Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Big 12 [Print without images]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Texas Tech recruiting needs

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

After unprecedented success last season, Mike Leach will be facing the biggest rebuilding job of his coaching tenure at Texas Tech.

The Red Raiders notched a share of their first South Division title and posted an 11-2 record that tied for the school's single-season record for victories. But Leach will be facing the challenge of replacing many of the key components from that team.

The Red Raiders lose seven starters from the offense, including record-breaking quarterback Graham Harrell and two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree.

The Red Raiders also lose the left side of their starting offensive line -- All-Big 12 tackle Rylan Reed and three-year starting guard Louis Vasquez -- along with underrated center Stephen Hamby and starting running back Shannon Woods. Senior starting guard Brandon Carter and starting tackle Marlon Winn both will be seniors next season, emphasizing the need for immediate help inside from this recruiting class.

Junior Taylor Potts is penciled in as Harrell's replacement at quarterback. Baron Batch should be Tech's next running threat and the Red Raiders have a slew of receivers who should be able to replace Crabtree's production -- at least in quantity.

But the Red Raiders' biggest aim will be an improvement of the defense's production. The unit appeared to wear down late in the season in disappointing performances against Oklahoma and Mississippi,  games in which the Red Raiders were torched for an average of 56 points and 570 total yards per game.

And the departure of defensive end Brandon Williams, who led the Big 12 in sacks last season before declaring for the NFL draft, along with starting defensive end Jake Ratliff will definitely weaken the Red Raiders' pass rush.

Immediate help also will be needed at safety. The Red Raiders lose all four safeties from their two-deep roster, including starters Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet. Both McBath and Charbonnet ranked among the top 20 nationally in interceptions, providing some playmaking for a secondary that ranked 94th nationally in pass defense.

It will be interesting to see if Leach can capitalize on the success of his memorable 2008 season. But matching that season will be an immediate challenge for this recruiting class because of all the talent leaving the program.