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Key players to watch as Tech host SFA on Saturday

Three offensive players and three defensive players are highlighted for fans to focus on during the game

Colin Schooler is a key player for Texas Tech to turn its defensive reputation around for the 2021 season.
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Stephen F Austin Lumberjacks have made their trek to Lubbock, TX in preparation for their game against our beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders. As we prepare to be entertained by former NBA great Shaquille O’Neal (aka DJ Diesel) during Raider Alley prior to kickoff, let’s take a moment to hype up some key Tech players to watch during the game.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel
DJ Diesel
Ebony Cox / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC


Tyler Shough (hopefully by now you know his name is pronounced “shuck”) is the obvious choice. The offense runs through the QB. Not only is this Shough’s first year at Texas Tech, it’s also his Offensive Coordinator Sonny Cumbie’s first year to call the offensive plays. Growing pains are to be expected for both but Shough showed poise and maturity during last week’s game versus Houston. It’s important that Cumbie and Shough grow together rather quickly for Tech to reverse it’s recent trend of subpar football seasons and building fan frustration.

JJ Sparkman is another key player that should excel against SFA. Erik Ezukanma is the obvious stud of the wide receiver group but great offenses need a secondary option when defenses start to key in on stopping EZ. Rumors are that Sparkman has had a great camp and fans will want to see that translate on the field especially against a weaker opponent. Let’s see if Sparkman can become a household name among Tech football fans starting with SFA this Saturday.

SaRodorick Thompson is another player fans want to see. Thompson has already proven what he can do on the field so there is little concern with him in that regard. Fans just want to see him on the field (even if limited action). Has he fully recovered from his injury? Can Thompson return to his productive self in time for conference play? He needs to begin to gain that confidence back so that he can be a major compliment to Tahj Brooks. That’s a running back duo that could do some damage this season when healthy.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Houston
Tyler Shough
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports


Colin Schooler is already a semi-legend among Red Raider fans for his touchdown saving tackle of Baylor’s Charlie Brewer during the infamous 2020 COVID season. Schooler was the active leading tackler of all NCAA players heading into this season. Schooler has been a beast once he was eased into Coach Keith Patterson’s defense last season. The linebacker room for this Red Raider defense might be the deepest group ever to play for the scarlet and black. I’ll withhold that title until the season plays out but I certainly appreciate the perceived talent level and Schooler is the leader of that group.

Bonus: if you haven’t seen this video of Schooler breaking down his key 3rd down stop during the Houston game, take a moment now. I hope this type of content continues.

Riko Jeffers is another player and a second linebacker that should be making plays all over the field during this game. As stated before, Tech has a very talented LB group so it makes sense that fans want to see at least two of them perform at a high level against SFA. It’s time to see if Jeffers can make a similar leap that Jordyn Brooks made during his final season in Lubbock. Jeffers has the tools to play on Sundays. As Coach Yoast proclaimed in Remember the Titans:

The secondary may be cheating a bit since its a group of players. Ball hawk Zech McPhearson has taken his talents to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL and if the secondary unit is going to improve, there needs to be a new leader. Adrian Frye, Eric Monroe, Reggie Pearson and Marquis “Muddy” Waters are definitely players to keep an eye on. The secondary must improve from recent seasons to get this team where it wants to go - contending for conference championships. Monroe, Frye, and Pearson each recorded an interception versus Houston last Saturday. It would be nice to see at least one of these players increase that total this game.

There has been an underground effort to #PackTheJones and the marketing campaign seems to have worked. While a sellout is probably too tall a task for an opponent such as SFA, there is a growing feeling of excitement and support for this version of the Red Raiders football team. You can feel it in Lubbock right now and it’s a great feeling. It’s been awhile.

While this is my first article for VTM, I’ve been on record saying that Matt Wells is going to change some minds this season and that I believe the Tech defense will be top half of the conference. I’ll be honest in saying that I was questioning my boldness during the first half of the Houston game, but fortunately the second half validated my claims. Tech has passed the first test. Tech should cruise through two more victories to get to 3-0 and that will allow them to work on things before their first conference game against the Texas Longhorns.