Viva The Matadors assembled some of the big brains on the staff to discuss Texas Tech's 2015 recruiting class. We've got the first half of this exclusive roundtable this morning and the second half this afternoon.
1. The very next question is going to be "Who is the best defensive commit not named Fehoko?" because I'm assuming that Fehoko is the best commit, offense or defense, for the 2015 class. With that out of the way, who do you think is more important to the 2015 season, Breiden Fehoko or Mike Mitchell and why?
Seth: I think it's going to be Mitchell, but they'll both be incredibly important. Picking between them is like picking between brisket and sausage. I love them both. But Mitchell is heading into his third year of college athletics, yet he hasn't played a snap. What Mitchell has done is that he has been around a weight room and playing on scout teams at Texas Tech and Ohio State. With Texas Tech graduating three of four linebackers (V.J. Fehoko, Austin Stewart and Sam Eguavoen) there's going to be plenty of opportunity for Mitchell to make his mark somewhere. As far as Fehoko is concerned, I love, and I do mean love, his potential and I think he's further along that just about any high defensive recruit that has been at Texas Tech as long as I can remember, namely because of his strength. He's going to contribute, but there's a lot of numbers at defensive tackle and in answering this question, I think Mitchell has an easier path to being a starter and making an impact from day one.
BrianDC: I've been turning this question over and over ever since you asked it, and initially I thought it was definitely Fehoko. Our run defense has been downright woeful, particularly in the past two seasons, and the thought of somebody being able to pair up with a second year Rika Levi to at least slow down a running back has to be a start on the path back to decency. However (and not just to be contrarian), I'm actually going to go with Mitchell. Think about Seneca Wallace. Did you twitch? Mobile quarterbacks have always given Tech absolute fits, and we may finally have the antidote in Mitchell. Fast, aggressive, and maybe more than anything else, smart. I'd love him to run as an ILB, where he's able to drop in coverage, diagnose run plays, and work as a spy when we face the likes of a Trevone Boykin. We've never really had an athlete like this at the LB position, so I'm excited to see him come in. I also think that he and Fehoko will have quite the symbiotic relationship in terms of driving plays to one another. Sacks and picks, which I'm sure Gibbs is already dreaming about from those two.
Oh! Also, Mitchell essentially had 2 red shirt years with the one he spent at Ohio State & the past year at Tech. Developmentally, he should be much further ahead, which makes me thing he'll be more ready to have a noticeable contribution.
MikeTTU: I think that Mike Mitchell will be more important to the Texas Tech Defense this season. The reason why I say that is because Fehoko is a true freshmen and will also have help from David Gibbs new 4-3 scheme. Mike Mitchell will likely be playing linebacker (I believe) and will need to hit the holes when the opposition is running the ball and catch ball carriers outside. Nothing ticked me off more than when a runner was able to waltz past the linebackers or a ball carrier (quarterback or running back) hit the outside and made a play for a 1st down. Mitchell has the strength and speed to limit these chances and give our defense a better chance. That's why I'm going with Mitchell.
MeestahRogers: Out of those two, I'm going to say Fehoko. We know that a disruptive defensive line can make all of the other defensive units look better. If Fehoko is able to disrupt the offensive line, or even just maintain multiple blockers, that should free up the linebackers to make plays instead of getting bowled over by offensive linemen working upfield. And this is probably asking a lot of a true freshman, but we know Fehoko is a mature player (physically and mentally) who may be able to step in and contribute at a high level sooner than most true freshmen.
2. Who is the best defensive commit not named Fehoko?
Seth: Give me D'Vonta Hinton, the linebacker from Texas City. If Hinton is 2 inches taller, he's going to a much bigger school, especially with the production he had over the past three years at high school. Hinton made a ridiculous 171 tackles as a sophomore, 158 as a junior and only 88 as a senior (he played in 3 less games). That's 450 tackles and near 60 tackles for a loss and all sorts of other stats. The thing with Hinton is that he he's too short to get looks from major programs, but if you value production on the high school level, then Hinton is your guy. And he's already built incredibly thick, which is great for a linebacker and I tend to doubt the 201 that he's currently listed at. I think he's bigger than that.
BrianDC: With his propensity for sniffing out the football, I think D'Vonta Hinton will fit right in with what the Gibbs defense is seeking to do. If we can slow down a runner at the line of scrimmage, you can safely bet that Hinton is going to finish out the play at rail-gun like velocities. This is completely unfounded, but I also feel that he's going to do really well with the whole Gibbs ball-stripping philosophy.
MikeTTU: I'm going to go with Jamile Johnson, and not because he's the highest rated recruit. Personally, Johnson was my favorite safety to review coming out, but once he committed to Oklahoma (then North Carolina, then Texas), I thought Tech was out of it. I was happy to hear Wednesday morning that he committed to the Red Raiders. He told Fox4 that he would play Cornerback for Tech, which would be great. He's physical at the line of scrimmage and makes plays on the balls. Wide Receivers struggle when facing him. He could start right away (across from Nigel Bethel II) and make an immediate backfield. Tech could have a dangerous secondary by 2016/2017
MeestahRogers: D'Vonta Hinton would be the next best defensive commit in my book. This may have to do with me not watching a lot of film on this class, but his was the most impressive. If he can maintain his nose for the ball at this level and lack of regard of his physical body, he should turn into a devastating linebacker for Tech. His job will be made even easier if the defensive line improves and keeps him clean.
3. Who do you think is the biggest difference maker for the offensive commits?
Seth: This will probably be the odd-ball answer, but give me Madison Akamnonu. Akamnonu is a Le'Raven Clark starter-kit, ridiculously athletic for a tackle and has the frame to add weight. Akamnonu's biggest question will be if he "if" he can add weight like Clark did and mature into a 315 pound tackle that's still athletic to protect a quarterback's blind-side. I think Conner Dyer is pretty close to the type of athleticism for Akamnonu, but Madison is your left tackle of the future and if he redshirts this next year and then starts like Le'Raven Clark did as redshirt freshman, that would be fantastic.
BrianDC: Donta Thompson/ JF Thomas . Here are some fun stats: Tech's red zone scoring percentage was about 76% (29 scores on 38 opportunities). Of those 29 scores, 22 were touchdowns. However, 13 of those 22 touchdowns came in August/September. I feel that one piece of the red zone puzzle has fallen into place with Pat Mahomes' ability to not only scramble near the goal line but keep his eyes up as he does it. Adding two huge targets like Donta & JF now gives him the best kind of safety blanket: the ones with honey coated hands and a near clairvoyant ability of knowing exactly where the ball is in the air. No more Jakeem corners!*
MikeTTU: Most people may pick JF Thomas, but I'm going to go with Corey Dauphine. Dauphine was the first commit in the class, and was unrated at the time. However, after a monster senior season, he went from unrated, to an 84, to a 92 and now a 94. The reason why I said Dauphine is because a respectable running game can greatly improve an offense. While throwing the ball is fine, if there's no threat to run the ball, you're not going to find success a majority of the time. Well, Dauphine is a fast, powerful running back that is capable of tearing up Big XII defenses for years to come. And when the opposition has to play the run, it sets up big passing opportunities and possibly an option with Mahomes at QB. Dauphine should give Tech a lot of options and running game for years to come.
MeestahRogers: I'm tempted to say JF Thomas due to his size, and he may very well turn into the biggest difference maker, but I'm going to go with Tony Brown. He's not the tallest receiver in the bunch (certainly not the shortest), but he's just really fluid in his moves. He runs great routes, has good hands and is deceptively fast. I'm also anticipating him to make his presence felt in the return game, as well.
Part Two of this hand-crafted and exclusive roundtable will be up later this afternoon.