The problem with being ballyhooed is that the coaching staff always wants you on the field. Even if there really isn't a spot available, coaches set the hamster loose and let him run the wheel for days trying to figure out how to get talented players on the field, even if doing so is a detriment to the actual player.
Such is the case with Tre'Vante Porter, better known as Tre' Porter. Porter was very close to being a finished product coming out of Carl Albert high school in Oklahoma, a 6-0/185 athlete that had the physicality ready the minute he stepped on campus. I think that's a pretty rare quality.
Porter really started out on a path to being a very significant player, where he played as a true freshman, and had 76 tackles to lead all Big 12 freshmen. If you go back and look at his stats from his freshman year, he's making tackles each and every game, except against SMU. Heck, he even had 10 tackles against Baylor, 8 against Oklahoma St. and 9 against Houston.
I'm pretty sure that at this point, I'm projecting Porter to make the next move in his career as he is most likely headed to being an all-conference cornerback. As a true sophomore, he's starting and it's likely that Porter could leave early given the fact that he's making such significant progress.
But then, Porter hurt his head.
I'm not joking when I write that. I do think head injuries are a serious thing. Porter hurt his head against Iowa St. in 2011 and in early November, Porter was ruled out for the year. There are more things that I dislike in terms of Tuberville than what I did like, but keeping players out because of head injuries was one of the things that I thought was and is the absolute way to go for all football teams moving forward.
I tend to think that I might be in the minority in this, but a knee can heal and sometimes be as good as new. A broken bone can heal and be as strong as it was before. But I don't think that brains bounce back like that. Not after repeated misuse and game after game. Some players may be more susceptible than others, and I'm not here to say that every blow to head means permanent disability. No, but there is evidence that supports that repeated concussions can lead to permanent brain damage.
So Porter essentially sits out the rest of the 2011 season and that season goes to crap. Walk-on Sawyer Vest sees the snaps at cornerback and there's a difference. Not the only difference, but I am sure that it had a part in incredibly disappointing 5-7 season.
Porter was never quite himself in 2012. Another season where Porter was this team's nickel back and essentially a starter. He did sit out again in the middle of the year, against Kansas St. and Texas, and didn't play a snap. Porter then managed only 11 tackles for the final four games of the year. Something just wasn't right.
Maybe it was the fact that Porter wasn't happy in the slot. I know I criticized him, probably too much, for what I thought was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I probably need to re-think that. Porter was too good too early in his career to be a bad player.
Not only that, but the coaching staff made the conscious decision to start Porter, a guy that was headed towards an All-Big 12 over another walk-on in Eugene Neboh. I'm not going to sit here and try to tell you that this would have made some significant difference, but I think it was possible.
I go back to my original thought, which is that you want to get your most talented players on the field as much as humanly possible and in retrospect, I don't think that happened with Porter and Neboh last year. Maybe the coaching staff didn't think that Porter was quite ready after needing to sit out the entire second half of 2011, but he still played, which you would think that he was ready on some level.
Porter has found a new home, and it's maybe the home that he should have been in since he arrived. Porter is your free safety and I think he's going to be as good, if not better than D.J. Johnson. I think we, me in particular, tend to forget just how good Porter was. I re-watched the spring game and realized how talented Porter actually was playing. He played with the non-contact red jersey, so he was easy to follow, but during the spring game, I think we saw the 2010 version of Porter, just a lot wiser and smarter and really had a good concept of where he needed to be defensively.
I think a good thing happened in December of 2012 and I think that if this is any indication of where Porter is headed and where he can be, because this is exactly what he'll be asked to do, then Texas Tech will be just fine.