April 3, 2012
Will the JUCOs start 18 games?
Texas Tech's Class of 2012 constituted a lot more junior college transfers than classes in years past and for good reason. The Red Raiders needed immediate depth and after watching the new guys during the spring it seems they got some.
The question is how much of an impact will the nine junior college transfers actually have in a game?
Today, Mike Graham and Will McKay debate how much of an impact the JUCOs will have as we set the mark at over/under 18 combined starts in the regular season:
First, let's recap why the junior college players were brought in.
The Red Raiders needed immediate depth, not immediate starters. Depending on junior college transfers is risky business. You can hit a few homeruns like Bill Snyder's early Kansas State teams did, but you also have to make serious overhauls across the ball every two years at minimum.
Head coach Tommy Tuberville and crew weren't expecting many of them to start but rather to help in a rotation. Sadale Foster was recruited partially from the standpoint the Red Raiders didn't have enough running backs to make it through the spring. Rashad Fortenberry was recruited to add depth at offensive tackle this season. Lee Adams did not have a very impressive spring compared to some of the other defensive ends. [db]Austin Stewart will be a backup safety this season. The two corners also were added to enhance depth behind Cornelius Douglas and Eugene Neboh and a few more if they decide to come online.
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown just recently said flanker Javon Bell might redshirt this season.
But take a look at what Tech already had a complete set of. The offense was completely covered save the need for another backup option at offensive tackle. Tech had the numbers on the defensive line with the addition of the freshman class. The linebackers already had Eguavoen, Blake Dees, the addition of Bullitt and the options of Cqulin Hubert and Daniel Cobb. The young secondary had the numbers to be competitive last season except for the wrath of fate and really could handle itself at its best with Bullitt moving back to safety in a worst-case scenario.
The linebacking position is the only thing that makes 18 starts feasible. We're expecting Will Smith to start and Chris Payne could start but probably will be squeezed out by a healthy Terrance Bullitt and Sam Eguavoen.
I will say Smith gives the Red Raiders 12 starts barring injuries. But there aren't six more there based on the talent around the junior college players. Keep in mind college football teams work shorthanded in the spring because their freshman class has not arrived on campus.
Maybe Michael Starts, La'Darius Newbold or Keenon Ward make immediate impacts on the defense and push out the junior college backups.
Tech has talent all around the ball, some in more places than others. The question is whether that talent can withstand the test of a 12-game or 13-game season. Most of it should, some of it won't.
Injuries around here have been ridiculous the past two seasons and I don't think fate will give the Red Raiders 20 more injuries that result in lost playing time. If fate does give us that, Tuberville might consider bringing in a witch doctor, Ms. Cleo or something to cure Jones AT&T Stadium.
Tech's starters will hold up for the most part and there are other players that can factor into the game as much as the junior college players which pinches the transfers' impact in year one.
Very few programs around the country will be looking for more incoming JUCO players to contribute this season than Tech. Guys like Will Smith, Rashad Fortenberry, Chris Payne, Austin Stewart, and Lee Adams will be looked at to provide legitimate depth, if not start.
First, I think at this point we can go ahead and assume that Will Smith is going to start 12 games if he remains healthy. Smith has done nothing but make play, after play, after play this spring. He started out at outside linebacker, but was moved to the middle where he now looks to be one of the concrete cornerstones of the 2012 defense. If there are no surprises, then that means only six or seven more starts are required to eclipse 18.
Injuries are a part of football as Red Raider fans are fully aware after injury plagued 2010 and 2011 seasons. I don't think I've ever seen any team on any level get a case of the injury bug like Tech has the past few seasons. Injuries occur for every team, and at some point that JUCO depth will have to start at least a few games.
Fortenberry and Payne seem to be the two most likely candidates to start at some point. Fortenberry is definitely in the two deep the tackle spots and would likely come in were La'Raven Clark or possibly LaAdrian Waddle get hurt.
Payne missed quite a bit of time this spring, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if he ended up starting or was the fourth best overall linebacker. If Bullitt or Egauvoen miss time, then I would expect to see Payne in the game. Payne might even start a few games simply because he makes for a better matchup against certain teams. He's a smaller, rangy guy that could be considered a tweener and will likely hold up better against certain receivers than his bigger counterparts.
Overall, I think this was an easy decision. I'll take the over on 18 starts, and I think you could see a possible 20-22 starts for incoming JUCO players this season. Injuries, match-ups, and just quality are too much to see fewer than 18, in my opinion.
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