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When did Kliff Kingsbury lose his swagger?

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Kingsbury enters his sixth season, and recruiting is at an all-time low

NCAA Football: Birmingham Bowl-Texas Tech vs South Florida Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to forget how much momentum the football program had in week seven of the 2013 football season.

The Red Raiders had won seven in a row, primed to face a stout Oklahoma team - and everything felt like they were on course to a 10+ win season. Of course, that didn’t happen and Tech lost the following five games. Clearly, momentum swung back to positive after that resounding bowl win over Arizona State. But I think the doubt started to seep into the minds of recruits even in those early days. Things were going ‘ok’ but they weren’t exactly thriving.

Here we are entering Kingsbury’s sixth season, and we haven’t landed a commitment in the 2019 class since August of 2017 (nine months ago). When inspecting things a bit further - we learn four-star Steven Parker is a Lubbock boy, who grew up a fan of the Red Raiders, and Cameron Cantrell is the brother of ex-Texas Tech WR Dylan Cantrell - clearly they’re sold on Texas Tech for obvious reasons. Not saying that they’re gimme recruits, and ones we can take for granted, but it’s hard to equate their commitment to Kingsbury. I’m more pointing to the fact that those particular recruits were likely loyal to the Texas Tech brand above all else.

I’m sure many fans will point to the old, “trust the coaches,” mantra and there’s plenty of logic to that. In fact, the list of coaches who offered Patrick Mahomes a scholarship is tiny, and guys like Justus Parker were desired by even fewer FBS staffs. But, there is a ton of data that points to a correlation between “recruiting stars” and future stardom. The vast majority of four-star and five-star kids will wind up, at minimum, as contributors to your roster with 80 percent certainty. Whereas, your “diamond in the rough,” has a probability closer to 15 percent. It’s paramount you fill your roster with talent that’s rated well, but you equally depend on your evaluations.

I’m not the first person to make this argument, but look at the talent that just left Texas Tech for the NFL? Cam Batson had offers from Arizona State, Kansas, and Washington State. Dylan Cantrell was coveted by Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State. Keke Coutee was offered by Texas and Oklahoma…but, many people point to how Wes Welker only had a Texas Tech offer, or how a we’ve taken tons of other highly rated players who didn’t pan out. I get your argument, but you’re pointing towards the exception and not the rule.

Honestly, I think Kingsbury lost his handle on recruiting the day we lost Jarrett Stidham to Baylor. In that particular moment, Kingsbury no longer was able to wrangle in his first choice of high school quarterback. And, as we’ve seen, quarterback is the straw that stirs the drink. Can you imagine how much different our team last season would’ve been with Stidham at the helm? Or, how good we’d feel this off-season with a player a bonafide five-star talent?

So, baring a surprise this season - I’m sure Texas Tech will wind up with six or seven wins (Vegas is rarely wrong). We’ll wind up with another class towards the bottom of the Big 12. In case you weren’t aware, we finished last for 2018 - correct, behind even Kansas. But, the fact remains that we’re behind the eight ball with recruiting currently, and we clearly lost whatever that “it” factor was long ago. Maybe the better question is, how do we find “it” again?