperation move or is it?
Level: No, I think it's need. I think offensive line especially. If you look at the numbers there, when we start covering fall camp, you'll look at the numbers at offensive line, they just don't have them. You're basically going to welcome in one high school signee, so what you had in the spring, you're going to add one high school signee and that's it. And that Brian Thomas kid, he's here for six months and he's gone. So go ahead and think about next spring.

I thought that this was pretty big news, or at least significant to the point that it warranted a post to discuss some of these details and to consider what this meant moving forward, especially for recruiting.

*The 9 JUCO players represented 35% of the 2012 class.

When head coach Tommy Tuberville arrived, he has always said that recruiting was incredibly important, but Tuberville's first true class, the 2011 class (I hate to consider the 2010 class Tuberville's class even though he was the head coach) was heavy on the high school players. Then at some point during the year, Tuberville was asked whether or not he would be recruiting any JUCO players, I think that by this time, the season was headed downhill and the deficiencies on defense were quite evident. Tuberville said that he was going to sign 3 or 4 JUCO players, but that figure rose to 9 by the time it was all said and done*. This was a significant departure from Tuberville's prior stance, as noted by Level, which had previously been that you have to build teams with high school talent and you have to be patient for that talent to develop. At some point during last year, Tuberville's tone changed and I'm pretty sure he sent Robert Prunty out to California and Tommy Mainord to Mississippi to find as much talent as they could and they would make as many scholarship spots available that they needed to get an immediately influx of talent onto this team.

**If 8 more JUCO players commit, that would represent 40% of the 2013 class.

So now we can expect 6 to 8 more JUCO players and I think what you are seeing is a change in philosophy and I think it's significant. A while back, I tried to predict the number of scholarships I thought would be available for the 2013 class and the position groups where I thought those scholarships would be at each position. Level said that from the JUCO ranks, he would expect 2 offensive linemen, 1 skill position player, 3 or 4 defensive linemen and a 1 defensive back**. I think Level was just spit-balling so don't hold him or anyone to those numbers because Texas Tech already has two junior college defensive backs committed. I'm sure those numbers are fluid. This means that if there are about 20 spots available and a projected 8 junior college players, there might only be 12 other spots available and with 5 current high school commits, that only leaves 7 other high school players for possible spots. Perhaps the reason that you are not seeing the high school commits like some of our Big 12 brethren is because it is intentional. And let me be clear, I'm not at all saying that Texas Tech isn't losing some or maybe a lot of recruiting battles. I really don't know or have a good idea since I try to follow recruiting on some level, but I can't say with complete certainty how involved Texas Tech is in some of the players that are committing to other schools. Obviously, with players like Jordan Stern and Tavares Garner, there are some players already de-committing and flipping to other programs in the Big 12. And make no mistake that it appears that Baylor and Oklahoma St. are taking advantage of the terrific seasons last year on the recruiting trail this year.

More after the jump.

2012 JUCO Football Signees
DT Lee Adams
LB Will Smith
CB Bruce Jones
S Austin Stewart
CB Olaoluwa Falemi
LB Chris Payne
WR Javon Bell
OL Rashad Fortenberry
RB Sadale Foster

I'd also add that the bigger point is that Tuberville and the rest of the staff feels that the way for him and Texas Tech to keep pace is to add a significant number of recruits from the JUCO ranks. The obvious correlation is that Kansas State's Bill Snyder has heavily recruited the JUCO ranks for years and then had immediate success. In the 2012 class, Snyder had 8 of his 21 commits from junior colleges or 38% and in the 2011 class, Snyder had 9 of his 28 commits from junior colleges or 32%. It's not all about the JUCO players, it's also about coaching for Snyder as he's really good at what he does.

But for Tuberville, I think what he's seeing is the potential immediate impact that a player like Will Smith or Lee Adams or Bruce Jones or Austin Stewart can have on a program. The turnaround can be overnight. The question is whether or not the staff is recruiting the right players. I've always maintained that one of the reasons that the 2011 season wasn't deep on talent is because the relatively small 2008 class was heavy on JUCO players, high school players that dropped out of the program, and of those JUCO players only one graduated from Texas Tech. That's the fear because overall, that 2008 class was a disaster from the defensive side of things. Only Cody Davis has made a significant impact on the program and Cornelius Douglas is to be determined this year as he transitions to cornerback. That these JUCO heavy classes can completely flame out and then a staff is having to recruit the very next year after figuring out that a player can't play.

But I honestly think that defensive coordinator Art Kaufman as well as Robert Prunty and John Lovett have decided to sink their teeth into the various JUCO programs and embed themselves there and find the best players to fit their needs. When Stormy Butler and Darren Dotson committed, they specifically commented about how Kaufman had already worked them out twice. That's most likely not just to see Butler and Dotson, but I wouldn't be surprised if Kaufman visited as many of the JUCO programs he could in California and returned to the programs where he knew he wanted players.

***Coupled with the fact that his son is attending Texas Tech as a preferred walk-on.

So if you are at all worried about the lack of high school commits, I suppose you could say that you shouldn't be. It may all be part of the plan to turn this program around as quickly as possible. However, if you are worried about the fact that potentially as much as 40% of the 2013 recruiting class is going to be JUCO players, then you might be concerned if the staff has trouble identifying talent that can play because there is very little time for player development. It's an obvious a risk, but if you thought that Tuberville wasn't concerned about winning now then I think you are mistaken. If anything, this singles to me that Tuberville wants to win at Texas Tech*** or know that he needs to win at Texas Tech for no other reason than he is most likely a competitive person who likes to win at everything he does. I think most coaches are wired this way and I don't think that Tuberville is any different.

I'll let you all weigh in on the comments about whether or not you agree with this change in strategy or if you really even care where the players come from or if you'd rather there be just one option, which is to just win and you don't care about the how's or why's. Personally, I'm wary and as stated above, if not done correctly, it can set your program back relatively quickly, especially if the players don't perform, but I understand Tuberville's rational. That rational is to win now and perhaps it's by any means necessary (I'm not including doing things illegally), whether that be with high school players or junior college players.