Obvious rewards from his dedication to the recruiting trail weren’t lost on Matt Wells’ first National Signing Day. “Keeping West Texas talent in West Texas,” has already paid dividends with several top West Texas prospects staying home, solidified by the notable four-star wide receiver Loic Fouonji of Midland Lee. Even beyond the recruits themselves, Wells has reignited a lot of connections with high school coaches across the state. In a post signing day interview Wells said that “the past year (has been) huge for us and our success here at Texas Tech. We’ll always recruit Texas high school kids, and we can’t say enough about this class.” We’ll dive into each position that accrued recruits; seeing who left and who is coming in to fill their shoes.
OUT: JETT DUFFEY (TRANSFER)
IN: DONOVAN SMITH, 6’3 - Las Vegas, Nevada (Frenship H.S.)
After his best season in the Red and Black, the dual-threat Jett Duffey decided to take the highlight reel and explore options for his final collegiate season. Luckily, Wells and company have had their eyes on another dual-threat quarterback close to the program. Donovan Smith, who is graduating from Frenship HS, is the son of Tech’s running back coach DeAndre Smith. Though only at Frenship for one season, Donovan amassed 3,123 yards (64.9% completion) and 25 touchdowns with only 8 interceptions (out of 328 attempts). Like Duffey, Smith has the ability to create with his legs as well; earning 489 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Donovan was awarded the District 2-6A Co-Offensive Player of the Year honors which was shared by another Red Raider commit from Midland Lee, Loic Fouonji (see below). Smith led the Frenship Tigers to their first winning season since 2015 and their first playoff appearance since 2016. At 6’3 he’s a little taller than Duffey so will have a more commanding presence in the pocket. With Fouonji out wide... this may be a devastating duo for the future of the Big 12.
OUT: ARMAND SHYNE (GRADUATING)
IN: TAHJ BROOKS, 5’11 - Manor, Texas (Manor H.S.)
Plagued by injury, Armand Shyne didn’t get the amount of playing time he was looking for when he transferred to Texas Tech. It didn’t help that the duo of Tazhawn Henry and SaRodorick Thompson dominated for a majority of the season in his place. As strange as it is to say, Texas Tech may be the most stacked at the running back position with the signing of Manor High’s Tahj Brooks. Brooks is one of the best running backs in the state of Texas; surpassing the 1,000 rushing mark in three of his four varsity seasons. His senior year stats were 1,807 yards on 239 carries (7.5 average yards per carry)and 26 touchdowns. Brooks is also effective out of the backfield, adding depth to his threat for opposing defenses. He is ranked as the no. 36 running back in the 2020 class and the 69 overall player in Texas. Brooks chose Tech over Big 12 opponents Iowa State, TCU, and Kansas State - then a host more spanning various conferences. The depth of Henry, Thompson, Chux Nwabuko, Jax Welch, and now Tahj Brooks makes for one threatening backfield for the Red Raiders.
OUT: R.J. TURNER (GRADUATING) , SETH COLLINS (GRADUATING)
• Loic Fouonji, 6’4 - Midland, Texas (Midland Lee H.S.)
• J.J. Sparkman, 6’4 - Longview, Texas (Pine Tree H.S.)
• Ja’Lynn Polk, 6’2 - Lufkin, Texas (Lufkin H.S.)
• Myles Price, 5’9 - The Colony, Texas (The Colony H.S.)
One of the less impressive groups last season were the wide receivers. R.J. Turner ended up being one of the strongest options for Duffey late in the season, but with his and Seth Collin’s departure there is room to fill. Enter the 2020 class. First, Loic Fouonji is the highest-rated recruit of this year’s group. At four stars, the Midland native is regarded as one of the best playmakers in Texas after creating 40 touchdowns across his three seasons (22 as a senior). As mentioned earlier Fouonji was named the 2-6A Co-Offensive Player of the Year along with Donovan Smith, and ranks as the no. 18 wide receiver in the nation. Though he doesn’t have the same height as T.J. Vasher, Fouonji will quickly become a primary target for whomever is lining up behind center; akin to the receivers like Keke Coutee and Eric Ward.
Next, the best recruit to replace R.J. Turner’s big-play abilities out wide is J.J. Sparkman. This is a wide receiver who collected 725 yards on 39 passes - an insane 18.6 yards per catch. Sparkman has the ability to out-jump just about any defender, owing to his multi-sport athleticism from both basketball and high-jump competition. It’s easy to see him working in early as a freshman to utilize his length and speed; adding a constant deep threat to keep defenses honest.
Next, Ja’Lynn Polk is another deep-threat out wide who averaged 19.4 yards per catch in his senior season. Polk hauled in 54 receptions for over 1,000 yards in his senior season, helping lead Lufkin to a 9-2 season as well as solidify his record with Lufkin at second for all-time receptions and receiving yards, third in touchdown receptions with 24. Polk was ranked a four-star for a majority of the year before finishing the season early with a shoulder injury, but many power five schools remained highly interested regardless.
Finally, Myles Price comes in as the shortest wide receiver of the class but not to any consequence. Price had an impressive senior season with 1,307 receiving yards and 311 rushing yards (227 on kickoff returns). The three-star status is little an indicator to Price’s athletic abilities. At first glance Price holds a lot of similar agility to Jakeem Grant, and if it translates well to the collegiate level then expect Price to work in the slot position as well as returns.
OUT: DONTA THOMPSON (GRADUATING)
IN: JOHN HOLCOMB, 6’5 - Wellington, Texas (Wellington H.S.)
The emphasis of the tight end in Texas Tech’s scheme has been a sigh of relief for the ability of the run-game and the depth of the receiving core. One of our strong tight ends, Donta Thompson makes his exit but doesn’t leave the position lacking. Travis Koontz, Tyler Carr, Mason McHorse, and Simon Gonzales are all still listed on the roster ahead of the 2020 season - but they’ll be getting a boost of talent and competition with signee John Holcomb. This is a tight end who has made a splash on both the offensive and defensive side of things for Wellington High. Beyond football, Holcomb showcases a higher-end of speed at the tight end position by his silver-metal performance in the 2A state meet for the 400m - running a 49.81. Currently Holcomb is ranked as the no. 28 tight end in the nation by ESPN and should inject a lot of competition into the rotation come 2020.
OUT: MADISON AKAMNONU (GRADUATING), BAILEY SMITH (GRADUATING), TERENCE STEELE (GRADUATING), TRAVIS BRUFFY (GRADUATING)
• Ethan Carde, 6’8 - Valrico, Florida (Coffeyville C.C.)
• Larry Moore, 6’5 - Missouri City, Texas (Fort Bend Marshall H.S.)
• Caleb Rogers, 6’5 - Mansfield, Texas (Lake Ridge H.S.)
With three starters and one rotational player leaving, the offensive line was in need of dire restrengthening. Luckily Wells snagged three top 100 players in the 2020 class. First, one of the Juco transfers, Ethan Carde comes to Tech as the no. 18 junior college offensive tackle, from Coffeyville Community college in Kansas. He’s got three years of eligibility remaining and will be a strong presence on the line at 6’8 and 325lbs - the second tallest lineman behind Trevor Roberson (6’11, 345lbs). Alongside Carde comes Larry Moore and Caleb Rogers. Moore is actually a starter on the Fort Bend Marshall team that is playing in their state championship game this Saturday. Moore, who has earned All-District honors in a 15-1 season already, is ranked as the no. 67 offensive tackle in the nation. Rogers is close to Moore in the ranks, coming in as the no. 68 offensive tackle in the nation. Both Moore and Rogers come in at 6’5, which is about average for this Tech offensive line, but will look to start rotating in sooner than later in their collegiate careers.
OUT: BRODERICK WASHINGTON JR. (GRADUATING), LONZELL GILMORE (GRADUATING), QUENTIN YONTZ (GRADUATING), MALIK ESSILFIE (GRADUATING)
IN: DEVIN DREW, 6’3 - Kansas City, Missouri (Iowa Western C.C.)
A tough loss on the defensive side of the ball is Broderick Washington Jr. Washington proved himself early and often as an effective run-stopping defensive lineman. Through his overall strength and ability to move offensive linemen where he willed, he was the bane of many rush attempts throughout the season. Devin Drew comes in at the same height as Washington, but forty pounds less than his predecessor. In his time at Iowa Western Community College, Drew earned first team NJCAA All-America Honors, ICCAC Defensive Player of the Year, and the ICCAC First Team following his season’s 9.5 sacks, 17 TFL, and 58 tackles. Devin is regarded as one of the top Juco prospects in the country and, even though may seem undersized comparatively, will benefit greatly by the strength & conditioning staff/facilities that Tech has to offer. Devin will undoubtedly be starting by the start of the 2020 season alongside veterans like Eli Howard and Nelson Mbanasor.
OUT: JORDYN BROOKS (GRADUATING), CHRISTIAN TAYLOR (GRADUATING)
• Derrick Lewis II, 6’1 - Schertz, Texas (Samuel Clemens H.S.)
• L.B. Moore, 6’3 - Amarillo, Texas (Tascosa H.S.)
• Krishon Merriweather, 6’0 - Hazelwood, Mo. (Garden City C.C.)
• Brandon Bouyer-Randle, 6’2 - Battle Creek, Mich. (Michigan State)
If there’s a position that is slowly becoming more and more consistent for Texas Tech, it’s the linebackers. Dakotah Allen caught a lot of star attention with his whole story of redemption, but Jordyn Brooks put Texas Tech on the map by completely dominating everything in his way. Riko Jeffers looks poised to step into that role after an injury ridden junior season, but Matt Wells has stacked this incoming 2020 group with some dudes.
First, Derrick Lewis II is coming into the program with the same tackle-making capabilities of both Allen and Brooks. In his senior season with Samuel Clemens Lewis earned the unanimous All-District selection and has been selected to the 2020 San Antonio Sports All-Star game. Though only a three-star, Lewis is ranked as the no. 26 inside linebacker of the 2020 class. The other high school signee, L.B. Moore, actually played on the defensive line for the majority of his time at Tascosa High. In his junior and senior season Moore collected first team all-district honors; the senior season highlighted by 95 tackles (20 of them for a loss, 11 sacks), and leading his team to the 6A State Quarterfinals. Moore is another three-star athlete that outshines his stars with the no. 37 ranking at weak-side defensive end.
Then there are the transfers. Krishon Merriweather, like Devin Drew (DL) was one of the top picks coming out of the junior college circuit. In his time last year with Garden City Community College, Merriweather led the nation in tackles with 153 in 11 games (!!) including 10 TFL and 3.5 sacks. That’s a 13.9 tackle per game average; where Merriweather posted three games with 20+ tackles. He’s ranked as the no. 3 inside linebacker of the 2020 junior college class, and without a doubt brings a lot of experience to the table for this linebacking core. While we’re on the topic of experience, Brandon Bouyer-Randle comes to Texas Tech as a transfer from Michigan State. Randle has seen plenty of playing time with the Spartans, totaling 30 tackles, 6 TFL, and 4.5 sacks. Though the stats aren’t as high as say, Jeffers’ 70+ tackles last season, Randle is athletically keen and very dangerous in blitz packages. The nature of his speed and vision offer a lot of similarities to Jeffers on the outside, but what the big question is whether Patterson will scoot Randle or Jeffers to take over that inside linebacker spot. Either way you slice it the linebackers coming in are all going to be looking to be the next Jordyn Brooks, as he was the next Dakota Allen.
OUT: DOUGLAS COLEMAN III, DESMON SMITH,
• Jonathan Davis, 6’1 - Dallas, Texas (South Oak Cliff H.S.)
• Ryan Frank, 6’4 - Magnolia, Texas (Magnolia West H.S.)
• Nate Floyd, 6’0 - College Station, Texas (A&M Consolidated H.S.)
• Kobee Minor, 5’11 - Lake Dallas, Texas (Lake Dallas H.S.)
Finally the most polarizing position group for Texas Tech, the defensive backs, have four fresh faces come in to the mix. First is Jonathan Davis, a strong defensive back who collected 56 tackles and four pass deflections as a senior. Davis is a speedy athlete who has turnover abilities and ranks as the no. 66 player in the state, but has mostly proven to be a secure-tackler and steady pass defender. Another back who has a lot of talent but hasn’t garnered head-turning stats is Ryan Frank; he’s ranked as the no. 56 safety and no. 81 cornerback in the nation. Twice Frank has ended up on the All-District first team, and being 6’4 provides a high ceiling for both Kerry Cooks and Julius Brown to mold him into a key starter for Texas Tech.
The other two backs come in with a bit more pedigree to their name. Nate Floyd comes to Texas Tech with four years of varsity experience, and a first team All-District honor at wide receiver, defensive back, and as a kick returner in 2019. Though only a three star prospect, Floyd has the dynamic athletic ability to move around the defensive backfield and be successful - something Tech needed during the 2019 season. There’s nothing standing in the way of Floyd coming in and starting, even just on special teams as a returner - which says a lot about the state of our defensive backs as much as it says about Floyd’s ability. Finally, rounding out our recruiting class, Kobee Minor comes to Texas Tech with a strong All-Purpose Most Valuable Player accolade from the district he played in. Minor’s senior season was stacked with 72 tackles, 4 TFL, five interceptions, and three defensive touchdowns (two from interception, one from a fumble recovery). Minor’s style of play will remind Texas Tech fans a lot of Adrian Frye in his freshman season: alert, quick to make the hit, and a ball-hawk. Even though only a three-star prospect and the no. 71 safety in the class, Kobee Minor is looking to come in and start as a true freshman.