Texas Tech sat atop of the 247 Sports 2023 recruiting rankings for a whole 24 hours this weekand it was all down to one man, Joey McGuire.
It’s a statement nobody expected to be saying this year, or ever. Yet maybe, just maybe, the signs were there all along.
After week seven of the 2021 season, following a particularly bad loss to conference rivals Kansas State, Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells was shown the door. Wells had a 13-17 record as the Red Raiders HC. Many were quick to point out the potential for a ‘jump-from-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire’ situation. Who could the Red Raiders hire that would be an immediate step up from Wells? The answer wasn’t clear. Anyway, what can really be expected at a school with only 11 AP Top 25 finishes all time? A casual observer could be forgiven for thinking this as another example of a mid-tier P5 school pressing the panic button.
However, Texas Tech were playing checkers whilst their conference rivals, well, just sat there and watched.
The Lone Star Legend
Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt moved quickly to announce legendary Texas high school coach Joey Maguire as the new Head Football Coach on November 8th 2021. Sonny Cumbie took the reins for the remainder of the 2022 season allowing McGuire to focus on recruiting. This move would prove a stroke of genius. McGuire got a head start on conference rivals which paid off in the final 2022 recruiting rankings.
Texas Tech went from 74th in 2021 to 43rd in 2022 in the 247 Sport composite rankings. This is largely unheard of when a new coach is brought just weeks out from the first signing day. Most recruits now treat December 15th as ‘the’ signing day. Something that is heavily encouraged by the schools they are committing to. So to move up 41 spots with just over a month to work with brings new meaning to ‘starting on the front foot’.
So, why Joey McGuire? Most of you won’t have heard of the name prior to his Texas Tech appointment. Well, not unless you are a high school football addict and/or from Texas. Earlier I called McGuire a ‘legendary Texas high school coach’. I promise you I’m not being hyperbolic. McGuire took over a Cedar Hill program that hadn’t had a winning season in years and had never won a playoff game. In his time between 2003 and 2016, McGuire went 141-42 and led the Longhorns to four state-championship games, winning three.
Football is just different in Texas
It’s hard to convey what his accomplishments mean in the state of Texas when you aren’t from there or have no experience of Texas high school football. If you’ve seen Friday Night Lights or Remember the Titans, you’ll know it goes: God, family and football in Texas (and not necessarily in that order for many). To turn a bottom feeder program into a perennial powerhouse is your ticket to legendary status in the Lone Star State. Formalized by McGuire’s induction into the Texas High School Coaching Hall of Fame in 2022.
It’s that legendary status in Texas that earns you almost universal trust amongst its fraternity of coaches. Texas is one of the top 3 talent rich states in the USA and their high school football culture is unique. To recruit a Texas high school player, you need to earn the trust of his football coaches first and his family second. Such is the trust Texans have in their high school football programs.
Trust is the lock and they key
It’s an unavoidable fact of recruiting in Texas and it’s something Joey McGuire has in droves. “He’s got that personality. If you know Joey, you like Joey,” Fort Bend Marshall coach James Williams said. “He’s a good guy. He knows how to win, knows how to build relationships and has had a very successful coaching career.”
Williams also went on to comment about McGuire’s inevitable success in recruiting. “He’s going to do the recruiting part the right way,” he said. “He’s the type of guy he’ll try and get to every single high school in Texas if he can in the next six months. I think he’s a guy that gets it. He doesn’t have to learn how it goes down in Texas. He’s going to know about athletic periods, what kids want, understand the culture of who is looking for what in each school.
Joey McGuire gets right to work
When Joey McGuire arrived at 2503 Mac Davis Lane on his first day, Tech’s 2022 class ranked 9th in the BIG 12. On that very same day McGuire acquired verbal commitments from three Cedar Hill Players. Moving the Red Raiders’ up to 7th. Before he had his introductory press conference, McGuire had made more progress in one afternoon than Wells did in a month. It was the first sign of things to come for Texas Tech fans. Since then, the Red Raiders have climbed as high as the number one spot in the 247 Sports Composite Recruiting Rankings. (currently they are 2nd behind Notre Dame).
They currently have as many four-star prospects as LSU and Texas A&M and two more than Nick Saban’s Alabama. Of course, this will change (we think). But if McGuire can get his 2023 class inside the top 25 come December, fans will be ecstatic. In 2022 to be ranked 25th a class would have to contain 3-5 four-star prospects and 13-19 three-star prospects. Texas Tech currently has 4 four-star prospects and 11 three-star prospects. Meaning they are well on their way to their best recruiting class since 2011 when they ranked 19th (Rivals).
Just a top guy
It isn’t just his legendary status and iron-clad relationships with Texas’ high school coaches, it’s also who he is a person. “I love Joey McGuire, he’s a very fiery guy and personable,” Foster high school coach Shaun McDowell said. “His personality is infectious. Everybody wants to be around him.”
That couldn’t be more evident by McGuire’s ability to get Quinn Ewers to pay a visit to Lubbock. Even after he had publicly announced his transfer to the Longhorns. Such is the allure of playing for a guy like McGuire that Ewers at least thought the visit was worth his time. Since the days of Mike Leach, even getting a prospect like Ewers on the phone would’ve been a major win.
Build it and they will come
Recently McGuire has added five former Texas high school coaches to his staff. Kenny Perry, Emmett Jones, Josh Cochran, Dave Martin and Zarnell Fitch. The Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA) saw the tweet from the Red Raiders’ Twitter account and quote-tweeted it with McGuire’s signature phrase, “Let’s Gooooo!”. The fact that all these accomplished Texas high school coaches have joined the same staff under McGuire is demonstrative of the weight his name carries and the belief that these coaches have in his vision.
However, it was a tweet by UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor which demonstrated how universally respected Joey McGuire is amongst the Texas brethren. Traylor was the initial pick for the vacancy yet chose to praise McGuire publicly, despite Traylor admitting doing so is “college taboo”. Ask yourself this; are any sitting D1 head coaches in Texas championing the success of Steve Sarkisian? No, they are not.
The rise of The Red Raiders?
All of this is to say; keep your eyes on Texas Tech. Not in two years or three years, but now. The type of run-through-a-wall mentality that McGuire is known for cultivating won’t take long to have an effect. We saw it happen quickly with Sam Pittman at Arkansas, and Tech have an arguably much easier schedule to get rolling against.
All signs point to a program that’s about to trend upwards at the perfect time. Texas and Oklahoma are set to leave for the SEC in the next few years. Creating a power vacuum ready to be filled. You can bet that Joey McGuire’s Texas Tech will absolutely be one of the strongest programs fighting to fill it.
Jake Self @Dynastybrit