The last time we met, we discussed who I thought the absolute elite players on the team were. We’re going to get to the All-Conference level players and the Honorable Mention Conference type of players. This is where I think we’ll have some decent discussion about if I have someone slotted on the all-conference side and not the honorable mention and vice-versa.
There’s no real order to these guys who I think are all-conference performers and they’ really fit one of two categories. They either should be great or based on statistics from Utah State, should have exemplary seasons
WR T.J. Vasher | 6-6/190 | Junior: Last year, Utah State’s two outside receivers each had 66 and 44 catches, they had 97 and 71 targets, and both had slightly above or slightly below 700 yards receiver with 8 and 6 touchdowns each. They got the bulk of the targets and it wasn’t even close. I’d add that in comparison, Vasher had 54 catches, 687 yards and 7 touchdowns. Based on what we know about Yost’s offense he’s going to throw the ball outside working the screen game for these guys. I don’t know if Vasher has the body to really withstand that sort of play, but if Vasher stays healthy, there is not a more talented and gifted receiver on the team and maybe the Big 12. Vasher’s biggest problem has been inconsistency and I think the willingness to be great. He saw teammate Antoine Wesley vault in front of him in the pecking order last year and you hope that’s the motivation to be great. Based on where I’ve placed him, I’m going with greatness. He’s got all of the tools to do it.
RB Ta’Zhawn Henry | 5-7/170 | Sophomore: Utah State running back Darwin Thompson (5-8/201) spent one year at Utah State after arriving from a JUCO and put up 1,044 yards, 14 touchdowns, for 6.8 yards per carry, 23 catches for 351 yards and 2 more touchdowns. This one year led to him being drafted by the Chiefs in the 6th round. Assuming that Henry has put on some weight, he’s got similar measurables to Thompson and last year Henry had just 341 yards, 8 touchdowns, 4.0 yards per carry, 22 catches, 145 yards, and 1 more touchdown. Texas Tech did gain Utah running back Armand Shyne, but Yost loves waterbug running backs (the other Utah State running back is 5-9/195). I’d also add that the Henry’s success is also predicated on the success of the offensive line. Rather than be passive, they’ve simply got to be more aggressive and start sledding people downhill, but given how Yost likes to run the ball, Henry should be that guy.
LB Riko Jeffers | 6-2/245 | Junior: This is the easiest pick of the group. Jeffers is going to be a stud, absolute stud and the only reason he’s not replacing Jordyn Brooks at linebacker is experience. In a part-time role last year Jeffers had 71 tackles, 3rd on the team, plus 7 tackles for loss, .5 more than Dakota Allen, 2 sacks, 9 run stuffs, and 2 forced fumbles. Again, for Utah State, the top 3 tacklers on the team had over 300 tackles, 134, 100 and 74. This is a linebacker reliant defense and I think that Jeffers is maybe the better linebacker, only because I think he can cover more ground than Brooks and I think is ability to rush the passer in addition to just being able to stop people is significant.
CB Demarcus Fields | 6-0/200 | Junior: I am not used to Fields’ bravado and he has lots of it and I sort of love it. He seemingly never gets down, at least not on the field and even if he just was beaten, he still gets back up and does it all over again. So, from a standpoint of having the right attitude, I think he’s definitely there and now it’s a matter of physically catching up and being able to play the way that I think he can. Patterson is going to let Fields play and would expect better results than last year where he had 38 tackles, 11 passes broken up, a few tackles for a loss and NO interceptions. That’s the biggest thing with Patterson’s defense is the interceptions and if Fields can take more chances, then I think the interceptions will happen.
CB Adrian Frye | 6-1/190 | Sophomore: The biggest question I have is one where I don’t know if it’s fair to wonder if Frye’s success is a flash-in-the-pan or a legitimate Big 12 performer. What set Frye apart last year was the 13 pass break-ups and the 5 interceptions, those led the team. Those interceptions happened with 2 against Lamar, 1 against Oklahoma State, 1 against TCU, and 1 against Kansas State. Regardless as to when they happened, they happened and the 13 pass break-ups were seemingly for real too, 1 PBU for every game starting with Lamar and going through the Texas game. That’s some pretty good consistency. Is Frye going to let his redshirt freshman year success get to his head? Justus Parker had a sophomore year where he had 4 interceptions and tons of huge plays and he ended up playing so inconsistently that he managed to lose his starting spot and his preseason accolades ended up being unwarranted. It’s not even fair to compare Frye and Parker, they’re two different people and I hope that Frye’s freshman year success turns into all-conference success by the end of the year.
DL Broderick Washington | 6-3/305 | Senior: Defensive tackle is not a spot that shined under Patterson’s defense. They were mostly load-bearing walls and the linebackers and defensive ends really shined. But David Gibbs defense wasn’t exactly reliant on the defensive linemen from being dominant, but Washington was very good anyway. Washington finished 30 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, and 8 run stuffs last year. This is a comparison to the Big 12 preseason defensive tackles from Athlon’s:
Texas’ Malcom Roach: 24 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 0 sacks.
Iowa State’s Ray Lima: 34 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 0 sacks.
Baylor’s James Lynch: 40 tackles, 9 TFL, 5.5 sacks.
TCU’s Corey Bethley: 29 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 5 sacks.
Kansas State’s Trey Dishon: 26 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sacks.
Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore: 50 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks.
Baylor’s Bravvion Roy: 34 tackles, 3 TFL, 1.5 sacks.
Washington stacks up as well as any one of those guys. With a good year and letting Washington go just a bit, I think that Washington can work his way to All-Big 12 status, but I personally think that Washington has a chance to be a real weapon.
WR McLane Mannix | 5-10/180 | Junior || WR KeSean Carter | 5-11/165 | Sophomore: Mannix being on the all-conference list is “this close” (puts fingers really close together). Last year for Nevada Mannix had 50 receptions, 875 yards (which led the team) and 7 touchdowns (also leading the team). My only reason for not putting Mannix on the all-conference list is the same as KeSean Carter, inside receivers simply don’t get the targets as the outside receivers. I think that Mannix and Carter could possibly change that simply because of how good they are and I don’t have as much confidence in Seth Collins. As a true freshman, Carter had 26 catches for 238 yards and has track speed (he did run track this spring). I think it is possible that their outstanding play could change how Yost targets players because I think they are that good. And I can’t decide if Mannix or Carter starts. I’m leaning towards Mannix, but truthfully, this is probably going to be a situation where it is 1A and 1B and if that’s the case, then if they have to share snaps then they may not garner that all-conference play.
RB SaRodorick Thompson | 6-0/200 | Freshman: Yost is all about that two-back platoon as the second leading rusher had nearly 900 yards and 10 touchdowns. There are a couple of things that I love about Thompson, that he was voted as one of the team captains (as was Henry), he’s only a freshman despite the fact that he had 25 carries and averaged nearly 6 yards a carry. Again, I’m just not sure if it will be Shyne, Henry, and Thompson, but if they’re all getting carries then they all won’t garner that high-level status.
TE Travis Koontz | 6-5/260 | Junior: Tight end is not a high-level position in the Big 12, but Koontz has the chance of being very good if he gets the snaps that I think he’ll get. he’s the most accomplished blocker, but he only had 16 catches for 20 yards and 3 touchdowns. I don’t know what kind of offense he ran at Ventura, but he’ll get his shots here at Texas Tech. Last year the tight end spot had over 50 targets and 600 yards, while Donta Thompson had 2 targets and 2 catches. That’s going to change and the Yost offense will feature the tight end and I think Koontz, despite the fact that I think Thompson will get some snaps, is more complete and what Yost ultimately wants.
LT Terence Steele | 6-6/320 | Senior || RT Travis Bruffy | 6-6/305 | Senior: I do not know why Steele, who was likely the most athletic offensive lineman, played right tackle, and Bruffy, not quite as athletic, played left tackle. For the life of me, I never figured that out and I think that the answer was just that this is where these players feel more comfortable. Hmm. Pretty much immediately upon arrival, Yost and Steve Farmer switched the two without seeing them play and now Steele is your left tackle and Bruffy is at right. Even with the position switch, Steele was never dominant at right tackle and Bruffy was never dominant at left tackle. These guys have the physical tools and smarts to figure this out.
DE Eli Howard | 6-4/270 | Junior: I don’t know if Howard is quick-twitch enough to play a rushing defensive end spot and I don’t know how he’ll play in Patterson’s system. As the run-stopping defensive end, I think Howard will put up similar numbers to what he did last year, but I get the feeling that the coaches, players, and everyone else really appreciate what he does. I honestly don’t know if there are better options, maybe Nelson Mbanasor gets some burn at that spot, or Lonzell Gilmore.
Also Considered: DL Nelson Mbanasor; WR Erik Ezukanma, RB Armand Shyne; WR Seth Collins; DT Nelson Mbanasor; S Douglas Coleman III;