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Red Raider Gridiron: Considering the Hawaiian Pipeline

Texas Tech may be developing a pipeline to Hawaii, a state that has players that are traditionally under-recruited and not as well known as players from the mainland.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Thinking Hawaii and Player Rankings. There's this interesting article from the Wall Street Journal about how Oregon QB Marcus Mariota was essentially not recruited at all because he was from Hawaii.

Traveling to Hawaii is not a vacation for them but a schlep. The state is barely a blip on the recruiting radar as a result. Most coaches outside the West Coast ignore Hawaiian players altogether. The state has sent more than 50 three-, four- and five-star recruits to play Division-I college football in the last five years, and all but two stayed on Hawaii's side of the Mississippi River.

Even for coaches who are closer to Hawaii, like Oregon's staff, it is not exactly paradise. The time difference makes it unlikely that Southeastern Conference coaches will look at Hawaiian recruits. But it's also time-consuming for West Coast coaches. The few non-stop flights between Portland and Honolulu require a two-hour drive and six-hour flight for Oregon's coaches. "It was actually a pain," said former Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti.

The long business trip turns recruiting Hawaii into the equivalent of a Goldman Sachs banker hopping to Paris for breakfast, wooing a new client over café au lait and flying back to New York for dinner. "You never wanted to lose a day, so you always had to do the red-eye going home," said former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel. "That was a nightmare."

The other hassle of Hawaii is that there aren't enough players to make the haul worthwhile. Many warm-weather states, where it's possible to play football all year round, are breeding grounds for big-time programs. Texas, for example, had 569 players that were given top rankings by the recruiting website Rivals last year. Florida had 526, and California had 523.

Hawaii had 21. Most of Hawaii's football exports are linemen, too. There were five running backs, quarterbacks and receivers in last year's class, and that number represents a spike, since new websites now allow them to send game film and highlight reels directly to coaches, unlike when Mariota was in high school. "It's played a big part in why mainland schools are starting to recruit the Hawaii skill players," said Vinny Passas, a Hawaiian quarterback instructor who coached Mariota in high school.

There's more there, including thoughts that Mariota was under-recruited because he wasn't even the starter on his team and there were other factors other than "just being from Hawaii".

As MikeTTU noted yesterday, Texas Tech offered two linemen, Villamu Auwae and Pesi Savea, and had already offered highly rated Semisi Uluave. And as the article notes, Tua Tagovailoa, a sophomore quarterback for the 2017 class was offered by Texas Tech a while back.

The interesting play here is that Texas Tech obviously has an inside track with the Fehoko family and there's no reason why Texas Tech shouldn't utilize that track to find other players. I've always wondered how a team like BYU could have such road-grading Polynesian offensive linemen and it makes sense that it is because they have a pipeline and the players that they recruit are probably under-recruited.

It is the success of a guy like Mariota that helps correct the inefficiencies of the recruiting services, but the same constraints that college programs have, which is that it is difficult to get to Hawaii, are the same for recruiting services. The competition is much different and unless the player is willing to come to California for a Nike camp, that player, unfairly or not, may not be ranked as high if that player had lived in Florida or California.

It certainly makes you think that a guy like Breiden Fehoko, as many accolades as he has had, despite being from Hawaii (I'm writing this in terms of recruiting as I'd love to be from Hawaii) is actually not nearly ranked high enough. That's a bit interesting to consider, but I don't think there's a defensive tackle that's stronger than Fehoko and in terms of his quickness, I don't think there's anyone that is significantly better than Fehoko's combination of moves and ability to overpower offensive linemen. He simply beats them up.  And the two offensive linemen that Texas Tech offered, I think may be grade risks.

There's also this inner-circle sort of thing that I think happens. Teams like BYU or Oregon develop a certain amount of trust, and I think this happens all over the place, but I'm guessing that the high school football scene may be a bit more tight-knit because of the closeness of proximity and once you become part of the Hawaiian family, there may not be a tighter pipeline to be a part of, which could pay off in a similar way to Fehoko.

Once you go shirtless and bang on a big drum . . . you're part of the family.

Heisman Hype. ESPN has the Big 12's next Heisman sleeper and QB Patrick Mahomes makes the list, along with BU's Seth Russell, RB Shock Linwood and OU's WR Dorial Green-Beckham:

QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech: Why Mahomes over young QBs like Mason Rudolph or Tyrone Swoopes? We can only go by what we've seen so far, and Mahomes' four starts to end Texas Tech's season offered promise. He was the Big 12's leading passer over the final month of the season, and Jarrett Stidham exiting the picture helps Mahomes' chances of holding down the job. He'd still have to beat out Davis Webb and lead Tech to a huge comeback season, but this kid showed flashes of being special as a true freshman.

Just a simple request, if Mahomes retweets this or maybe favorites it, let's not make a big deal about it.

Gibbs Expected to Stay. Yesterday, Houston hired Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman as the new head coach and the Chronicle notes that Herman is expected to retain defensive coordinator David Gibbs, which means that this probably eliminates one of the two candidates that Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury targeted, the other being Memphis DC David Odom.  The hiring of Herman could also mean that it might be tougher to flip Ben Hicks at quarterback.

Commits Solid. RaiderPower has another story about how a handful of recruits are solid with their commits to Texas Tech, most of them saying that they didn't commit because of a player, but for other reasons.  I thought this would be the case, that a class and these relationships aren't necessarily between the players (they can be) but with the coaches and the college itself.  If you want to be reassured, this is a good place to start.  LAJ's Daniel Pauling has an article about where to go from here, and he's suggested Hicks and Chason Virgil, someone that I suggested on Sunday, or focusing on the 2016 class.