If you were to search through a library for one book title to describe Texas Tech's 2011 signing class, you would likely not find one more fitting than "Great Expectations." Tommy Tuberville's incoming class is, on paper, the Red Raiders' best class in a generation. It is filled with multi-sport stars, supreme athletes, speedsters, top recruits and winners. With all of the hype and excitement surrounding this group, these young men that will soon officially join Tech's football team know that they have enter with the weight of great expectations on their shoulders.
Now, as the bulk of this class will be moving to West Texas in the coming week, feelings of bittersweet departures and new steps in life are starting to set in. While most of their peers and childhood friends will be enjoying their final summers at home, these freshly christened high school graduates will be running sprints, lifting weights, sweating in the summer heat, taking their first college classes and preparing themselves for fall camp.
"Well, I mean it's been coming for a long time and I'm really excited," said tight end Jace Amaro. "It's a dream come true. High school is already over. It seemed like it went by so fast, but I can't even imagine how fast college is going to be. I'm real excited to get up there and start working out and just get ready for the season."
Missouri City (Texas) Fort Bend Marshall athlete DeAndre Washington admits that he is a little nervous about the upcoming transition, but ready to take that next step.
"Kind of like a bittersweet feeling. I'm kind of like real anxious," Washington said. "It's just like, moving away from everything you know. I'm going to miss them all a lot. It's kind of a funny feeling, but I'm looking forward to it and excited about it."
Arlington (Texas) Sam Houston offensive lineman Tony Morales is ready to put his nose to the grindstone.
"I'm excited to get ready to go to work," he said. "I'm trying to have some playing time this upcoming season."
Finally, McKeesport (Pa.) linebacker Branden Jackson is ready to grow as a person and improve as a football player.
"I'm excited. Excited to be moving on and starting another part of my life, but at the same time I'm sad that I'm going to be gone away from home just due to the fact that I'm really close to my family," he said. "They taught me that in order for you to grow and change and learn it's good to get out. It's good because I asked them. They're kind of helping that feeling."
All of the team's incoming freshmen have a unique story and took their own paths to Tech. For Amaro, the Red Raiders' coaching transition in the winter of 2009-10 had a big impact on his recruitment.
"I guess it was meant to be for me to go up there. I mean there was a lot of misunderstanding and circumstances and a lot of that stuff," he said. "The biggest part of my recruitment was happening in my junior year going into my senior year, so that's when Tuberville got hired and all that stuff happened. There was a lot of good that happened to Tech, and we got one of the best classes that have ever been recruited by Texas Tech."
As the first true tight end to ink with Tech in over a decade, Amaro knows that much is expected of him.
"I mean, a lot of people have been saying that I'm going to start. I'm going to do this, that," he said. "I don't want the kind of reputation that I'm the starter because there's no one else in front of me. I want to be the guy that goes up there that gets the job because he earned it. I mean, I want the coaches to tell me that. 'Jace, the first game, you're the starter. You're starting because you earned it, not because it was given to you.'"
Pretty soon, within a matter of days, the bulk of the Red Raiders' 2011 class will be on campus, working out together, pushing each other, competing, hanging out and trying to better the team as a whole. Unlike most classes, where tight bonds are formed after arrival, Tech's 2011 group began to establish that brotherhood-like connection during the recruiting process.
"Kenny (Williams) and DeAndre and I, I text almost every day," said Amaro. "Cooper (Washington), he's kind of far, but I met him in the orientation just because he switched (his commitment) at the last second. I talk to all of those guys. They're all ready to get up there and ready to showcase their skills. They're great guys and it's going to be a wonderful first year for me. It's not like I'm expecting anything less than that."
"I'm already real close with just about all of the commits, so I really don't feel like I'll have a problem with (anyone) coming in," said Washington. "I'm looking forward to it. We've got a couple of things lined up. We'll have our fun, though."
The Red Raiders' four offensive linemen signees are building that relationship, too. Cohesion is a key factor for the o-line, and it will probably only help that the four of them are living together.
"It's kind of cool just that we're all four offensive linemen getting to room with each other, so we'll probably just help each other out with playbooks and stuff so we get the plays down. They're all pretty cool guys, and I talk to them all the time. I just look forward to being with them," said Morales. "Yeah, we have a real good class. I feel like I've been playing with them for a long time," said Morales. "Ever since the beginning of the year now we've been staying in touch. Yesterday, Le'Raven Clark came down here to see his sister. His sister lives in Arlington. Me and my brother and him hung out all day."
This class also features brotherhood in the literal sense. Javares McRoy is transferring from Florida and will join his brother Ben on the roster. In the 2011 class alone, twins Tony and Alfredo Morales look to be a major component of the Red Raiders' future on the offensive line.
"It's been a real good relationship," Morales said. "It would be kind of weird if (Alfredo) wasn't there with me. We've been playing with each other since fifth grade, so it's kind of cool."
Branden Jackson and Delvon Simmons aren't brothers, but the high school teammates are definitely close. The Pennsylvania pair will be heading to Lubbock in July, and Jackson is glad he's headed to the South Plains with Simmons.
"That's just a security blanket," Jackson said. "I love to know that I'm not going to be completely alone when I get down there because I've got someone I grew up with right there next to me, so it's just a great feeling."
With the days at home dwindling, many incoming freshmen are looking forward to the goals they have set for themselves and the team. The expectation is that a high number of the Red Raiders' newcomers will play this season. Many of the incoming players expect no less.
"For the summer, I want to get as strong as I can get and get in real good shape," said Morales. "Come camp I want to give Justin (Keown) a run for his money."
He's not the only one that wants to push for playing time.
"I'm not coming in with goals to redshirt," said Washington. "If that was to happen I'd be kind of disappointed. Really I'm coming in to try and compete. The sky is the limit."
The Missouri City athlete also has some high expectations for the team after seeing the team in action this past spring.
"After watching the spring game, I'm actually really excited," he said. "They looked good offensively and defensively. I know Coach (Chad) Glasgow is going to do a few things more on the defense. I know Coach Neal (Brown) is going to have a lot of things to show on the offense though. I'm actually looking forward to getting out there and putting it together."
Jackson also wants to make an immediate impact.
"I expect to make a name for myself," he said. "Whether it's on the practice field or the game field, just so everyone knows that I've come to play and do whatever it takes for it to be successful."
Few Tech newcomers have higher expectations for themselves than Amaro.
"I'm going to give it my best because I'm expecting nothing less than being Big 12 All-Freshman Team or maybe even a Freshman All-American," he said. "I don't think in high school that my coaches showcased my skills as best as they could, but they got me to where I was and I think Coach Brown and Coach (Sonny) Cumbie will be able to do that, and I think I can truly explode."
Amaro also thinks that the Red Raiders can be as successful as they want to be by using his own MacArthur team as an example.
"It just comes down to who's going want it more and who's ready to win some championships," he said. "For example, my high school team. We were struggling the first two years, my sophomore and junior year, and then this last year we kind of exploded just because we finally realized how talented we really were and that we achieved more than we expected to achieve by expecting to achieve it first.
"I mean you've got to know what you want before the season starts before you can even achieve it. It's not like it's going to happen randomly. I mean, that's why a lot of teams like UT and Oklahoma, that's why they get a lot of publicity around them, but sometimes it can change really quickly. As long as you believe that, you can do it."
Great expectations indeed.