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Kingsbury's recruiting results mirrored on-field inconsistencies

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Kliff Kingsbury
Kliff Kingsbury

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While covers multiple sports every year and tracks different stories during each season, our underlying focus is and has always been football and basketball recruiting - who the programs have offered, which prospects are interested or visiting and, ultimately, who the coaching staffs land on National Signing Day.

Rankings are not necessarily the end-all be-all when it comes to recruiting, because there are certainly some coaches capable of developing talent and putting together winning seasons without pulling in top-ranked classes. But for the most part, there's a direct correlation between how a program performs in recruiting rankings how they perform on the football field.

Texas Tech announced the dismissal of Kliff Kingsbury on Sunday, changing directions after a six-year run that saw the Red Raiders post a 35-40 overall record. The product on the field did not live up to Texas Tech's standards. How did Kingsbury's program perform in recruiting under his leadership?


Kingsbury accepted the Texas Tech job on Dec. 12, 2012 and had to finalize the program's 2013 recruiting class in short order while also building out his initial staff.

While a few members of the 2013 class went on to play meaningful snaps for the Red Raiders, it is worth noting that Dylan Cantrell and a few offensive lineman - namely Baylen Brown - were the only real “hits” from the class.

Grade: Incomplete

Commits: 23 total - 10 on offense and 13 on defense

Highest-ranked: WR Devin Lauderdale, did not qualify

Biggest hit: WR Dylan Cantrell finished his career with 1,876 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Chargers.

Biggest bust: OL Joshua Outlaw, part of the "Georgia Three." He eventually left the program and landed on the JUCO level before finishing his career at Louisiana Tech

Rankings: No. 51 class nationally and No. 8 in the Big 12


This was the first "full" class taken by Kingsbury and his coaching staff at Texas Tech, meaning they had already been in place for more than a year when this group signed on National Signing Day.

Pat Mahomes, Cameron Batson, Justin Stockton and Lauderdale will stand out and make the 2014 class look successful on paper, but if you dig deeper you will see a lot more misses, future transfers and an abysmal hit rate on the defensive side of the ball.

Hindsight is always 20-20, but out of the 26 total signees, the case could be made that Kingsbury and his staff only "hit" on 10 players.

Although a guy like Mahomes was a massive hit, looking at the misses in this class makes recruiting become glaringly more important.

Grade: B-

Commits: 26 total, 14 on offense and 12 on defense

Highest-ranked: CB Nigel Bethel II

Biggest hit: QB Patrick Mahomes finished his Texas Tech career with 11,252 yards and 93 touchdowns. He was selected No. 10 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2017 NFL Draft

Biggest bust: CB Nigel Bethel II, a four-star prospect with nearly 20 offers that made more news off the field than on the field

Rankings: No. 43 nationally and No. 5 in the Big 12


This will always be the "what could have been" class and was one of the most entertaining recruiting cycles to follow under Kingsbury, with tons of momentum and early success. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, the class ended with some late decommits - most notably, long-time quarterback commit Jarrett Stidham flipping to conference rival Baylor very late in the process.

While the class looks good on paper, the only true difference maker and all-conference type player so far has been Keke Coutee.

Terence Steele, Madison Akamnonu, Paul Stawarz and Broderick Washington each started and played significant roles on the team this season.

It is also worth noting that David Gibbs was hired as the program's new defensive coordinator about a month before National Signing Day in 2015.

The story from this class is the amount of players no longer with the program - 11 out of the 20 signees either transferred, never made it to campus or quit football all together.

Grade: C-

Commits: 20 total, 13 on offense and 7 on defense

Highest-ranked: DT Breiden Fehoko

Biggest hit: WR Keke Coutee finished his career on the South Plains with 2,441 yards and 18 touchdowns. He left the program after his junior season and was selected in the fourth round by the Houston Texans in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Biggest bust: DT Breiden Fehoko, a Rivals250 and All-American prospect out of high school, the four-star prospect played as a true freshman and transferred to LSU after his first year in Lubbock. He was, according to Pro Football Focus, the team's sixth-best interior defensive lineman as a freshman and fourth-best as a sophomore.

Rankings: No. 40 nationally and No. 6 in the Big 12


This is arguably the most balanced and fruitful class of the Kingsbury era, and it was Gibbs' first full recruiting class as the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech.

Although four signees from the 2016 class have transferred or are no longer with the program, this class gets the best grade because 17 of the 25 total signees either started for the Red Raiders or played significant roles in previous years or this season.

Grade: B+

Commits: 25 total, 11 on offense and 14 on defense

Highest-ranked: WR T.J. Vasher

Biggest hit: WR Antoine Wesley, a semi-finalist for the Biletnikoff Award this season, the former three-star prospect burst onto the college football scene this year with 1,410 yards and 9 touchdowns

Biggest bust: DT Ivory Jackson, a West Texas product who chose the Red Raiders over offers from Michigan and Kansas State, but discipline issues off the field kept him from ever playing a meaningful snap for Texas Tech

Rankings: No. 44 nationally and No. 5 in the Big 12


The 2017 class will go down as the "JUCO heavy" class, a group that included 10 signees from the junior college level.

This class features several commits who ended up playing significant roles, including nine players that started games this season.

The headlines were the program taking two quarterback prospects - McLane Carter and Xavier Martin - and the coaches going heavy with the JUCO takes on both offense and defense.

Four signees from the 2016 class have transferred or are no longer with the program.

Grade: B-

Commits: 22 total, 9 on offense and 12 on defense

Highest-ranked: OL Jack Anderson

Biggest hit: LB Dakota Allen, the three-star prospect rejoined the Texas Tech program after being kicked off the team and immediately sparked noticeable improvements on the defensive side of the ball

Biggest bust: DB Jaylon Lane, a former Rivals250 prospect with 30-plus offers out of high school, the JUCO prospect could not maintain grades in the classroom and it led to his eventual dismissal

Rankings: No. 47 nationally and No. 7 in the Big 12


This class was signed only one year ago, so it is entirely too early to say how this will play out one way or another.

From a numbers standpoint, this is the "where is the defense?" class, which included just four defensive signees.

The rankings were some of the program's worst in the modern recruiting era, but in hindsight, the class on offense could become as solid as they come. The real question will come when the four signees on defense come of age, contribute to the program or not.

Four true freshman played significant time for the Red Raiders this season - QB Alan Bowman, RB Ta'Zhawn Henry, WR Kesean Carter and RB Sa'Rodorick Thompson.

Grade: B-

Commits: 17 total, 13 on offense and 4 on defense

Highest-ranked: WR Erik Ezukanma

Biggest hit: QB Alan Bowman, despite an injury that kept him out of several games this season, the three-star true freshman was one of the most impressive quarterbacks in the Big 12 when healthy in 2018. He finished his freshman season with 2,638 yards and 17 touchdowns while only playing six full games.

Biggest bust: N/A - There have been no busts, transfers or off the field issues from the 2018 class to date.

Rankings: No. 73 nationally and No. 10 in the Big 12