Over a week ago the 2021 NFL Draft ended, and we saw two Red Raiders get drafted and another two sign with teams following the end of the draft. As we all know, it’s never too early to look ahead into the future.
While we still have a little less than four months until we kick the season off against Houston, there is plenty of optimism for quite a few guys who have chance to not only shine this season but also at the next level. A few of these guys have garnered national attention, while others are guys that I can see boosting their profiles with a solid season.
When the Red Raiders signed Tyler Shough in March, there was plenty of optimism regardless of the fact that it was already a deep quarterback room. According to many reliable recruiting websites, Shough was never any lower than a top 150 player in his respective recruiting class.
Before even being named the starter here at Tech, some draft websites are predicting him to be a first round pick already. Whether that’s due to a lack of talent in next years draft class or him being an actual talent, it will be nice to see how his season plays out in a new system if he manages to beat out the rest of the competition in the quarterback room.
One of the more surprising additions alongside Shough was former TCU standout and All Big-12 tackle T.J. Storment. As surprising as it was that he didn’t either stay at TCU or go pro, coming to Texas Tech and becoming the strength of this offensive line was something that I never expected to happen.
Having only allowed two sacks last season (one coming against Tech), it’s very clear when watching Storment play and looking at how he’s being graded that pass-blocking is his forte. With the type of pass rushes that we will be facing from the likes of Oklahoma and other teams in the conference alone, adding this type of player on the outside to protect our quarterbacks blindside will be key to getting this offense going and allowing whichever talented quarterback is on the field to have enough time to make the right reads.
If Storment can protect like he did a season ago and improve his run-blocking, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be one of the best tackles going into the draft next year. We all know that tackles are a necessity, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that he could become a first round pick if he plays the way that he has shown he can.
Riko Jeffers and Colin Schooler
Over the past few seasons Tech has put a few linebackers into the league that have made some sort of impact one way or another. Last year we had Jordyn Brooks go in the first round to the Seattle Seahawks and get some playing time in what is regarded as one of the best linebacking rooms in the league. Riko Jeffers has an opportunity this season after coming back to Tech to boost his profile and get into the top few rounds of the draft.
Going into Brooks last season, I saw him as a mid round player that could work his way into a starting role. He completely exceeded my expectations that were already high and put himself into the first round. Jeffers will be able to roam free alongside another guy that can see his name called next year in Colin Schooler. We all know that type of impact that Schooler can have in a game thanks to his goal line stop against Baylor last season that helped win that game for us.
Both guys will be able to work off of each other and play sideline to sideline for this defense that should be a lot better next year. If they can each improve in pass coverage, I don’t see why both of these guys can’t get into the national spotlight and make a name for themselves.
Starting Defensive Backs
One of the strengths going into next season for Tech should be their secondary. Guys like Damarcus Fields and Eric Monroe are returning starters, and we added Marquis Waters in the transfer portal. Monroe was a role player for LSU in their National Championship run and was a solid player for Tech last season that started all 10 games for us.
Fields has been a key piece in the secondary for a few years now. He’s slotted in as the number one corner on the depth chart and is one of the key leaders on the team in general. If he can get his hands on the ball and be a standout in coverage, I can see him being a mid round pick like his former teammate Zech Mcphearson.
Waters is a 35 game starter from Duke that has started in 24 consecutive games at the safety position. Him alongside Monroe will be one of the best safety tandems in the nation, and we have seen what that can do for guys like Trevon Moehrig and Ar’Darius Washington from TCU. With those guys protecting the backend of the defense, we could have one of the best defenses in the Big-12.
Obviously there are other players that could break out for Tech this season. These are guys that I have either seen garner some attention or that I personally can see making a big enough impact to help their stock rise. This season has a lot of potential to be a special one, and these guys will have a big part in that.