Before the 2016 season started, I took a look at three freshmen I thought would stand out for Tech in their first season. While Johnathan Picone, Terence Steele, and T.J. Vasher, all received playing time, three other freshmen stood out the most to me this season. Two were defensive players who I feel can help turn Tech's 128th-ranked unit around and the other was a running back who could be a significant part of this offense next year. Let's take a look at these three standouts:
Jordyn Brooks, Linebacker
This guy cracked the starting lineup very early in the season and never looked back. Brooks played in all twelve of Tech's games this season and made an impact on this defense that desperately needs to improve. He had 86 total tackles (61 solo and 25 assisted), a sack, a forced fumble, and four pass breakups. I think Brooks still has a lot to learn, but he was one of the best players on this defense last year. Hopefully we continue to see great things from this kid.
Douglas Coleman, Defensive Back
This guy caught the nation's attention with this play against Texas:
Coleman did more than just make one great play. He also had a key interception against TCU to help Tech snap a three-game losing streak. More importantly as the season progressed Coleman seemed to improve. For the season he had 26 total tackles (19 solo and 7 assisted), one sack, one fumble recovery for a touchdown, one interception, and six pass breakups. For a defense that is losing talent in the secondary after this year, I can see Coleman stepping up big in 2017.
Da'Leon Ward, Running Back
While Tech's running game was nothing to write home about this year, Ward emerged as the starting running back midway through the season and led the team in rushing. He played in nine of the teams' games and started five of them. Ward carried the ball 103 time for 428 yards and rushed for three touchdowns. He also had 18 catches for 131 yards. With the absence of Mahomes' running ability next year, the offense will likely have to rely more on the running game. While it may still be a running back by committee approach with Demarcus Felton and Justin Stockton, I see Ward being the primary back for the ground game in 2017.
All three of these freshmen made big strides in their first year for the Red Raiders. I hope 2016 was just the beginning of what will be great careers for them at Texas Tech. Myself and Red Raider fans everywhere are looking forward to seeing what you three will bring next year!