Texas Tech Q&A with Rivals’ Matt Clare

Eric Nahlin

Recruiting Editor
Staff member
Dec 19, 2011
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Thoreau'd on Walden
With Texas and Texas Tech playing this weekend what better time to have on a Red Raider insider?

Matt Clare has covered Tech for years and is also on the Rivals regional beat.

You can find him on Twitter at @MattClareRivals.

Inside Texas: Tech has 9 commitments at the moment, or 10 counting grad transfer Colin Schooler, mention what you like about the class and the big needs that remain.

Matt Clare: I don’t count Schooler for the 2021 class, and unless contact tracing keeps him out, he was listed as the No. 1 ILB/MLB on the Texas Tech depth chart. So the Tech fans are eager to see him debut this weekend and we can have some Schooler vs. Schooler this Saturday.

The fans on our website would tell you there needs to be more, more, more commitments. I think the coaches are being cautious from an evaluation standpoint, and while the COVID/permanent dead period has impacted every college staff, the Tech coaches are in somewhat of a unique situation.

They are trying to build and this is the second full year on the recruiting trail for Matt Wells and his staff. From what I’m told, they are hesitant to move off of top priority targets and begin offering several others at positions like OL or RB or DB due to the inactivity or inability to host recruits.

I really like the balance in the 2021 class, and the skill talent on offense with QB Behren Morton and WR Jerand Bradley is an excellent start for the Tech coaches. In a loaded 2021 class, I also really like OL Jack Tucker’s upside at the tackle position.

These guys get the headlines on offense, but David Yost runs 11-personnel and is building the TE room in Lubbock. The coaches have two commitments at 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8, with Jed Castles from WF Rider and Mason Tharp from Klein. I’m interested to see how that fits into the overall scheme on offense over time, because with Morton at QB and Bradley on the outside, having these two huge targets at TE could be dangerous.

On the defensive side of the ball, the coaches have three DL commits and one LB commit. The LB commit - DeShawn Page - is a JUCO prospect from East Mississippi C.C. and is considered one of the top JUCO LB prospects in the nation. He was originally a K-State commitment, then the Tech coaches landed him over Oklahoma State. Now the Mississippi State coaches have offered and that will be something to follow, but he seems solid with Tech for the moment.

On the defensive line, the coaches landed a commitment from Rider DE E’Maurion Banks in April and he has a pretty impressive offer list. His junior season ended with a knee injury, and I’m certain that forced some of those programs to back off, but this is exactly the type of prospect Texas Tech has to land and develop. I met him at a Rider scrimmage last week, and the coaches say he is currently measuring at 6-foot-6, 280-pounds going into the season.

In terms of the remaining needs, the big question is where do the overall numbers come from to round out this class. The offers are there, but a majority of targets have committed or aren’t really considering Tech at the moment.

There are zero defensive back commitments, and there really aren’t any prospects that come to mind as probable or likely to choose Tech at the moment. The new DBs coach, Derek Jones, talks a huge game on Twitter and has a personality online... but the results aren’t there right now.

He has offered a ton of regional and even East Coast targets, but we are talking about kids with 30-plus offers and highly rated kids who aren’t showing up in Lubbock anytime soon.

The coaches are offering more OL prospects, but there is only one commitment and a handful of top targets. Not a position you necessarily want to be in as the calendar flips to October.

IT: Texas fans are familiar with needing to re-tool the TE position. UT is finally in a place where there’s both talent and depth. I really like Castles. E. Banks definitely has the physical tools and athleticism to become All Conference. UT fans are also familiar with a disappointing cycle recruiting OL.

What are the current dogfights Tech is in and with which schools?

MC: The one current dogfight is for the program’s top RB target, Cam’Ron Valdez. The coaches are head to head with Oklahoma State, and while I believe they eventually land Valdez, the Cowboys aren’t making it easy and seem to be fighting back at every turn.

It was interesting seeing OL Jacoby Jackson decommit from TCU and come back onto the market, so to say. The Tech coaches hosted him for 3-4 visits over the past year and have built a very good relationship there. He doesn’t seem like a kid that wants to rush another decision, and I doubt TCU is really ‘out’ at this point, but Texas offered him and I believe a combination of Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State, maybe Texas and potentially Florida State will be in the running for his commitment.

The other main target would be OL Ty Buchanan out of Corpus Christi, and he is another prospect who was on the Tech campus earlier in the year. The coaches waited to offer and now he holds 30-plus offers. It is a situation where he could have been an insta-commit in January or February, but now they are fighting with Oklahoma State and USC, among others.

Overall, I would say that Tech has to win the battles against the schools like Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma State to be successful on the recruiting trail.

Tech and Texas rarely ever battle head to head for recruits, the Longhorns recruit in another stratosphere.

IT: That may be true, but Behren Morton can absolutely play at Texas. It seems they made an early decision to target Morton over Sawyer Robertson. Do you know what went into that? Both are quite good and I’m not sure they can go wrong. Behren reminds of Sam Bradford some.

MC: I will preface this by saying, I have never talked to Sawyer Robertson or watched him play. I have heard excellent things, however, the coaches were always on Morton and I have to believe that is due to him reciprocating the interest. While Robertson is the home town guy, prospects from Lubbock typically want to leave West Texas for their college experience.

I believe that has something to do with Morton over Robertson, but it was interesting to see that he will play for Mike Leach and Mississippi State. So never a dull moment, Eric. He will be playing baseball as well, so he probably has a laser rocket arm and will turn out to be a great college QB.

However, I believe the same is true for Morton, minus the laser rocket arm part. He made the Elite 11 Finals and we received great reviews from the media in attendance, especially for a small town 3A kid competing against the top QBs in the nation.

IT: I hear he’s very competitive, and has the intangibles. Plus he’s a multi-sport kid who seems to be very accurate.

You have a minute to talk about the current team? Most UT fans didn’t see the game with HBU but are aware Tech struggled and nearly lost. What’s fixable from that game, and what are the big concerns versus Texas?

MC: Yes, he plays every sport there is for Eastland and his Dad is the head football coach, so he checks all of the QB recruit boxes. I have to check one of my updates, but I believe he has lettered in four varsity sports for the past 2-3 years - football, basketball, track & field and golf.

Yes, I have time to talk about HBU, if I have to...

I watched the game and read through the box score, scoring summary and most of the PFF College snap counts/grades/etc. that I could. It is still a mystery to me, and I really have to give props to the HBU offense and coaching staff.

Zac Kittley is the OC at HBU, and he is the son of longtime Tech T&F coach Wes Kittley. He got his start under Kingsbury as a graduate assistant and moved to HBU a few years ago with a handful of other Tech staffers.

Between the game Kittley called and the accuracy of their QB, Bailey Zappe, they made the Texas Tech defense look unprepared and completely out-manned. Caden Sterns’ brothers looked like they could suit up for Tech at the wide receiver positions too. I’m telling you, they were both tremendously athletic and wore out the Tech secondary.

So that is the scary part for Tech fans, the level of talent is only increasing going into Big 12 play and the Texas WRs looked pretty good, based on what little I saw from the UTEP game.

The run defense played well, and only allowed 28 yards total rushing, but it was a full Air Raid approach and the HBU offense passed the ball 51 times. Between the sheer amount of pass plays and the reduced practices/etc. going into the season, the Tech secondary looked gassed and played out of position quite a bit in this game.

IT: Who are some of the younger guys on the Tech roster fans of the Big 12 should be aware of?

MC: There are a handful of redshirt freshman/sophomores that I believe will become Big 12 names, guys like DE Tony Bradford Jr. from North Shore and WR Trey Cleveland from Arlington. I also really like DB Alex Hogan from Houston Lamar, he got his first start with Demarcus Fields out last week and struggled a little, but he will settle into the D1 level and become a multi-year starter.

For the true freshman, the coaches really like the two WRs in Ja’Lynn Polk from Lufkin and Loic Fouonji from Midland. In the HBU game, RB Tahj Brooks from Manor scored his first collegiate touchdown and I’m a believer in his upside over the next few years as a B12 starter.

The other names that I heard a lot about going into the season were OL Caleb Rogers from Lake Ridge and TE John Holcomb from Wellington. They both played in the HBU game, and I’m told both have exceeded expectations as true freshman in camp and practices.

IT: What are the feelings regarding native son Kliff Kingsbury? Are Tech fans saying his modest success thus far is proof he should have been retained, or do they realize the NFL and college games differ and some head coaches are suited to one but not the other?

MC: The majority of Tech fans have nothing but love for Kingsbury, and I feel that everything worked out for the best.

He is a technician and excellent at the X’s and O’s on offense, but that never translated to wins in Lubbock. I feel he is a better fit at the NFL level compared to the college level.

When I spoke with A&M writers after he was hired, it was a unanimous “he doesn’t like to recruit” response. I think the lack of a true coaching circle led to annual staff turnover and that impeded any consistency or development on the defensive side of the ball.

It also didn’t help when Saban and Bama hire away your DB coach, or LSU hires your RB coach, etc. Some of the turnover was truly bad luck or poaching as well.

There never seemed to be any real philosophy on the recruiting trail, and I believe after the Jarrett Stidham debacle, Kingsbury and his staff decided to stop shooting for the stars and almost gave up on competing for the high profile recruits.

Kingsbury’s resume at the QB position is completely legit, and the Red Raiders have put quite a few players on NFL rosters, both on offense and defense. I don’t want to portray his recruitment or the staff’s recruitment as a complete failure, but mostly a lot of good pieces put together without much of a plan.

You are someone who I read 7-8 years ago before even attempting to try my hand at this recruiting thing, so you know better than anyone that the recruiting world has simply changed so much. I’m talking about social media, edits and college programs having to spend money and staff for these various nuances.

Kingsbury never adjusted or did any of that, in fact they had a graphic design consultant from the East Coast making edits once in a while... and that was 2-3 years ago.

Meanwhile, Texas hires away the social media director from Alabama and every major sports site or paper had a national story about it. Those things matter, whether fans like to acknowledge them or not.

So the Red Raiders fell behind the times and I believe the new coaching staff has addressed these things, especially from a staff standpoint. No longer is one guy doing the job of three people, and the program has a Director of Recruiting with a whole staff dedicated to the recruiting function of the program, instead of the old school approach of student assistants writing pretty mailers to various targets.

While still necessary and worthwhile, just not a winning approach in the ‘modern’ recruiting era.

IT: I can definitely sympathize with Kingsbury on some of that. Evaluation and roster management is fun to contemplate, but everything else can become tiring. But it’s necessary.

On behalf of the IT team, I appreciate you taking the time to enlighten us on all things Texas Tech.

MC: Thanks Eric, always great catching up...hope you and the family are doing well!

IT: Same to you, buddy.
 

johnnyhvan

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Mar 10, 2017
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Kingsbury never adjusted or did any of that, in fact they had a graphic design consultant from the East Coast making edits once in a while... and that was 2-3 years ago.

Meanwhile, Texas hires away the social media director from Alabama and every major sports site or paper had a national story about it. Those things matter, whether fans like to acknowledge them or not.

So the Red Raiders fell behind the times and I believe the new coaching staff has addressed these things, especially from a staff standpoint. No longer is one guy doing the job of three people, and the program has a Director of Recruiting with a whole staff dedicated to the recruiting function of the program, instead of the old school approach of student assistants writing pretty mailers to various targets.
Texas fans can get jaded pretty quickly b/c of the blue blood heritage and having more money than all of CFP. It's always refreshing to get an outside perspective on where Texas sits relative to other programs. The staff makes their own destiny. They and the players are given every single resource available to win championships.
 

birddogman

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What’s the level of concern the game this weekend doesn’t happen? Scale of 1-10, 10 being no chance lockdown imminent. I need to know how excited I should be. I felt like there was some early pessimism right after week 1 but that seems to have cooled.
 

becook3108

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Dec 11, 2014
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I like this guy


Definitely have some young talent but they need to get some DBs on the field now and in recruiting. Derek Jones was an excellent developer at Duke and turned out some NFL talent while there. Thought he would be doing better by now but I guess he is still learning the Texas HSFB landscape?
 

ceddy b

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I get that it’s kind of Yalls thing.. but just from a pure fan perspective.. this close to the season.. I don’t get how people can feel anything for recruiting right now. It just doesn’t do it for me. I’m all about the season lol
 

sherf1

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Dec 8, 2018
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What’s the level of concern the game this weekend doesn’t happen? Scale of 1-10, 10 being no chance lockdown imminent. I need to know how excited I should be. I felt like there was some early pessimism right after week 1 but that seems to have cooled.
Think we would have already heard if that was a concern. KSU and OU has been on watch for several days
 

LocoTex

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Dec 23, 2011
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Castles is a pretty good kid. I went to high school with his mom and graduated with his uncle. His dad is really good dude that was quite a player in high school then played at Midwestern. Mom was a really good athlete too.
 
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