Wes and Jonathan are back with their thoughts on which freshman (RS or true) will have the biggest impact on the 2015 season. We will save you the suspense and let you know that neither one of us picked Fehoko which is surprising I know. He definitely seems like the easy pick and we didn't purposely avoiding choosing him because of that. We both just had stronger feeling about other players.
Jonathan's Impact Player
When I heard that Tech had offered Donta Thompson, I got pretty excited. I had followed what he had accomplished his senior season, with almost 1500 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns, including a late touchdown to clinch the state title for Ennis. Donta's combination of good hands, size, and route running lead me to believe that he will bet the most impactful player in the upcoming season. As a tight end, Donta can be ready to fill a spot that has been vacant since Jace Amaro left the South Plains.
A year ago, Davis Webb was labeled a dark horse for the Heisman race, and things didn't work out so well. The one position that I felt was missing from the team to help out a young quarterback was a tight end that could run routes, catch in traffic, and take off down the field. Jace brought that, and Donta can bring that this year. In both 2012 and 2013, Tech's 3rd down percentage in games they won was over 50 percent. In 2014, that number dropped to under 40 percent. A tight end with the ability to convert on 3rd down will help our young quarterbacks, and that is one area that will be big for the team this year.
It remains to be seen if Donta will be able to crack the roster, or if he will get a redshirt this season. I feel that if he can make a good impression on Kliff and company, and play in the early games to build up experience and confidence, he will be a big time player once conference play begins.
Wes' Impact Player
I guess the definition of biggest impact is debatable. Some would measure impact by quality. Meaning JF Thomas hitting several big plays down the field or Breiden Fehoko forcing several fumbles and racking up a dozen tackles for loss would be the biggest impact. I am going to measure impact by both quantity and quality. That leads me to Justin Murphy being the biggest impact freshman. His stats won't show up in the box score because of his position but that doesn't mean he isn't a key cog in the offense's success. He is penciled in as the opening day starter at right tackle and should remain there all season, which means minus injury he will play almost 100% of the offense's meaningful plays. If you look at any other position such as defensive lineman or wide receiver, they rotate out quite a bit to stay fresh. They are playing about 50% of the plays on offense or defense.
The other reason I think he impact is more significant is due to the lack of depth of the offensive line. Behind Murphy you have Poet Thomas who is unproven and Paul Stawarz, a JUCO transfer who isn't on campus yet. If Murphy plays the way he is projected to, he will help solidify the strongest position group on the team (running backs might have something to say about that). Without Murphy being an impact player, then we are going to have a hard time keeping our QB's jersey clean.
Ultimately, I think Murphy has a wonderful 2015 season. In 2016 I think he takes over for Le'Raven Clark at left tackle. And just like Clark, after he leaves Tech he is drafted in the early rounds of the NFL draft.