February 1, 2012

Tech gets another good crop

Texas Tech football added 17 players today and 26 altogether for the 2012 football season Wednesday.

It's not as much a star powered recruiting class as the Class of 2011 which featured seven four-star recruits, but the 2012 class meets the Red Raiders' primary needs. And the Class of 2012 still ranks as a Top 25 class.

"This is the second straight year we've had a top ranked recruiting class," head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We had a lot of younger guys we signed last year and a lot of recruits this year's recruits would have looked at and said, 'you know, that guy has only been there one year and has three more years left.'

"But our coaches did a great job of going out and selling Texas Tech, the football team and Lubbock. It was fun."

Tech added three four-star recruits to the line up this time out, featuring U.S. Army All-Americans in defensive end Michael Starts and Dominique Wheeler in addition to four-star receiver Reginald Davis.

But the class will most likely be remembered for the players that are already on campus. Immediate help for a Red Raider defense that desperately needed depth. Mid-year junior college recruits like linebackers Chris Payne, Will Smith, defensive end Lee Adams and safety Austin Stewart are already on campus and are expected to immediately contribute.

"At every position we needed help," Tuberville said. "At some positions we needed immediate help. That's the reason we went to the junior college ranks and brought in some early junior college players and even some that will come in June. In some places we're in dire need of depth and starters for more speed or more athletic ability."

Because junior college recruits usually only have two years of eligibility remaining, Tuberville only recruits them if he believes they can be big time contributors in their final years of college football.

Aside from those players, the Class of 2012 has been two years in the making.

Some of the high school seniors the Red Raiders are brining in were players Tuberville and his staff began looking at the first week they arrived on campus. Way back in January, 2010.

There are some players that will get some significant playing time as true freshmen in the bunch.

Keenon Ward, we talked about him," Tuberville said. "Keenon is going to be a utility player in a lot of positions his first year. He could be a returner, he could be a guy that plays running back, he could play slot, he could play corner. He could play free safety. We've just got to get him in the right spot.

"Again, he's the type of guy that we'd like to say put him in there, let him learn, redshirt him. He could be one of the better ones we have. So we'll just have to wait and see."

The only truly disappointing aspect to the Class of 2012 is it didn't add as much depth as the Red Raider coaching staff would have liked after a 2011 season where a deep running back corps depth was eaten up by injuries and a suspension.

Fortunately, running back Ronnie Daniels is back on the team after a 10-game suspension while Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington are ahead of schedule in recovering from their knee injuries.

"Quinton White is going to be a running back.," Tuberville said. "Bradley Marquez, we've moved him to running back. Just looking yesterday, we had our first winter workout. Looking at the running backs in one situation, we've got more now than we've had. We felt like adding one more from the junior college ranks might give us a little bit more depth, but with Ronnie coming back, we're in a pretty good situation. It's going to be hard to play all those guys as it is if all of them stay healthy."

Even in disappointment, success.

So for back-to-back years the Red Raiders have had Top 25 recruiting classes. Even the average football fan would have to admit Tech is stocking talent for an improved 2012 season.

"Going back to our coaches, I'm proud of how they sold this program and how hard they worked and the dedication they had," Tuberville said. "That's what it's about. Your coaches have to do it. They have to get out and sell themselves and the program and the community, and they did another very good job of it."

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