The Tommy Tubberville Era for Texas Tech started off with mixed reviews last year. The defense played poorly and the offense wasn’t smooth. For the first time since 2001 Tech lost to Texas A&M, Texas, and Oklahoma all in the same season and yet they still finished 8-5, winning a bowl game.
It was a step back from where Mike Leach had the program in 2008 and 2009, however, not as much of a step back as it would seem given the aforementioned circumstances. Even with this mediocre season, Tubberville ushered in the best recruiting class in Texas Tech’s history. Early on in the battle for the 2012 recruiting class it appears Tubberville and his staff may top themselves once again.
One reason for this is the addition of highly-touted defensive end Michael Starts.
Starts was a two-way star, playing on both the offensive and defensive lines. He was being recruited heavily by Texas A&M, UT, OU, Tech and Baylor.
By many accounts from bloggers and team reporters the decision came down to Starts wanting to play defense. Only Tech and A&M were going to give him that opportunity. Also, according to these bloggers, the only two teams that had a chance at landing the top 150 recruit were Tech and UT.
A writer from Burnt Orange Nation gave analysis on whether or not this signing by Tech would “change the narrative” of the battles between Tech and UT in future recruiting skirmishes. While I agree with him that this one victory for Texas Tech will not immediately make them competitive with UT on recruits across the board, I do think that this battle should not be overlooked or dismissed by UT.
The change in Defensive Coordinators from James Willis to Chad Glasgow should add some much-needed pass rush by adding a fourth defensive lineman, while also increasing the help in the secondary. What it does against the run is yet to be known (On a totally random side note, how perfect would Dwayne Slay have been for the rover position in Glasgow’s system? He might have caused 15 fumbles in the upcoming season).
Tech has signed the highest-ranked defensive ends in Leon Mackey, Delvon Simmons and Starts. If Tech in the next few years can manage to increase their defensive prowess with the foundation they have built, Tech might start winning some recruiting battles, especially on the defensive side.
Under Leach, Tech didn’t really have a chance at competing with top-notch guys on the defensive side of the ball, however, Tech did get their own great recruits on offense during his tenure (Graham Harrell was rated higher than Colt McCoy and Michael Crabtree was rated higher than any receiver UT had at the time). The success the offense had in time led to Tech competing with UT for highly-touted recruits on the offense. The same can happen with the defense under Tubberville.
Additionally, different from past years with Leach, the respect was almost never there nationally for him (undeservedly so as Tech vaulted itself to the third-best program in the Big 12 from 05-09). Tubberville is easily the third or fourth-most respected coach in the Big 12 (behind Mack Brown and Bob Stoops obviously. Gary Pinkell and Bill Snyder are a step behind him).
This gives Tubberville a better chance than Leach to grab top-notch talent from the state of Texas. Secondly, Tubberville has been more willing to go out and grab the talent, where Leach arrogantly would expect the talent to come to him (which I loved about Leach). Tubberville and staff are going to put more pressure on UT, going into houses, being the politician that he is and selling Texas Tech as an on-the-rise program.
Another aspect of Tech recruiting that has been overlooked is Tubberville’s ability to grab players from SEC territory. Tech competed with Auburn for the second-best cornerback in Marcus Roberson and nearly won. They picked up Delvon Simmons as well in competition with many SEC teams.
Across the nation Tech has won a few of these highly-competitive battles for top talent. The more Tech hats people see on TV when decisions are being made, the more exposure for the program and the better off they will be.
I repeat, I do not think that this signing immediately makes Tech a contender for every top recruit in Texas, but I think it is evident that Tech is gaining some ground and moving in the right direction at a very fast pace.