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Mitchell and Fehoko: Recreating the Texas Tech Defense

With the commitments of Breiden Fehoko and Mike Mitchell, Kingsbury is creating a new meaning to Texas Tech Defense. Here is why the days of blaming the defense are numbered.

Brett Deering

Two weeks ago, former Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville was a guest on Sportstalk with Bo Mattingly. During the interview, Bo asked what recruiting different areas are like. When talking about the Big XII, Tuberville said "You go to the Big XII and it's all offense. My gosh, I had fun at Texas Tech, but you had to score 50 points to have a chance to win a game." While the Big XII is known for high powered offenses, many teams play good defense in the league and are successful. Unfortunately for Texas Tech, the Red Raiders haven't been known as a team with a good defense. During the past two decades, Texas Tech  has been known as the offense that puts up huge numbers, while their defense struggles to keep up. Their best stint was when Ruffin McNeill was Defensive Coordinator, and the Red Raiders went 11-1, tying the lead for the Big XII South. When McNeill left to coach Eastern Carolina, the Red Raiders went through 3 different coordinators in 3 years, struggling to keep up with the competition. Now, Texas Tech has a committed coordinator in Matt Wallerstedt, it looks as if this defense is about to make noise in the Big XII.

The difference between recruiting on defense these last two years and before then is that Texas Tech is now bringing in some of the top rated defensive recruits in the country. It really started to kick off the day after Christmas last year when Peyton Hendrix committed to the Red Raiders over schools like Norte Dame and Arkansas. The hard hitting safety would end up being our highest rated defensive recruit according to Scout and 247composite. Then just a week later, the whole Red Raider nation was caught by surprise when Kevin Curtis flipped Nigel Bethel II from Miami. The speedy corner was our top rated defensive player according to ESPN and Rivals. Finally, the Red Raiders got a commitment from big huge humongous defensive tackle Rika Levi, our top rated defensive recruit according to 247sports. Red Raider fans were finally excited to see some playmakers making their way to Lubbock. Then came the 2015 class.

It started off with a bone crushing linebacker just a day after the Texas Tech Spring Game, then the following day, another commitment caused Red Raider nation to go berzerk. Breiden Fehoko announced on twitter that he committed to Texas Tech, giving the Red Raiders an extremely talented player at a huge position of need. Fehoko was going to wait til the end of the year to commit, but felt the time was right and pulled the trigger. Here is my analysis from January:

Breiden Fehoko - Defensive Tackle, Defensive End (Farrington, Honolulu, HI)

Height Weight Bench Vertical Power Throw
6'3" 270 lbs 315 lbs 24.7" 35

Ratings: 97 by 247 / 82 by ESPN / 5.9 by Rivals

Interest: USC* (Warmer), Alabama (Warm), Oklahoma (Warm), Texas Tech (Warm)

I'm sure all of you have heard of Breiden Fehoko by now. He comes from an athletic family with 3 other brothers, including Sam Fehoko, who played a few years here, and V.J. Fehoko, who will be transferring here from Utah. Not only that, but his dad was once the mascot for the Hawaii Warriors. Fehoko has gone to camps for USC and Alabama during last summer, and last month, Oklahoma visited him. However, USC has not offered him and Ed Orgeron, his recruiter, left USC. While Tech isn't in the lead, they aren't that far behind, now having two of the Fehoko brothers already. Let's look at his film. He isn't big (by big I mean fat) like some of the other DTs we've looked at, but his strength is there and his slimmer body allows him to be more athletic than most DTs. Athletic enough where he could play DE at a lot of colleges too. He breaks through the line and his fast enough to stop the ball carrier and bring him down. Not only that, but he has the speed to catch up too. There is no doubt in my mind that he will make noise at the next level. If I had to compare him to someone, I would guess Geno Atkins of the Bengals, a 6'1", 300 lb DT that is athletic, strong, and at the top of his craft. Breiden Fehoko has a long road in front of him, and hopefully the next step is in Lubbock.

Everyone around the nation was shocked that an offensive powerhouse could pull in a defensive player like Fehoko. Then the Red Raiders did it again. Yesterday afternoon, Texas Tech got a commitment from Ohio State LB Mike Mitchell. The former 5-star will get 3-4 years left of eligibility, depending if he can play right away because of his father's health. Here is my review of Mitchell from last month:

Mike Mitchell - Linebacker (Prestonwood Christian HS, Plano, TX)

Height Weight 40 time Shuttle Vertical SPARQ
6'3" 222 lbs 4.45 4.25 40.3 (Highest) 140.76 (Highest)

Ratings: 94 by 247 / 84 by ESPN / 6.1 by Rivals

Interest: Texas Tech (Warm), Texas A&M (Warm), Oklahoma (Warm)

If you look at the recruits for 2015, you won't find Mitchell at all. That's because Mike Mitchell was a 2013 LB, a former 5-star recruit that decided to take his talents to Ohio State at the Army All-American game. After Redshirting his first season (due to injury in fall camp), he decided he would transfer closer to home and be closer to his ailing father. This weekend, Mike was spotted on the sidelines at the Spring Game. Max Olson of ESPN first reported the news on twitter during the game. This would be a huge addition for Texas Tech, who are looking at add some LBs this class (VJ Fehoko and Sam Equavoen are seniors on the team). Also, because he is transferring because of an ill parent, it's likely that Mitchell won't lose eligibility. During the game, he sat next to Jarrett Stidham and Breiden Fehoko, and according to an article on WreckEm247, Fehoko is trying to gain a good friendship with Mitchell is get him aboard. Let's take a look at what Mitchell can do on film. The first thing you notice about Mitchell is that he's extremely fast for a 6'3", 200 lb LB. He was listed 4.45 on 247 and ESPN, and a 4.39 on Rivals. WRs and RBs in the Big XII would not be able to escape him. Another talent he has is his ability to secure tackles. Some of the bigger linebackers will just hit the guy instead of following through, but Mike is able to wrap up and bring the runner to the ground with force. With his strength, he can also burst through lineman, which means that he would not only be able to drop back into coverage, but also rush the Quarterback. This would be a huge addition if Mitchell decides to pick Texas Tech. That being said, I believe that he would likely visit Oklahoma and A&M, both in which he visited and were going hard after him. On the bright side, Mitchell went to Tech's Spring game instead of Oklahoma's, and A&M is not having a Spring Game. The addition of Mike Mitchell would be a huge one.

Don't think that'll be it though.

There are plenty of highly rated defensive recruits that have an eye on Texas Tech, and with the help of Fehoko and Mitchell, we could land some these recruits. Kahlil McKenzie recently released a Top 12 list where Texas Tech was at the bottom, but Kingsbury has been talking to Kahlil (the latest being two days ago) and Fehoko has been trying to convince the big defensive tackle and friend to form a dynamic duo with him in Lubbock. Malik Jefferson has said that Texas Tech has recruited him the hardest, and with his teammate DeAndre McNeal looking at the Red Raiders, they could possibly go together to Texas Tech. With the addition of Mike Mitchell to the linebacker core, we could also see Mitchell wanting to form a duo with the Mesquite product. Kris Boyd has been in contact with Nigel Bethel a lot, and even Stidham has reached out to the DB. Kris tweeted a few months ago that Texas, A&M, OU or Tech could be in for some good news.

Don't just look at the top prospects though, many other high ranked recruits are taking notice also. Darrion Daniels is visiting as we speak with his dad, a former Tech player, and signee Peyton Hendrix. Brandon Scott will soon take a visit out to Raiderland to see the hype for himself. Reggie Walker has listed the Red Raiders in his Top 3 thus far. Zach Abercrumbia has Tech right behind TCU right now, and could end up at Tech with teammate Derrick Dixon heading there. The list goes on and on of high recruits that are looking at Tech, and that doesn't even include the 2016 class. where recruits like Brandon Jones, Marvin Terry and McKinley Mitchell (Mike Mitchell's brother) have an eye on the program. However, certain events will likely need to happen before the recruits start jumping aboard.

First off, these coaches and commits need to keep on going full speed ahead at these recruits. One thing that this staff gets credited with the most is their honesty and consistency. If they keep at it and form strong relationships, we'll start getting commitments from highly rated recruits. Something else this team must do is improve on the defensive end next year. It'll be a lot easier for defensive commits to want to come to Tech if they see good or improving play from our defensive. Luckily, with multiple good newcomers, consistency in the system and more depth, we could see an improvement in this category. Finally, must get and stay in the news for positive reasons. Not everyone knows who Texas Tech is (one Louisiana recruit said he wasn't quite sure who Texas Tech was when they offered him), so Tech needs to spread the name around in a good, positive manner to help improve our recruiting.

With all this talent already committed to the Red Raiders, and the possibility of even more coming aboard, the future of the Red Raider defense is bright. Soon enough, the nation will no longer laugh at the Red Raider defense, and we will become a threat to every team that comes to Lubbock. Along with a record breaking offense, it looks as if Texas Tech is poise to become one of the top teams in the nation in the upcoming years. They say that defense wins championships, and Texas Tech is in the mist of recreating theirs now. And it's looking pretty good.

Let the Dominos Fall