The wide receiver position took a hit at Texas Tech at the end of the 2018 season. It’s not their only question mark heading into the 2019 season, but it’s the one we’re going to look at today.
Antoine Wesley, a promising junior who had a breakout season declared for the NFL draft while taking with him 1,410 yards and 9 touchdowns of offense.
Number one slot receiver Ja’Deion High exhausted his eligibility after last season, which adds another 804 yards and four touchdowns that needs to be accounted for.
Texas Tech gained a total of 4,321 yards and 28 touchdowns through the air last year. Meaning, with the departure of Wesley and High, the Red Raiders have to manage to replace over half of their offensive production in 2019.
That’s a problem, but there is good news. There is some promising young talent on team including a transfer from Nevada, and a young QB named to the Davey O’Brien and Maxwell award watch lists.
Can the now Matt Wells led Red Raiders reload without missing a beat? Or, even better, surpass 2018’s production? There are three names Wells could rely on this season to do just that.
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds officially, the junior out of Wichita Falls Rider in Texas is the number one returning receiver on the roster. Although his 2018 numbers weren’t eye popping with 54 receptions for 687 yards and seven touchdowns, it was still good for 3rd overall on Tech’s roster.
Beyond the stats, when Vasher is on the field, he’s electric. The question is, can he stay on the field. A nagging knee injury kept him limited last year, causing him to miss the West Virginia game, while a back injury caused him to exit the game in the first quarter versus TCU.
He also missed the second half of spring practice due to an undisclosed hamstring issue. Fortunately, he will have had plenty of time to recover by the time the 2019 season starts.
Vasher was supposed to make 2018 his “breakout” season. While that didn’t necessarily unfold the we way we wanted, he looks to build off last season where his ability was on full display in the season opener against Ole Miss with a one-handed grab that was eventually nominated for an ESPY at the end of the season.
Keep an eye on Vasher this year, because he has NFL potential and could very well emerge as one of the elite receivers in the Big 12 and possibly in all of college football.
Behind Vasher, there is Erick Ezukanma, or”Ez E”. He was a highly coveted recruit coming out of high school. Listed as the 49th-best receiver in the country, the former 4-star recruit had offers from multiple Power 5 programs including Wisconsin, Washington State, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Mizzou, and others.
Last season, in a tease of what he’s capable of, he caught a 44-yard touchdown pass in garbage time versus Lamar before eventually redshirting.
He was also one of the spring standouts in 2019. He was the leading receiver in the final spring game catching six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown.
2019 is promising for the redshirt freshman as he has an opportunity to compete for one of the outside spots in the receiving corps. I am particularly excited to see Ezukanma develop into what I believe will be a great Texas Tech receiver by the time his career is said and done.
The junior transfer from Nevada is a promising new face in Lubbock this year. Eligible immediately, Mannix posted 50 receptions last season for 875 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 17.5 yards per catch.
He was the top receiver at Nevada his sophomore year and earned Freshman All-American honors in 2017, and has been named to the Biletnikoff watch list for the second year in a row. So basically, he’s pretty talented at this whole football thing.
With the departure of Tech’s top inside receiver last year in Ja’Deion High, McLane Mannix is a welcome addition that will be able to come in and benefit the Red Raider’s offense immediately. Inside receivers always tend to do well at Tech with players like Wes Welker, Jakeem Grant, among others who all filled the role Mannix will take on this year.
Nursing an ankle injury that kept McLane sidelined mostly through the spring, we hope he will be in full health heading in to the 2019 season where he will play a critical role with the new offense still working to put the right pieces in the right places.
While there are other players on the roster that contributed last year, I believe these guys will make a significant impact in the new offense. Regardless of how much the offense will change from the traditional “Air Raid” we in Lubbock have been used to, David Yost’s offense still posted 3,825 yards through the air.
While that’s not the 4,321 yards we put up last year, it’s pretty close considering Utah State also rushed for 2,641 yards to the Red Raider’s 1,591. It’s going to be a change, but with the offensive potential on this year’s roster, Tech should have no problem keeping up with the rest of the Big 12.