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June 12, 2013

Key Red Raiders: Jakeem Grant

MORE: Notebook: Stars come out to Rockwall camp

When you talk about Red Raiders who are going to need big seasons, Jakeem Grant ought to be in that first breath.

Grant, paired with tight end Jace Amaro, is expected to be a major factor in an inside receiver duo that should present problems to Big 12 defensive backfields.

We kick off our countdown of the 10 Red Raiders who will play the biggest role in whether or not Texas Tech has a successful 2013 campaign.
The Basics
Name: Jakeem Grant
Classification: Sophomore

Position: Receiver
Game log: 13 GP / 3 GS
Career stats: 32 rec., 284 yards, 3 TD; 6 ret., 237 yards, 2 TD

Hometown: Mesquite, Texas
Prev. School: Horn HS
Number To Know
44.4 - Thanks in large part to a pair of returns for touchdowns, Jakeem Grant averaged 44.4 yards per kick return in the Red Raiders' final two games of the 2012 season.
Second Guessing
He is overvalued because...: Grant, at this point, is largely potential. He showed flashes at points last season -- and put an exclamation mark on his freshman campaign with the two kick returns -- but only caught 10 passes in the Red Raiders' final five games.

He is undervalued because...: Quick, name another receiver on Tech's roster that is as explosive in space as Grant. There really aren't any.
While small in stature, the 5-foot-6, 163-pound Mesquite Horn product has been poised for big things since arriving on campus in 2011. He probably could have played on Texas Tech's kick return unit immediately, but emerged as an important player down the backstretch of the team's 2012 campaign as a redshirt freshman.

Grant can out-maneuver lesser opponents' defenses and his speed makes him a pairing nightmare for defenses. More importantly, the undersized receiver makes it tough to double team Amaro because Grant could be gone in one move in man-to-man coverage.

"It's totally different dynamics with us," Amaro said. "I'm 6-foot-6 and pretty fast, but Jakeem is 5-foot-6 and really fast. He's one of the fastest guys in the Big 12. When we're both running across the middle it's just really hard for one safety to guard both of us. That's where we've really been able to do a lot of damage against our own defense (in spring football)."

More than that, Grant is two-for-two in games where he has been a starter on kickoff return. He torched Baylor on a 97-yard return for a touchdown in the final regular season game, and did it again in the bowl game against Minnesota.

If Grant shines on kickoff early on as a sophomore, look for teams to potentially kick short which would then set Tech up with decent field position by default.

"I tell you, he's a legend," defensive end Kerry Hyder said. "He's going to make some big plays for us in the fall. I expect him to run at least five kicks back the way he's playing right now."

Back on the offensive side of things, Grant's presence can't be overstated. If the defense selects to defend the inside game the offense can go outside to find a stable of strong receivers. If defenses emphasize defending the outside game, it opens up the inside passing game for nickel and dime plays. If defenses go man-to-man with their coverage, it just comes down to making plays and it could be a long day for them.

There's no perfect way to defend an offense that features such diversity in the passing game.

Look for Grant to greatly improve on his total from last season -- 287 yards and three touchdowns -- now that he's a full-time offensive starter.

UP NEXT: No. 9 on our countdown registered a career high in sacks against Iowa State in 2012.

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