Viva The Matadors assembled some of the big brains on the staff to discuss Texas Tech's 2015 recruiting class. Earlier this morning we released part I and here's part II.
4. Who do you think is the under-the-radar commit on offense and defense that will out-perform their ranking?
Seth: On offense, give me another offensive lineman, Terrence Steele, who is generally rated as a two-star offensive lineman, but he's just about as good as you could want for an guard and does all of those things that a guard does. And he's changed who is is from his junior year to his senior year, losing weight and working on his frame and agility. Steele dropped 55 pounds, yes, 55 pounds, and he's only 17. He'll be 18 in June. He's not even close to reaching his potential. The other interesting thing is that Steele closed off his video to his Hudl and the most recent picture of him from playing at Steele and he's flipping skinny. The thing that I remember from his film from his junior year was that he was overweight, he moved well, but he was carrying a lot of weight. But losing 55 pounds (makes him a much healthier human being) and he could be a terror inside.
On the defensive side of the ball, I feel like I'm going to go with the production route again and it seems like Lonzell Gilmore had a ridiculously productive high school career and if he was a few inches taller, he' would be a resounding 4-star player. There are some services that have Gilmore in the state of Texas top 100 players, so he's not a complete unknown, but I think considering he may be a bit of a tweener in college, a defensive coordinator is going to have to figure out where he fits. I think that Gibbs can do that.
BrianDC: On offense, I'm going with Jonathan Giles. As you note in his player profile, he's slippery and I think will excel in the screen game. I also miss our ability to run the 1- and 3-step slants on a consistent (and successful) basis, and I think he'll do well there. Honorable mention to KeKe Coutee, because he's too fast to not say anything about here. On defense, I was incredibly excited about the Lonzell Gilmore commit. His frame reminds me of Pete Robertson, and should put on about as much weight as Pete did (added ~20 lbs at Tech). He'll be fast on the edge at OLB, which should help with pass rushing and contain. I also love how he keeps his head up and watches the QB/RB while he uses is arms to fight off linemen. Love this commit.
MikeTTU: Two players that I'm a fan of in this are Donta Thompson and Lonzell Gilmore. Donta was a playmaker at Ennis HS that made all the right plays to get his team in the championship. Matter of fact, Donta had a Crabtree moment in the Championship game when he caught the game winning catch with little time left in the contest. He has good speed for a Receiver (or Tight End, whatever you want to call him) and plays physical against defenders. He could be a 3rd down guy for Tech. Gilmore didn't really get a look from Power 5 programs until November, but he's someone else I think could really thrive. Some people are concerned with his weight, but Gilmore has good length and speed at his position. He could develop some good moves at defensive end and really make an impact on this defense I believe. Watch out for him in the future.
MeestahRogers: Terence Steele on offense. He played in a very competitive district and was just a mauling offensive lineman. His film is full of him pancaking defenders. I think he was criminally underrated at 2 stars. And on defense, Lonzell Gilmore. Again, I believe he was underrated. He will step into a position that was tailor-made for the likes of him and Pete Robertson. And backing up the conference's best pass rusher certainly can't hurt while he's learning the ropes of D1 college ball.
5. What was the biggest surprise (in a good way) and biggest disappointment from this year's class?
Seth: The Stidham decommitment wasn't the biggest disappointment, but maybe it should be. I tend to look at recruiting at general as found money, which is why I normally don't get too up or down with recruiting in general. I do get excited when players do commit because the idea of it is really that a player chose Texas Tech. I'm pretty sure I'm a simpleton.
The biggest surprise was two different things. I thought the coaching staff did a bang-up job on securing what I think will be a dominant offensive line. Those are some highly rated players and it seems like they've got tackles to guards to even maybe a center. Second, the hiring of Emmett Jones ended up having a cumulative effect of giving Texas Tech the best receiver class that I can recall. JF Thomas is so similar to Carlos Strickland it's a bit scary and the fact that the staff went out and got two guys, Donta Thompson and Thomas, to fill that void of big receivers that this team lacks.
BrianDC: I was really surprised at how many big recruits we seemed to be in the running for, and I sincerely hope that's a sign of things to come. That said, aside from Stidham, it was pretty disheartening to lose out on a lot of them there at the end. The hiring of Emmett Jones in the 11th hour was a stroke of genius by Kingsbury & Co., as the Jemile Johnson & JF Thomas pulls helped soften that blow quite a bit.
MikeTTU: I think the biggest surprise for me was pulling in JF Thomas on National Signing Day. Before this weekend, if you told me we could get Thomas, I would think you were crazy. We didn't appear to be actively recruiting him and he had been committed to TCU since April. Plus with his mom in a coma for part of 2014, I thought there was no way he would leave the DFW area. However, when Tech got Emmett Jones and got him to visit, it seemed like it was actually plausible. I didn't expect him to flip on National Signing Day, but sure enough he did, sending myself and many people in shock. Do I really have to say what the biggest disappointment was? I think we all know.
MeestahRogers: Biggest surprise would have to be the signing day flips of Jamile Johnson (although technically not a NSD flip) and JF Thomas. Both are highly rated guys that fill positions of need as addressed by the coaching staff. Biggest disappointment would have to be missing on having a truly great recruiting class. Missing on guys like Stidham, Tyron Johnson, Darrion Daniels, JoJo Wicker and Arthur McGinnis kind of brought us all back to reality. I think Tech can and should be targeting these types of players, and should start to land more of them than not in the (hopefully) near future.
6. How would you grade this class and why? Use a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best.
Seth: I'm naturally a homer, but I think the offensive line and skill positions are vastly underrated across the Big 12 and I think those guys make the class really terrific. Add in Fehoko on just about any class and you've got a big-time difference maker for the next three or four years. Fehoko could change the face of the defense and that's ridiculously exciting. I'm also incredibly excited to have two legitimate sized bodies on the defensive line. Not every player will pan out, but if these guys can figure it out and stick with the program, these guys will be significant players moving forward. Yeah, the defense needs some more players, especially on the line, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. I'll give the class a 7.5.
BrianDC: Putting on my homer hat, but I'm giving this class an 8. I was thinking about docking it to a 7 or 7.5 due to the lack of D-Linemen & the fact that we didn't break 20 commits, but the quality of the class deserves to be noted. We used to be able to hide defensive deficiencies with an extremely prolific offense, and over the past few years we've lost that. We've now secured our OL depth for the future, picked up an extremely fast RB that is far from contact adverse, and got 2 massive WRs that can go up and get the ball. It's a recipe for exorcising those red zone demons and keeping our O on the field longer, which can help hide any depth issues that running teams can exploit. This is all under the massive caveat that everyone a) qualifies, b) sticks around, and c) develops like we think they will, but hey! It's a long, cold offseason, so if you don't light up the hope fires big and strong then it's only going to be that much more miserable for you. I love what this class brings in, and I don't think we settled for a single one of these players.
MikeTTU: I would end up rating this class an 8 out of 10. With the record Tech did, they ended up getting a pretty good class (they did the best among non-bowl eligible teams). They got difference makers on both sides of the ball and some players we could see in the pros some day. It started with Dauphine and Fehoko, getting players like Dyer and Akamnonu along the way, and it finished with Johnson and Thomas. The reason why I have it at an 8 is because Tech only got 7 commits this class (if you don't include Mitchell and Clark). For a team that struggled on defense so much last year, I would like them to get more defensive players. Now Tech will be pressured to get more defensive recruits next class and possibly some JUCOs.
MeestahRogers: I would rate this a 7. Tech was able to add some really talented guys and address some needs. But, to me, not getting a QB, or another DT or LB or two kept this class from grading out higher. Now, I am still really ecstatic at what this staff was able to put together this year. Given a full recruiting cycle for players (starting in sophomore years), this upcoming class could really show us as fans where this staff is in terms of its recruiting prowess. But the on-field production is going to have to follow to continue to build to allow the recruiting to really take off.
7. This is a bit of a different question and it's possibly two questions. Every time I sit down and think about one class to the next, I try to consider what changed and maybe what I learned from one recruiting class to the next. So, is there something that you learned from following this class and do you think the coaching staff learned anything along the way?
Seth: I wonder if the coaching staff would really do anything different with the recruiting of the quarterback. On one hand, Texas Tech, was, in a sense, punished for shutting down the recruiting of quarterbacks, but they probably told Stidham that they would shut it down. So they were honest with him. I think I continue to take that approach. Recruit a guy and hope that he sticks with his commitment. I think the Stidham situation is an outlier.
As far as me personally, I think I learned that you can't trust a fake crystal ball.
BrianDC: I believe this past year was kind of an intro for our fan base into the world of Big Recruiting. I don't remember a time where we had a chance at so many 4- and 5-stars consistently, and it was a roller coaster for most of us. I think we'll be much better adjusted for the ebbs and flows of a highly sought after 18 year old's psyche in the 2016 cycle, as we understand that it's just part of the gamble. But those gambles can pay off huge. I love that the coaches never gave up on recruits, and I hope they stick with their aggressive strategies. It'll be a lot easier to pull in some of those big fish when you have a number larger than "4" in the win column.
MikeTTU: I started following this 2015 class since around October of 2013, my first full year of following a Texas Tech class since the start. One thing I learned from this year is that Tech has the ability to compete with big time recruits. While Tech didn't go after many "big" targets in 2014 (the only "big" target we got were really Bethel), they went after a lot of them this year. What we saw is that many of top recruits liked Tech a lot, but ended up committing somewhere else over Tech when it's all said and done. I think that with a better record and more experience, Tech could reel in more of these guys. And that's also my complaint, is that maybe Tech went after too many big fish. While Tech was on the top list for many top recruits, we only ended up getting a few of them. They should continue to go after those guys, but also focus more on some other recruit so you have depth. You never know, you could scout good and find the next Wes Welker or Zach Thomas. That's really my opinion of the 2015 class.
MeestahRogers: I've been following recruiting closely now for about 5 years. And I guess it's not something I learned, moreso reminded, but that you really can't a good feel for how 16-, 17-, and 18-year olds are going to act in this recruiting game. You may think everything lines up between the program and the recruit and that it would be a dynamite fit, but the two never come together. Or a recruit spurns you for the chance to play on championship-caliber teams (Tech will get there). Or maybe they want to jump in on the ground floor of a rebuild and help turn things around. Maybe they want to burn their own path and not follow in the footsteps of their parents.
And I have no idea about what the coaching staff could have learned. Maybe that there's a balance between shooting for the stars and neglecting some of the "traditional" Tech recruits. But I have no problem with how this staff approached this class and would not feel any differently if/when they do it again for the 2016 class.