The top 10 Texas Tech football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. QB Patrick Mahomes, Jr.
Mahomes was able to rise above the fray over the last few seasons and now should be settled in and ready to have a monster year. At 6-3 and 219 pounds he’s got the size, and he’s got the arm, and he knows how to wing it around completing 64% of his passes for 4,653 yards and 36 touchdowns with 15 picks last season. Also a decent runner, he took off for 456 yards and ten scores – adding more than just a little bit of mobility to his game.
It wasn’t his fault in the losses, mostly because even the high-powered Texas Tech offense couldn’t keep up the pace set by the porous defense. He threw for 480 yards and four scores against Oklahoma State – and lost. He threw for 370 yards and four scores against LSU – and lost. He hit Baylor for 415 yards and three touchdowns, and TCU for 392 yards and two scores, and lost both games. He’ll put up the massive yards and he’ll be one of the nation’s top all-around quarterbacks, but he needs some more help. There’s a chance he gets it this year.
2. S Jah’Shawn Johnson, Soph.
One of the Big 12’s rising defensive superstars, he’s a light 5-10 and 176 pounds, but he can move, and he can pop. Can he stay in one piece? He got hurt early on as a freshman and missed most of the season, but it allowed him to redshirt. With his style of play and with his size, there’s always a danger he’ll come up with the wrong hit at the wrong time, but he’s a hitter who isn’t afraid to be the last line of defense against the run. Last year he finished third on the team with 85 stops with two picks – taking one for a score against Kansas – with 16 tackles in the win over Arkansas and 11 in the loss to West Virginia. Put him on the All-Big 12 team – he’ll be even better.
3. DT Breiden Fehoko, Soph.
The defense might have been a problem, but Fehoko is a fantastic part to build the line around for the next three years. The 6-3, 287-pound tackle is quick off the ball, but he’s not a big-time pass rusher with a sack and four tackles for loss to go along with 19 tackles. A strong, young tackle with a world of upside, he was an all-star as a part of the rotation with good thump – and he’s just getting started.
4. WR Reginald Davis, Sr.
Can he grow into the one guy in a good receiving corps who can blow up into an all-star? He only made 38 grabs last season for 536 yards, but he scored eight times and showed off the upside to become a dangerous outside target. He’ll have to work with Derrick Willies and Dylan Cantrell as part of the rotation, but he showed this spring that he’s ready to start doing even more. Can he hit a few more home runs? At 6-0 and 188 pounds, he has okay size, the speed to be used as a return man, and the Academic All-Big 12 smarts to know what he’s doing. This needs to be his year to take over.
5. WR Ian Sadler, Jr.
Someone has to catch all of Patrick Mahomes’ passes with Jakeem Grant done and Devin Lauderdale gone. The team’s third-leading receiver last season came up with 42 grabs for 496 yards and three scores despite missing three games. Steady, he’s good for around five grabs a game with 122 yards against Oklahoma State and 108 yards against Texas. At 5-11 and 197 pounds he has good size and knows how to get free as a top inside target, but he’s not really a dangerous No. 1 target.
6. PK Clayton Hatfield, Soph.
The ultra-reliable All-Big 12 performer hit his short shots without a problem – nailing everything inside 40 yards – and he connected on a 51-yarder against Texas. He’s got the leg to be tried out from deep, with his two misses coming from 48 and 51 yards away – he hit everything else. While he’s not that big, he’s able to blast away on kickoffs and connected on 53 of his 54 extra point attempts.
7. RB Justin Stockton, Jr.
DeAndre Washington balanced out the attack a bit with his 1,492 yards and 14 touchdowns with 41 catches, and now it’s up to Stockton to be the same all-around back. The 5-10, 192-pounder isn’t going to bring the same sort of pop to the ground game, but get him into the open field and he can come up with the big play. He tore off 101 yards and a score on just seven carries against Iowa State and finished third on the team with 367 yards and five touchdowns averaging six yards per carry. A good receiver, he caught 22 passes for 341 yards and six scores with two touchdowns against Oklahoma State and Kansas State. It’s his backfield now.
8. CB/S Tevin Madison, Jr.
Where does he fit into the mix? A corner by trade, he was tried out at safety at times this offseason with the speed to work just about anywhere. He started every game last season making 67 tackles with 11 broken up passes and two picks, finishing fifth on the team in stops. He came up with 11 tackles against Arkansas and nine in the bowl loss to LSU, but at 5-10 and 166 pounds he’s not built to take too much of a pounding. With his quickness and speed, he’s a versatile playmaker.
9. S Keenon Ward, Sr.
Ready to get the call at strong safety, he should be free to line up and rock against the run with Jah’Shawn Johnson working alongside him. A compact 5-9 and 200 pounds, he’s a tough back who’s been a key part of the rotation over the last few years. While he only has two career picks, he made 67 tackles in 2014 and 60 last year with decent pop against the run.
10. LB Malik Jenkins, Sr.
The hope was for Dakota Allen to be the star of the linebacking corps, but that was before he got booted off the team. Jenkins is a strongside outside defender with 6-1, 220-pound size – he’s like a beefed up safety. He saw a little bit of starting time last season making 52 tackles, doing more over the second half of the season taking over a role as the year went on. He’s got the speed to get behind the line and do more after coming up with just four tackles for loss, and he could turn into a bit of a pass rusher if all goes well.