I don't like evaluating a recruiting class until they have been on campus 3 seasons. At that point several things have happened:
1) The JUCOs are gone and their impact has been completely felt.
2) Redshirt freshmen are 2 years removed from their redshirt year and are trending towards being a full time starter, a depth player or a roster filler.
3) Most players planning to transfer have done so at this point. Juniors and seniors do not transfer at the same rate as younger players. And if they transferring that late in their career it is typically because they are looking for playing time that they aren't finding on their current team.
4) Similar to transfers, any players who have trouble making the grades have been sifted out by this point.
This class is very intriguing to me. It is very top and bottom heavy with a void in the middle. Tech signed 27 players. I consider 8 of those players to be in the top categories (Studs and Headliners). That means almost 1/3 of the players ended up being really good to great. Everyone should be happy with that percentage. The bottom of the class consists of players who never made an impact, transferred, left the program or never made it to campus. This group consists of 13 players, almost 50% of the class.
So the real issue with this class is the middle group, which I think speaks volumes as to why Tech is struggling now. I call these guys Contributors and Roster Fillers. They won't make it to the NFL, but they show up every day, provide quality depth on game day and work to make everyone on the team better. There are 6 of these players from this class. If you figure 4 or 5 players from the bottom of the class landed in the Contributors or Roster Fillers category, Tech may have had a much better 2014 football season.
Below is the breakdown of each category:
Jace Amaro - He was a 2-year starter. He was a monster when he was on the field. He was the last Tech player that teams absolutely had to account for every time he was on the field. He left early for the NFL and was drafted in the second round by the Jets.
Le'Raven Clark - Everyone is glad to see him back this season and not leaving early for the NFL. He will be a high round pick next year if he continues to trend in the same direction he has been going. If Tech had a player of Clark's caliber at every position, we wouldn't have just finished up a 4-8 season.
DeAndre Washington - Heading into his senior year, he has a chance to move into the stud category. If he produces another 1,000-yard season, he will end up #6 on Tech's all-time rushing list behind only Byron Hanspard, James Gray, Ricky Williams, Bam Morris and Taurean Henderson who are some of Tech's best ever RBs ever. That is some really good company.
Jakeem Grant - Just like Washington, if Grant repeats his receiving yardage from last season (938) he will finish up in elite company. To be more specific, he will surpass Eric Ward for #5 on Tech's all-time receiving yardage list behind only Michael Crabtree, Wes Welker, Lloyd Hill and Carlos Francis.
Branden Jackson - He has been really solid at DE since coming off of his redshirt freshman year. He can be more than a handful for lots of OL at times. There are times he has a tendency to take plays off.
Bradley Marquez - He finished his career #20 on Tech's all-time receiving list with 1,886 receiving yards. He was really great in stretches but disappeared at times. His 6 TDs in the first four games of last season were a big reason Tech didn't start 1-3 or 0-4.
Pete Robertson - He led the Big 12 in sacks last season with 12. There may be a slight change in his role with Gibbs coming in, but not enough to keep him from wreaking havoc on QBs again in 2015.
Kenny Williams - He finished up his eligibility at the end of the 2014 season. He played RB his first three seasons before switching to LB his senior year, only to be moved back to RB late in the 2014 season. The move to LB felt like a desperation move by the coaching staff. I would have a hard time believing any position change prior to a player's senior season is anything less. Either way, he made lots of quality plays at RB for the three years he played the position.
Sam Eguavoen - He was a decent LB in his time at Tech. He was never the best athlete or the fastest guy on the field, but he played his tail off every time he stepped on the field.
J.J. Gaines - He has a chance to finish strong if he can lock down a Safety spot. He was a starter at times the last two seasons, but injuries shortened both seasons. With Gibbs taking over, I am not sure that Gaines will figure into his plans at Safety.
Leon Mackey - He never lived up to the lofty expectations that Tech fans had for him, but he ended up being a more than serviceable DL while he was here at Tech. Like most JUCOs, his second season was much stronger than his first at Tech.
Alfredo Morales - Going into his senior year, Morales has been a multiple year starter. While he has never been a dominator along the line, he has been someone the coaches could count on to show up and play hard.
Dennell Wesley - He was a solid contributor along the DL. He provided a very big body that ate up space, something Tech has always had trouble fielding.
Marcus Kennard - He played sparingly in his time on campus and could never breakout when he got the chance to play. He did provide some WR depth and was never a liability.
Tony Morales - He has played only sparingly in his time at Tech. Injuries have marred his career. Hopefully 2015 will be his shining moment and maybe make suffering through all of the injuries worth it.
Donte Phillips - It seemed like everything was starting to click for Phillips towards the end of last season, but the injury bug bit him. It is still unknown if he will be able to continue his football career.
Transfers/Left the program:
Micheal Brewer - Transferred to Virginia Tech prior to the 2014 season
Justin Cooper - Transferred to Samford University prior to the 2013 season
Ronnie Daniels - Kicked off the team for rules violations
Blake Dees - Kicked off the team for rules violations
Kindred Evans - Left team prior to the 2014 season
Derek Edwards - Transferred to Sam Houston State prior to the 2014 season
Jeremy Reynolds - Kicked off the team for rules violations
Delvon Simmons - Transferred to USC prior to the 2013 season
Cooper Washington - Left prior to the 2012 season
Matt Wilson - Injuries forced him out of football prior to the 2014 season
Never made it to campus:
Desimon Green - Grades issues kept him from making it to Lubbock