February 13, 2008

Littrell raids Oklahoma, again

Turnabout is fair play, it seems. The Oklahoma Sooners have long made a fat living on Texas schoolboy football talent, but under head coach Mike Leach, the Texas Tech Red Raiders are beginning to live high on some Oklahoma hog.

According to Leach, this is hardly an accident.

"Everybody's been flooded with Wes Welker stuff, but there are other guys from Oklahoma that have been good too. Jake Ratliff has started since his sophomore year, Pete Richardson's done some good things, Laron Moore, we're really impressed with him and what his future holds, and I know I'm leaving one or two out. Suffice it to say that it's good football and good players, and rather than just Oklahoma schools coming down and raiding Texas, we ought to go get a couple up there in Oklahoma."

And the man most responsible for Texas Tech's recruiting success north of the Red River is running backs coach Seth Littrell, who is rapidly earning a reputation as Tech's ace recruiter. The former OU fullback, whom Mike Leach used to watch obliterate defenders on game film merely for entertainment value, is now wiping out the competition on the recruiting trail for the Red Raiders. And Leach figures that Littrell's playing style bleeds over into his recruiting efforts, much to Tech's benefit.

"Well he personifies Oklahoma; he's a tough, gritty guy and he recruits and coaches just like he played. You hand it to him on the three yard-line and watch him churn his feet."

Another trait of Littrell's, however, is humbleness. Despite his obvious importance to Tech's recruiting success in Oklahoma, Littrell is quick to distribute credit to the entire Red Raider coaching staff.

"A lot of people are going to say that I do Oklahoma and I got them out of Oklahoma, but it's truly a staff effort on every one of these guys. There were a lot of people that went into Oklahoma and sold this program with me. It takes a full staff effort and that's with every state and every kid. Wherever we go, we make sure these kids know our entire staff and know the guys that are going to coach them. You can ask anyone, it's a staff effort. We just want the best players for our program."

And an ever higher percentage of those players are hailing from places such as Putnam and Lawton rather than Galveston and Killeen. Of the 16 players Tech signed in 2008, fully one quarter come from Oklahoma. Without checking the numbers throughout Tech football history, it is a very reasonable assumption that never before have the Red Raiders relied on Oklahoma for a quarter of their recruits.

And fine recruits they are.

The headliner is probably Lawton running back Harrison Jeffers. He was generally regarded as the best running back in Oklahoma during his senior year, and one of the best football players in that state, period. Leach asserts that Jeffers was as good a high school running back as he saw last season, and characterizes him thus: "I think he's really shifty, he explodes out of his cuts, he is a truly fast guy, and he's also kind of thick and then also has to flexibility to catch the ball pretty well. I think his strengths are just kind of overall package stuff."

Another Lawton product that Littrell was instrumental in bringing to Lubbock is Cornelius Douglas, an athlete who is capable of playing myriad positions, but will get first crack as an inside receiver with the Red Raiders.

The state of Oklahoma helped Tech out on both offensive and defensive lines as well. Regarding the latter, the Red Raiders signed Oklahoma City tackle Joey Fowler. Tech had success with another Oklahoma tackle named Colby Whitlock who made a tremendous splash as a true freshman in 2007. Some think Fowler has similar potential.

Offensively, Littrell and the rest of the staff brought in Putnam lineman Joe King. At six-foot-six and 295 pounds, he has the sort of frame that Tech coaches have molded into standout NFL caliber tackles over the last several years. Don't be surprised if King follows in that tradition.

Likewise, don't be shocked if Seth Littrell and company continue to mine the Sooner state for all its worth. They've certainly got a good thing going.

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