During the national signing day festivities each year, fans can be subject to “content overload.” If you’ve kept up with Texas Tech recruiting, you know each signee’s name, position, exact height and weight, and probably what they ate for breakfast this morning.
Last year I put what I thought to be a unique twist on recapping the Red Raider signing class by doing a “signing day superlatives” list. It’s like a high school yearbook but with football analysis instead of cutest couple and best picture categories. I thought it was pretty fun, so I’m doing it again for this 2017 class that inked yesterday (or enrolled earlier this semester).
Most likely to make an immediate impact: Octavius Morgan, DB
Nobody forgot how bad Texas Tech’s defense was last year, right? It’s impossible to pinpoint just one area that the Red Raiders need to improve on, but pass defense and depth in the secondary is certainly an issue that needs addressing.
Enter Octavius Morgan, a 3-star or 4-star (depending on which site’s rankings you look at) defensive back transferring from Butler County Community College. He’s listed as 6’0” 205, and defensive coordinator David Gibbs says Morgan can play cornerback, safety, or line up in a nickel or dime package. Morgan’s film is pretty eye-opening, and his former coach says he thinks only about five passes were completed on Morgan all of last season.
He will be a major boost to the Texas Tech secondary and could provide the playmaking ability needed to force turnovers, which were lacking in 2016. With two years of JUCO ball under his belt already and as a mid-year enrollee, Morgan should make an impact immediately.
Most likely to change the culture: Dakota Allen, LB
This name should sound familiar to Tech fans. Allen was one of the team’s leading tacklers in 2015 as a redshirt freshman. He was dismissed from the team last offseason for his involvement in an off-field incident along with Trace Ellison and Robert Castaneda.
After spending a year at East Mississippi Community College (“Last Chance U” on Netflix), the Texas Tech football program felt as if he had earned a second chance. Allen is motivated to finish what he started in Lubbock and obviously wants to be here as opposed to anywhere else.
With the mentality Allen will bring to work every day, I think he has a great chance to positively change the culture of the program. He will take nothing for granted, preach that it’s a privilege to play Power 5 college football, and be hungrier than almost anyone else to perform well both on and off the field. Personally, I’m thrilled that Allen has returned to Texas Tech and look forward to his next two years in Lubbock.
Most long term potential: Xavier Martin, QB/ATH
The Cibolo Steele product is another early enrollee for Texas Tech, so he’ll get a head start on learning the offensive system used by Kingsbury. While I think Martin has a great arm and can play quarterback at the collegiate level, Kingsbury noted in his signing day press conference yesterday that Martin is already one of the fastest guys on the team. He’s a little undersized right now and will probably redshirt. But he seems like the kind of guy who has enough raw talent that he will be contributing one way or another eventually. I could see him as a quarterback, slot receiver, kick/punt returner or maybe even a speedy running back used for screens and passing downs.
Most likely to impact future recruiting: Jack Anderson, OL
Kliff Kingsbury said the Frisco offensive lineman was Texas Tech’s best recruiter this cycle. Anderson helped convince his teammate, fellow offensive lineman Dawson Deaton to sign with the Red Raiders, and also lobbied hard for other guys in this recruiting class. Considering he’s from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, where Tech gets a lot of its talent, and his enthusiasm for the program, Anderson could help convince other guys to sign with Tech in the future and will probably make a great host for official visits.
Also, Anderson was the highest-rated recruit to sign with Texas Tech this cycle. He could have a unique appeal in convincing other 4-star guys to come to Texas Tech.
Most to prove: Nelson Mbanasor, DL
Dakota Allen also fits the bill here, but I’m trying to spread the love. Mbanasor is a defensive lineman from the Austin area, and is listed anywhere from 250 to 270 pounds. That’s Power 5 size for a defensive end, and Mbanasor could possibly move inside as well if he’s big enough. He’s also an early enrollee, learning the system and participating in spring practice unlike many freshmen across the country.
The “most to prove” label isn’t because I question Mbanasor’s talent or think he’ll be unproductive. Simply, he’s the only defensive lineman signed in the 2017 class, much to the disappointment of the Texas Tech fan base. Given how the defensive line has struggled on the field and recently lost some depth due to Fehoko’s transfer, Mbanasor is a crucial piece of this class.
If Mbanasor is productive, perhaps he can help ease the stress related to the lack of fellow defensive linemen signed with him until help arrives in 2018 and 2019. But if the attrition bug strikes again or Mbanasor winds up injured (knock on wood), it will be perceived as another major blow to the defensive line and a knock on the coaching staff for only grabbing one D-lineman this year.