In every season there are guys who step up who were not necessarily expected to be key pieces of a team’s success. We don’t have to go far for examples, either.
While many thought Antoine Wesley would play a role in the offense, few expected him to put together one of the best seasons by a Red Raider wide receiver in school history. This is after just 10 passes for 137 yards the year before. Or in 2018, with Justus Parker coming out of nowhere to make the All-Big 12 Defensive Second Team. Or the year before when the North Texas transfer Eli Howard led the team in sacks and Tackles For Loss. There are more, but you get my drift.
So, who is going to step up this season? I have picked out three guys that I think may be that player for the Red Raiders this year.
Remember, we’re looking for guys that that are largely unknown at this point, so I mostly ruled out the players the average Texas Tech fan would know already.
ERIK EZUKANMA – WR
Here is a guy you may have already read about, but I think his name bears repeating. Erik or “Ez E”, has had an impressive spring and was the leading receiver in the final spring game catching six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. He was called out by Offensive coordinator David Yost on media day as a guy “We’re kind of counting on”.
It is great to hear the optimism around Erik as there was legitimate excitement when he committed to Tech over schools like TCU, Texas A&M, and Arkansas among others. With Seth Collins still being sidelined with a collarbone injury, it leaves a gap for Erik to fill.
He will be competing with the speedy Kesean Carter for the position, but with each player having different skill sets, I can easily see playing time for both.
He has also put on some weight (like many have with Dave Scholz coming in this off-season) while still maintaining his speed. That can only lead to good things. Last year, Erik ended the season with two catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. I am expecting a much-improved stat line this year.
DOUGLAS COLEMAN III – SS
Alright, so Coleman is a player you might have heard of before. So I’m cheating a bit here, but I have good reason. I have a feeling this year he will step it up a whole new level.
Coach Wells praised Coleman’s work ethic to Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal back in March.
“I’ll tell you the guy I don’t know if he’s missed a practice or an opportunity — the guy is very intentional in his work; he’s a football junkie — is Doug Coleman. The guy shows up every day. You see him in special teams drill. You see him in one-on-one. You see him make plays in 7-on-7. The guy comes out to work every single day. We need more guys like Doug Coleman”– Texas Tech Coach Matt Wells told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Coleman has not been without his moments at Texas Tech already, he made three starts as a true freshman, four as a sophomore, and six starts at nickel back as a Junior. He enters this season with a total of 74 tackles, three for a loss, one sack and three picks.
He has always been a fairly viable option at defensive back, but at times faded into the background as he was passed up on the depth chart. However, he has been working strictly at safety this off-season, and has put on 15 pounds of muscle in order to handle the role of better.
With the before mentioned Justus Parker being suspended for his last season, three defensive backs have now left the team for one reason or another since spring ball. So, not only is Coleman primed to step up, the Red Raiders are going to need him to.
NELSON MBANASOR – DL
Wow, Texas Tech’s Defensive lineman look good this year, Broderick Washington, Eli Howard, Nick McCann, and Lonzell Gilmore are all really solid players. This is why, of the three players I listed here, I have the least amount of confidence that Mbanasor will be a star player for the Red Raiders this year. It may just be too tough to find the playing time.
Like with Douglas though, the coaches have really raved about the guy, so much so that they were able to convince him not to transfer.
After a rough season of just nine tackles, Mbanasor announced his intention to transfer from Texas Tech in November. However, with the fresh start that new coaches bring, he decided to return to the program.
New defensive coordinator Keith Patterson has really preached a much more aggressive defensive scheme than what Tech has played over the past few years. It remains to be seen if this will actually be the case, but with depth like Mbanasor ready to break out, they have the talent to turn things up a notch.
With his ability to play both on the interior and the end positions, he has a enough of a chance to find playing time in the rotation to make this list. I expect some production this year from a bulked-up Mbanasor.
Those are your three potential break-out stars for the Red Raiders this season. Now, if football would hurry up and get here already.