What better time to start thinking about the starting 22 guys than a week after the Texas Tech football season came to a close?
While this is totally based off of projection and some of these guys could either transfer or head to the NFL next season, this is what we believe the depth chart will look like with the knowledge we have in early January.
There are plenty of spots where there’s going to be some competition at. I am very much so looking forward to how those battles play out, but right now the guys that I have ahead of the others are my favorites right now. Spring ball and the preseason could sway me one way or another, but as of right now this is the starting group that I believe will lead us into week 1.
*Starters in bold, second and third string + from left to right.
Tyler Shough, Donovan Smith, Behren Morton, Parker McNeil
After a season where we saw three different guys start a game for the Red Raiders, it’s going to be a tough battle from the time that they step foot back onto that practice field. Tyler Shough played the most consistent football of this group and looked to be the most comfortable throwing the football, which is obviously key for a Texas Tech offense.
Donovan Smith might be the more athletic of the two, but Zach Kittley’s offense is going to rely on the pass more than anything. So while I do enjoy the thought of Smith using is size and speed in the run game, the offense might just end up being more efficient with Shough at the reigns.
Last year, Bailey Zappe forced the ball to Jerreth Sterns, which is what Shough enjoyed doing with Erik Ezukanma. EZ has left for the draft, but there are a few guys that are capable of replacing that production next year so it’ll be interesting to see which guy steps up.
Morton will likely be the third guy with McNeil being the fourth if he decides to stay with the team.
Tahj Brooks, Sarodorick Thompson, Xavier White, Cam’Ron Valdez, Chadarius Townsend, Ronnie Hart, Bryson Donnell
This should again be one of the stronger units for the Red Raiders heading into the new season. With not much change at all unless Thompson decides to leave the school, Brooks should probably share the lead of the group with Thompson yet again, with White being the receiving option of the group.
The big difference between Kittley’s offense and the offense we saw last season is that the run game is not used nearly as much as the passing game. Zappe threw the ball nearly 700
times, compared to a combined 383 attempts from the three quarterbacks last year at Tech. I do believe that the Red Raiders backfield is much more talented than the Hilltoppers, but they’ll be used as receivers out of the backfield a lot more.
Whether or not Townsend returns will be interesting to see. He was mostly used in the return game and not much in the backfield. Hart only saw action in one game, so it’s hard to project what his role will be next year.
Valdez and Donnell are both key recruits at the position with Valdez being on the team last year, but its unlikely that either see meaningful snaps until a few of the guys ahead of them graduate or if an injury occurs.
Outside wide receivers
Joshua Moore, Loic Fouonji, Brady Boyd, Trey Cleveland, J.J. Sparkman, Jerand Bradley
The receiver position is going to be one of the most crowded position groups on the team, but there are plenty of receptions to go around. With the two transfers in Moore and Boyd being guys that should step in and see time immediately, this group is going to be rotating in and out plenty.
Moore is going to bring speed no other guy at the outside position has. We’ve seen plenty of these guys this past season get open deep and either score a touchdown or get caught just short, but if Moore has even a step on a defender there is zero doubt he is going to take it all the way. Boyd also brings some wheels as well, and he’s the guy I’m most excited to see at this position.
Of all the returning guys, Cleveland played the most snaps last year followed by Fouonji, Sparkman and Bradley. Fouonji has been the most impressive of the bunch, and that’s why I see him being one of the main guys out there to start the year.
Sparkman really came along during the bowl game. He had the amazing touchdown catch along with another big play to set up another touchdown.
Cleveland has the best hands on the team from what I’ve seen, so that alone will help his cause for playing time. Bradley is the youngest of the group but still managed to find some playing time even in his true freshman season.
I’d be surprised if any of these guys started off the season far ahead of the others. This group is so talented and has as much diversity at the position as most groups in the nation. The returning guys are all 6-4 or taller and use that to their advantage, while the new guys bring in amazing route running along with some speed. This group will turn out to be one of the most important for this team by the seasons end if they’re able to do what they do best.
Myles Price, McLane Mannix, Cameron Cantrell, Tyler King, Cole Kirkpatrick, Jordan Brown, Nehemiah Martinez, Ben Gair
This group is very top heavy depending on whether or not Mannix returns next season. Besides the two starters, there is no experience from the guys behind them. This would be a position that I could see a lot of the normal outside receivers taking snaps at due to the lack of depth here.
Price was used plenty last season and is looking to improve off of that. He could become the main guy in this offense just like Jerreth Sterns was last season under Kittley. Mannix is also a solid target on the inside and will be used plenty if he returns.
As for the rest of the guys, most of what we know about them is either how they were in high school and whether or not they dressed for games. Cantrell is heading into his redshirt junior year without having played any snaps but did dress up for most of the games his sophomore and junior years.
Tyler King is an incoming freshman who brings a Keke Coutee-type of speed. He ran track and posted a 10.21 100m dash and a 20.74 in the 200m. Once he gets on the field I expect him to be used in a variety of ways that’ll take advantage of his skillset.
Jordan Brown is the last guy I want to highlight as he just recently transferred to Tech from Kansas. He was a walk-on for the Jayhawks and decided to transfer in November. He wasn’t a highly touted recruit but I’m interested to see what the coaching staff sees in him.
This group is probably the one that I am going to keep my eye on the most as far as who’s getting reps here. With the lack of experience outside of the top two guys I expect the offense to either move a tight end out wide or put one of the bigger outside guys in the slot.
Mason Tharp, Jed Castles, Jason Lloyd
Now that Travis Koontz has left for the draft, it’s time for the Mason Tharp show. The extremely talented sophomore will be the main guy at the tight end position and will have a chance to be a big piece of this offense. His size and athleticism is going to affect how defenses cover this offense as there’s going to be a certain level of attention payed to him.
Castles is a guy that’ll likely rotate in here and there. He’s also a giant with athleticism as well and that could help him get some playing time when Tech decides to throw two tight ends out there.
Jason Lloyd has been a special teams guy for the most part. If Henry Teeter doesn’t return then Lloyd could slide into his role as an H-Back.
I’m looking forward to the sophomore jump from Tharp and how this new offense will try and feature him. He’s going to be a matchup nightmare for defenses and should be one of the focal points of the offense.
Caleb Rogers T, Ethan Carde T, Landon Peterson G, Jacoby Jackson G, Cade Briggs C, Clayton Franks C, Matt Keeler T, Larry Moore T, Sheridan Wilson T Trevor Roberson T, Jack Tucker T, Seth Martin G, Kaden Weatherby T
With Rogers being the only returning starter, projecting these guys to a position is going to be a bit difficult. I mostly just went off of where they took snaps at last season and where their height/weight usually play.
Rogers returns after his first season as the full starter. He was a solid pass blocker but struggled with run blocking but it didn’t always show as the Red Raiders run game usually looked good throughout the year. I can see him staying at right tackle but with him being the best returning blocker he could definitely move to the left side.
Carde saw the most time of any non-starter and moved around frequently. He was in at tackle most of the time and that could be his position moving forward. Peterson and Jackson are guys that played very little but still saw some action here and there.
Briggs is a transfer from New Mexico who projects to play at center and should be the starter there almost immediately with the amount of experience he has.
Franks, Keeler and Moore are guys that I think have a chance to start as well as they each found some playing time at a few positions. Sheridan Wilson, an incoming true freshman, just played at the UA All-American Game and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on the field early into the season.
As for the rest of the guys, listed it’s really a toss up to see whether or not they’re going to have an impact this season. The two incoming freshman between Martin and Weatherby are likely to be redshirted unless they show out and carve out some sort of role.
This group was shaky last season and the offense really suffered when more than one of these guys wasn’t playing well. Consistent play from each guy will be key if the offense is going to work and that’s a lot to ask from a group that will likely have three guys who haven’t been consistent starters at the collegiate level.
Jaylon Hutchings NG, Nelson Mbanasor DE, Devin Drew DE, Troy Te’o NG, L.B. Moore DE, Philip Blidi DE, Gilbert Ibeneme DE, E’maurion Banks, Syncere Massey DE
This group as of the time that I’m writing this has a few guys that are questionable to return. Drew, Mbanasor, Moore and Te’o are all seniors who are able to return next season but have not made their decisions yet. If they don’t, then the order in which I have guys in is who I think will slide into those positions.
Hutchings is going to be one of the key returnees for the entire team. He has been solid as the man in the middle, and with Tim DeRuyter coming in and likely running a 3-4 defense Hutchings will likely still man that role.
Mbanasor and Drew will be key in the run game if they return as they are big guys that will allow these linebackers to flow to the ball and make plays. Te’o has made plays as an interior guy as well and if he returns he’ll provide solid depth.
L.B. Moore could find more playing time if he returns and one of the other guys doesn’t. He played here and there across the outside of the defensive line and will provide depth there. Blidi played across the entire defensive line which is important for him when it comes to finding snaps. Ibeneme is a guy that Tech has been waiting for to get healthy. Banks played very little and could step into a bigger role if the guys that I mentioned leave.
Usually true freshmen don’t find immediate snaps at the defensive line position because they need a season to gain some weight and get stronger. Massey will come in north of 270 pounds and could find some playing time early on if he impresses during the offseason.
This group has a lot of depth and will be waiting to see who will be coming back. Zarnell Fitch is the new defensive line coach and has a reputation for bringing in and developing talent. He’s the type of guy that these kids will want to play for so I have a lot of faith in him bringing back some guys.
Brandon Bouyer-Randle ILB, Dimitri Moore ILB, Tyree Wilson OLB, Krishon Merriweather OLB, Jesiah Pierre ILB, Tyrique Matthews ILB, Kosi Eldrige ILB, Matthew Young ILB, Joseph Adedire OLB, Derrick Lewis ILB, Tavares Elston ILB
This position, like the defensive line, is waiting on a few guys to make a decision as to whether or not they’re returning. Brandon Bouyer-Randle has yet to decide if he will return or not as well as Matthews, Eldridge and Young.
Besides that, the rest of these positions should be pretty solidified with guys who either played there last year or guys with experience.
Wilson showed out in the bowl game and should be a key guy in bringing pressure next season. Merriweather will likely play outside and is a much better run stopper than he is a pass rusher.
Moore is a transfer that played at Vanderbilt before transferring to Missouri State and played there last season. He played at Cedar Hill when Tech coach Joey McGuire was there and should be an instant impact.
Pierre, Eldrige, Matthews, Lewis and Young each saw time last season and if they return for next season will be in the rotation for reps. The depth at the inside position will be great if we can get a few of these guys back.
Adedire is a highly graded incoming freshman who can step in right away on the outside and provide a solid pass rush. I feel similar to Elston who is also an incoming freshman but he might also be a redshirt candidate.
Rayshad Williams, Adrian Frye, Malik Dunlap, Kobee Minor, Maurion Horn, Cameron Watts, Jalon Peoples
With Adrian Frye returning, this group has plenty of experience coming back. Rayshad Williams was solid for Tech this past season and played the most snaps out of anybody on the defense. Frye is a former freshman All-American who has shown flashes of that form. If he can play like the talented corner that we all know he is then this defense will be dangerous next year.
Dunlap played just around 100 snaps last year and should see an increase in that if he slides into that third cornerback spot. He will have to fight off Minor and possibly Watts if he returns. Minor was really good when he was given the chance to play throughout the year.
Maurion Horn was the highest rated recruit from this year’s class and is capable of making an impact on offense and defense. He likely will start off as a defensive back but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s used on the offensive side of the ball at some point in his career as well.
Peoples is a guy that I am excited for as he has some amazing coverage skills coming out of high school and his brother just so happens to be linebacker Dimitri Moore.
The top of this group has potential to be one of the best groups in the conference. I look forward to the development of the younger guys as well and wouldn’t be surprised to see them get some time in the non-conference games.
Reggie Pearson, Marquis Waters, Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, Tyler Owens, Nate Floyd, Landon Hullaby, Cole Boyd, Hut Graham
With Marquis “Muddy” Waters announcing his return, this is officially my favorite position group on the entire team. The trio of Pearson, Waters and Taylor-Demerson is going to be amazing for Tech. Pearson and DTD played the most snaps last year, with both having an impact in the pass and run game.
Waters suffered a season-ending pectoral injury against Texas but is returning and is going to be a key piece for this defense. He was solid at Duke and was making plays for us until his injury.
Owens is a transfer from Texas who is insanely fast and a former 5-star recruit. He will likely rotate in and be able to help us in both aspects of the game. Floyd saw some playing time last year and figures to see some more unless Hullaby can surpass him.
Hullaby was a guy who was going to Oregon until McGuire convinced him to come to Tech. He is another solid recruit that could find playing time this year and will be key for us in the years to come. Graham will likely be redshirted as he needs to put on some weight and Boyd only saw one snap last year but he could see more if injuries occur.
Overall, this group is special. They will be key in us stopping some of the aerial threats that we face in the conference.
Austin McNamara P, Trey Wolff K, Jackson Knotts LS
I’m not sure if Garibay can return, but if he does then he will obviously be the kicker. If not then it seems like Wolff will take over those responsibilities. McNamara is one of the better punters in the nation so he obviously will stick there and Knotts was the long snapper all of last season and was solid there as well.
Nehemiah Martinez, Adrian Frye, McLane Mannix, Myles Price
Martinez is the only returning guy besides Tahj Brooks who had a kick return last season, so he figures to be the guy there next year. As for punt returning Adrian Frye was the main guy back there but Mannix and Price each saw some time there. Frye should stick there next year and he could even do kickoff returns as well.
Share your thoughts
Leave a comment below and let us know which position groups interest you the most as Tech fills out its roster and depth chart this spring and summer.