A look back at the "blue chip" prospects on Texas Tech's roster
Texas Tech in recent years has been a program built on the backs of 3-star recruits and, especially in the last three seasons, in the transfer portal.
Fans who keep up with recruiting get an extra jolt when the Red Raiders are able to get a 4-star commitment because of how rare they are, such was the case last month when Broken Arrow (OK) athlete Maurion Horn chose Texas Tech over Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, Arkansas and several others.
With a handful of former 4-stars projected to play key roles in 2021, the Red Raiders will need them to play well if they want to have success as a team. We take a closer look at the roster and the former "blue chip" prospects on it.
As a recruit: Tyler Shough was rated as the top player in Arizona and a top 120 prospect in the country. He chose Oregon over 24+ total offers, including Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan and others.
College career: As a redshirt freshman Shough was the primary backup to first round pick Justin Herbert. He got his chance in 2020, where he was the starter for all seven of Oregon's games, leading them to a Pac-12 championship.
For his career he's 118-of-182 passing for 1,703 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. He's also added 282 rushing yards and two more scores on the ground.
2021 season outlook: While yet to be officially announced, it is widely expected that Shough will be named the starter for Texas Tech's season opener vs. Houston.
The last time Texas Tech had a quarterback start double digit games in a season was way back in 2017, when Nic Shimonek started 12 including the bowl game.
As a recruit: Behren Morton was a long time Texas Tech target, both for Kliff Kingsbury and the previous staff and then Matt Wells after the coaching change. That Texas Tech persistence paid off with a commitment in October 2019, and Morton remained solid throughout the process.
College career: Morton arrived in Lubbock as a mid-year signee. He reportedly impressed during spring ball and has again during fall camp. This will be his true freshman season.
2021 season outlook: Morton will likely battle Donovan Smith for third string. That's no knock on Morton, but Texas Tech needs to win now and the two veterans - Tyler Shough and Henry Colombi - likely give the coaches more security when it comes to taking care of the ball and leading the offense.
Morton's time will come in Lubbock, it's just a matter of when.
As a recruit: Chadarius Townsend was one of the most explosive weapons in the country coming out of high school, he was ranked by Rivals as the No. 223 prospect in the nation. He chose Alabama over Auburn, Florida and Kentucky among others.
College career: Townsend never really found a home in Tuscaloosa, being bounced back and forth between running back, wide receiver and cornerback. After three seasons at Alabama, he decided to enter the transfer portal where he chose Texas Tech which solidified him as a running back.
For his career Townsend has rushed 26 times for 121 yards and a touchdown. He's also pitched in 23 receiving yards and 179 kick return yards.
2021 season outlook: Townsend is in a 5-man competition with SaRodorick Thompson, Xavier White, Tahj Brooks and Cam'Ron Valdez for carries. New offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie likes to rotate backs, and Townsend will be sure to have his shot to make a difference this season.
As a recruit: Texas Tech was Cam'Ron Valdez' third offer, way back in May 2019. Right away he was atop the running back wish list, and after a long recruitment and several visits, he chose Texas Tech over Oklahoma State, TCU, Arkansas, Arizona State, Utah, Nebraska, Purdue and others.
College career: Valdez arrived with the rest of the 2021 class in June and has acclimated well right away. This will be his true freshman season.
2021 season outlook: Valdez, as noted above, will be in a tough competition for carries with four returning veterans. He will likely have to work his way up the depth chart but he might be the fastest running back on campus, which certainly works in his favor.
As a recruit: Erik Ezukanma was one of those rare 4-star prospects who had the pedigree, production, but maybe not the superstar offer list you usually see. His top three was SMU, Utah and Texas Tech, and he chose the Red Raiders in late November, 2017.
College career: Ezukanma has slowly worked his way up the depth chart, and is now one of if not the best player on the team, a leader, and an All-Conference player.
For his career he's caught 90 passes for 1,460 yards and 11 touchdowns.
2021 season outlook: Ezukanma is fully recovered from an arm injury suffered earlier this offseason, and he will be Texas Tech's go-to playmaker and surefire starter at the "Z" receiver position. Health permitting, look for Ezukanma to make a run at another All-Conference type season.
As a recruit: Gilbert Ibeneme, ranked as the 25th best strongside defensive end in the country, was a big surprise for fans when he chose Texas Tech over offers from Arkansas, Houston, Indiana, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Southern Miss, TCU, Texas A&M and Virginia.
College career: Ibeneme's career has been plagued by one injury after another. He has yet to appear in a game in two seasons on campus, and with the latest news that won't be changing anytime soon.
2021 season outlook: Matt Wells at the start of fall camp announced that Ibeneme is out for the season with a tricep injury.
As a recruit: Eric Monroe was ranked as the No. 101 recruit and the sixth best safety in the country coming out of North Shore high school. He chose LSU over Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas and several others.
College career: Monroe struggled staying healthy in Baton Rouge, and after four seasons decided to transfer back to his home state and become a Red Raider.
For his career Monroe has made 81 tackles, six tackles-for-loss and forced two fumbles.
2021 season outlook: Look for Monroe to be a starter on the Texas Tech defense. After playing safety in 2020, there is some thought he could be moved to SPUR in 2021. Regardless of where he fits, expect to see #11 on the field when the Red Raiders defense takes the field this season.