This series of articles will break down the Red Raiders roster approaching the 2017 season. Staff members selected their top-15 players currently on the roster and for each one of them, there will be a profile with basic information, videos, and expectations.
15th – Douglas Coleman (Sophomore, defensive back)
14th – Jack Anderson (Freshman, offensive lineman)
13th – D.J. Polite-Bray (Senior, defensive back)
12th – Clayton Hatfield (Junior, kicker)
11th – Octavious Morgan (Junior, defensive back)
10th – Broderick Washington (Sophomore, defensive lineman)
Weight: 180 pounds
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
3.2. This is a bad number because these are the rushing yards per attempt that Texas Tech gained in 2016. It is the sixth from last in the whole FBS. So, how can a running back be in the Red Raiders top 10? Despite being a true freshman last season, Da’Leon Ward was the best runner on the team, showed great skill and potential to be a weapon in 2017.
In high school, Ward made it clear he was a talented player and ran for more than 5,000 yards in three years, he was a two-time Class 6A All-State honorable mention, he was named District 9-6A Player of the Year as a senior, and District Offensive MVP as a junior. Rivals ranked him as the 15th best running back in the country and he signed with Texas Tech over Air Force, Louisville, TCU, UNLV, and Boise State.
Ward is an elusive player who is able to find holes, has the patience to wait for them to open, and has an efficient acceleration that allows him to leave defenders behind in the open field. There were not so many holes to run through in 2016 but when Ward began to have significant playing time, in Week 9 against TCU, he flirted four times with the 100-yards mark and scored three touchdowns from then on. He also showed good receiving abilities with 18 catches for 131 yards.
Despite a minor injury in the spring, Ward is expected to be the squad’s workhorse running back, but what can we expect from him and, consequently, from the whole unit?
The running game is important even in a system like the one used in Lubbock, and with Ward and a better offensive line, it seems that in 2017 we will see some improvements. In spite of this, the supporting staff does not offer many certainties: Justin Stockton was interesting in 2015 but had an atrocious junior year, and DeMarcus Felton saw his numbers worsen during the year, too. There is hope coming from Derrick Mitchell Jr. and Desmond Nisby, two transfers who, however, are not on the roster for the summer session and whose status is still unknown.
So, fingers crossed on Ward: the faith of the entire backfield is on his shoulders.