Football season is almost here and our countdown continues.
6. Ta’Zhawn Henry (19pts)
The running game will be crucial in Matt Wells’ first season in Lubbock. In his 6-season tenure at Utah State, Wells relied very much on this aspect of the game, and in this context comes Ta’Zhawn Henry. The sophomore is expected to be the cornerstone of the unit, considering Da’Leon Ward (he had his transfer to Stephen F. Austin), Demarcus Felton and Tre King all left the program. He already put on 15 pounds in preparation for the season. It will be interesting to see how this will influence the speed and elusiveness he showed in 2018.
In his first season at Texas Tech, Henry made an impact early and often; however, he was unable to transfer that momentum during conference play. Most of that can be due to injuries sustained late in the season, which hampered his ability to see a lot of action. Even with those injuries, Henry started five games last year and made an appearance in 11 and was able to log 341 yards in 86 carries with 8 rushing touchdowns and averaged 4.0 yards per carry. He paired these with 145 receiving yards on 22 receptions and one touchdown in the passing game. This new offensive system will bring Texas Tech closer to being balanced on the ground and through the air, so the opportunity for a running back to make a big splash is there for the taking. If Henry stays away from the injuries he suffered in the second part of the 2018 season, he can hit the 1000-yard mark. A fresh and healthy Henry can be a dynamic weapon for Alan Bowman in the passing game and for Tech’s running game in late October and into November, when the schedule gets a bit tougher.
Obviously, with Sarodorick Thompson and newcomer Armand Shyne in the fold, the running back position for David Yost’s offense in 2019 will be a healthy rotation. Even with that as a given, Henry is the best option at both running between the tackles and the ability to take a swing pass out wide with the anticipated increased screen game.
5. Adrian Frye (45 pts)
Don’t let anyone fool you, no one truly predicted Adrian Frye would break out like he did last season, especially as a redshirt freshman. Frye closed last year with 21 tackles, 16 coming solo, and 13 pass breakups and a whooping five (!!!) interceptions, which was the most interceptions by a freshman in a single season since former All-Southwest Conference Tracy Saul in 1989. This not only makes him the Big 12 leader in passes defended and interceptions, he also garnered Freshman All-America honors and became the first Texas Tech freshman to gather All-Big 12 first team honors since Michael Crabtree in 2007. This is also the occasion to give a cheap shot to the recruitment system, as Texas Tech was the only P5 school to offer Adrian. In fact, Louisiana Monroe was the only other FBS school to strongly recruit him.
While Frye spent most of his time at corner, 2019 will see Frye move to safety as the staff tries to utilize his ability as a ball hawk and a very talented tackler. We don’t need to say much, because this interception and play on the ball speaks all for itself.
Coming into the season, Red Raider fans have high expectations for Frye. He will have to confirm all the good things he made in 2018, and normally the sophomore slump is always behind the corner. Working with CB coach Julius Brown might help him avoid this. He might not always be the starter, as the Red Raiders are stacked at cornerback this year, but he’ll have all the playing time he desires, in particular with 5-back schemes. Texas Tech found a real jewel in Frye, and with coach Wells’ idea of aggressiveness on defense, Frye can make a further step to confirm as one of the best cornerbacks in the Big 12.
4. Broderick Washington (48pts)
Let’s be honest. We didn’t expect to see Broderick so high, barely missing the podium, but the staff spoke loud and clear.
When you look at a Defensive tackle, you want to see three things. Size. Strength. Stability.
The senior from Longview showed all of those last season, as one of the three defensive players to start every single game last year. Washington was, somewhat quietly, able to lead the defensive line with 41 tackles, seven of which went for losses, four quarterback hurries with three sacks. I say somewhat quietly, because I feel Washington is severely overlooked, not only on his own team, but even in the conference.
A leader on and off the field, Washington will be one of the most important players of Matt Wells’ first season because he sets the tone for his team. Coming into his senior season, Washington will be a constant on the defensive line that will be so desperately needed if Texas Tech defense looks to improve this season under new Defensive Coordinator Keith Patterson.
As we have learned recently, it looks as though Tech will utilize a three down lineman front, which will rely on Broderick Washington’s ability and size to fill up the middle to allow the rush ends to run free. Washington and junior Joe Wallace will fight in the middle of the line, with the hope to give some consistency to a unit that has been maltreated too many times in recent seasons. Look for Washington to be a dominant force on the defensive line on Saturdays, and with another good year, play his way to Sundays at the next level. At the moment he’s not in the scouts’ notebooks, but with a strong season and big numbers, he could hear his name called in the next NFL Draft.