Texas Tech football: Takeaways from the first 2023 depth chart

Texas Tech football: Takeaways from the first 2023 depth chart
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Texas Tech’s Bralyn Lux attends football practice, Friday, Aug. 4, 2023, at the Sports Performance Center.

The first Texas Tech football depth chart of the 2023 season was revealed by head coach Joey McGuire on Sunday.  Let’s take a closer look at some of the most intriguing aspects of the two-deep.

Bralyn Lux listed ahead of Malik Dunlap at corner

Most of the defensive starting spots were already decided before fall camp even began.  However, one newcomer to Texas Tech has made a  meteoric rise to the top of the depth chart at a position where the Red Raiders looked to be already set.

When cornerback Bralyn Lux transferred to Texas Tech in June, not much fanfare surrounded his arrival from Fresno State.  After all, only the most hardcore college football fans ever watch any Fresno State football.

However, Lux has quickly made a name for himself with the Red Raiders and throughout fall camp, there was talk of him earning a starting spot.  That appears to be likely as he was listed ahead of Malik Dunlap on the first depth chart.

Though the two names are separated by the word “or” on the chart, indicating that each will see tons of playing time, it is telling that Lux was listed atop the chart.  That’s because he had to have been extremely impressive to even challenge Dunlap, who made 12 starts a season ago and was named a second-team All-Big 12 performer.

Many thought that Lux might supplant Tech’s other returning corner, Rayshad Williams, as Williams spent much of the offseason recovering from a sports hernia, which required surgery.  However, Williams appears good to go for the opener and he is the starter opposite Lux and Dunlap.

Expect all three players to be rather interchangeable this season and get accustomed to seeing plenty of that trio on the field together at times as well.  Still, it is telling to see the 5-foot-11 Lux challenge and even perhaps supplant the 6-foot-3 Dunlap on the depth chart.

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Though the two names are separated by the word “or” on the chart, indicating that each will see tons of playing time, it is telling that Lux was listed atop the chart.  That’s because he had to have been extremely impressive to even challenge Dunlap, who made 12 starts a season ago and was named a second-team All-Big 12 performer.

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Many thought that Lux might supplant Tech’s other returning corner, Rayshad Williams, as Williams spent much of the offseason recovering from a sports hernia, which required surgery.  However, Williams appears good to go for the opener and he is the starter opposite Lux and Dunlap.

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Expect all three players to be rather interchangeable this season and get accustomed to seeing plenty of that trio on the field together at times as well.  Still, it is telling to see the 5-foot-11 Lux challenge and even perhaps supplant the 6-foot-3 Dunlap on the depth chart.

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Texas Tech’s C.J. Baskerville (9) stands on the sidelines during Spring Game, Saturday, April 22, 2023, at Lowrey Field at PlainsCapital Park.

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C.J. Baskerville will be critical for Texas Tech as the new “Star”

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Staying in the secondary, it is important to know that the Red Raiders have a new “Star”.  While it might be premature to label C.J. Baskerville a star in the sense that we typically think of that term, he could become just that while playing the hybrid safety/linebacker spot that defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter calls the “Star”.

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Last year, that spot was manned admirably by Marquis Waters who made 60 tackles, including 13 for loss.  His graduation left a hole to fill and Tech has done so with Baskerville, a transfer from San Diego State.

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At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, the North Richland Hills, Texas native will be asked to play coverage on inside receivers and tight ends while also giving the defense some outstanding run support.  In fact, he will have a role that allows DeRuyter to move him all over the field and his ability to be a disruptive force will be a key to Texas Tech’s success on that side of the football.

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The “Star” position is the key to almost everything DeRuyter wants to do defensively.  Because of the versatility of the players who man that spot, DeRuyter can eliminate or at least minimize mismatches that the offense tries to create while also playing chess with his defenders and how he deploys them.

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Baskerville has spent the last two years at Fresno State where he made a total of 74 tackles while picking off one pass.  He will be used differently at Tech though because he’ll be asked to be a disruptive force that supports the run and even blitzes the QB at times meaning he should easily surpass his career total of 2.5 tackles for loss.

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Look for Baskerville to be a hound for the Red Raiders in 2023.  Though he isn’t yet a household name, he will be one of the most important pieces of the defense.

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Dec 28, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders wide receiver Loic Fouonji (19) attempts to make a reception during the second quarter as Mississippi Rebels cornerback Davison Igbinosun (20) defends during the second quarter in the 2022 Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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Loic Fojonji listed as a starter over Jordan Brown at “X” receiver

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One of the stars of fall camp for the Red Raiders was former Kansas transfer Jordan Brown who had reportedly pushed his way into contention for a starting job at outside receiver.  However, it appears that Midland native, Loic Fouonji has won that competition as he is listed as the starter at the “X” receiver.

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The former 4-star recruit entered the offseason as the expected starter after racking up 34 catches for 451 yards and three touchdowns in 2022 despite being hampered for much of the season by a shoulder injury that prevented him from raising his arm over his head.  However, there has been little buzz about Fouonji since the start of camp leading many to surmise that he might lose his starting job to Brown who was repeatedly praised by Joey McGuire for his play in practice and scrimmages.

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What is interesting about this position on the depth chart is that the word “or” is not between Fouonji and Brown signifying that Fouonji has won the job outright.  That’s not to suggest that Brown won’t get plenty of targets.  What’s more, Brown will be a key special teams weapon as the team’s top kickoff returner after he made a splash in that role last fall.

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In the end, Fouonji has more upside than Brown.  At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, he can run away from many defensive backs while also playing a physical brand of football when needed.

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Meanwhile, Brown is not as much of a physical mismatch.  At 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, he doesn’t have the frame that Fouonji possesses.

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Therefore, it stands to reason that Fouonji would be the starter.  While Brown will be heard from, Fouonji’s ceiling is higher and now that he’s entering the season healthy, he could be in line for a breakout campaign.

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Texas Tech’s Brenden Jordan works out during football practice, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023, at the Sports Performance Center.

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Young defensive backs, Jalon Peoples and Brenden Jordan on Texas Tech’s second team

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While the first-team Texas Tech secondary is experienced and old, the future of that position group appears closer to arriving than we might have originally thought.  In fact, two freshmen, Jalon Peoples and Brenden Jordan have both cracked the two-deep.

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Peoples is a redshirt freshman who appeared in only two games last year.  The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Cedar Hill, Texas product has practiced both at safety and corner and now finds himself listed as the No. 2 corner behind Rayshad Williams.

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For what it’s worth, senior Cameron Watts is listed under Peoples with the word “or” separating them indicating that either could see second-team snaps.  However, there has to be a reason why Peoples is listed first out of that duo.

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As for Jordan, he is a true freshman who is backing up Baskerville at the all-important “Star” position.  That’s impressive given how much is asked of the player in DeRuyter’s scheme.

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Jordan is a 6-foot, 215-pound product of Mansfield, Texas.  In the most recent recruiting cycle, he was labeled the No. 14 safety in the country by 247Sports and considered a Rivals Texas 100 prospect as the No. 92 recruit in the state.  In addition to Tech, he held offers from Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, SMU, and USC.

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Now, I still wonder if Jordan would be thrust into a full-time starting job at the “Star” should Baskerville go down with an injury or if Tech might shuffle some pieces around to get a more experienced defender into the lineup.  However, the fact that Jordan is already cracking the depth chart is impressive and an encouraging sign for the future of the position.

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Texas Tech’s Quincy Ledet Jr. (5) looks to the sideline for the play during Spring Game, Saturday, April 22, 2023, at Lowrey Field at PlainsCapital Park.

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Ledet and Banks listed as backup defensive tackles

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One of the strengths of this year’s defense is supposed to be the defensive tackle room.  That’s where Jaylon Hutchings and Tony Bradford Jr. return to give Tech arguably the best DT tandem in the Big 12.

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However, McGuire has said that the program asked Hutchings and Bradford to play too many snaps last year causing them to wear down during games.  The hope is that the team’s depth will prevent that from happening in 2023.

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To take some of the load off of the starters, it appears that Quincy Ledet Jr. and E’Maurion “Dooda” Banks will be asked to play significant roles.  Those are two names that aren’t likely all too familiar to most Red Raider fans.

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Ledet is a senior transfer from Louisiana-Monroe who has two years left to play.  He’s 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds and he arrives with 31 career appearances and 18 starts to his name, all at Louisiana-Monroe.

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Meanwhile, Banks is a redshirt sophomore from Wichita Falls, Texas where he was the No. 112 player in Texas in the class of 2021 according to 247Sports.  However, unlike Ledet, he’s still green being as he’s played in only three games thus far at the collegiate level.  Now, it appears that the light has come on for the 6-foot-5, 305-pounder and he’s ready to contribute.

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It will be crucial that this duo proves ready to spell Bradford and Hutchings this year.  Tech needs the starting defensive tackles fresh in the fourth quarter as well as late into the season and that will happen if Ledet and Banks can prove to be useful pieces of the rotation.

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Sep 24, 2022; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders wide receiver Myles Price (1) runs the ball against the Texas Longhorns during a game at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron E. Martinez/Austin American-Statesman via USA TODAY NETWORK

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Myles Price and Xavier White listed at the same position

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Finally, let’s turn our attention to an interesting development at inside receiver.  At the “Y” slot receiver spot, we find both Myles Price and Xavier White with Price being named the starter.

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That is important because it tells us that dynamic Austin Peay transfer Drae McCray has done enough to win the starting job at the “H” inside receiver spot.  That’s good news for an offense needing more explosiveness.

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There was a distinct possibility that Price and White could have been named the starters at the two slot positions.  Each has terrific experience with the former having started 24 games and the latter having started multiple games at both slot receiver and at running back.

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It is conceivable that White will still take some snaps at running back this year and his versatility will be an asset to the offense.  But it is Price who could be a true difference-maker.

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Last year, a nagging back injury slowed him considerably but he still managed 51 receptions for 513 yards and two TDs.  If he can remain healthy this year, it could be a banner year for the senior from The Colony, Texas.

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Price is also listed as the team’s No. 1 punt returner.  In 2022, he returned eight punts for an average of 7.9 yards.  That’s also an area where Tech needs more dynamism as the punt return game has been extremely uninspiring in recent years, especially during the Matt Wells era when that coaching staff relied on players who were safe and sure-handed but who were no threats to flip the field with a big return.

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Price and McCray could give this offense a new component of explosiveness this year and that would be a godsend to OC Zach Kittley.  But also expect to see White have his hands on the ball quite a bit as he plays a variety of positions.  Hopefully, this group will help bring back the days when Texas Tech was known for fantastic play from the slot receivers.

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