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2020 has been the most interesting year in recent memory no doubt, but football season is fast approaching and that means the Red Raiders are getting ready to improve on their 4-8 record in 2019. The first year of the Matt Wells era didn’t go according to plan, but due to multiple injuries to key players on both sides of the ball, Tech fans never really got to see the team’s full potential. In 2020, some players will have to step up due to key players from 2019 leaving the program due to graduation or the NFL Draft. Here are the five players that are set to break out or become key contributors for the Red Raiders in 2020.
Krishon Merriweather (LB)
Merriweather is a transfer from the JUCO ranks and played last season at Garden City CC in Kansas. While playing in the Jayhawk Conference, Merriweather garnered 1st team All-Jayhawk honors. In 11 games in 2019, Merriweather totaled 153 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and led the conference with 13.9 tackles a game. Not to mention he had three games with 20+ tackles. He will look to slide into the Riko Jeffers role for Tech in 2020 while Jeffers slides into the lead middle linebacker role left behind by Jordyn Brooks who got drafted in the 1st round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Erik Ezukanma (WR-X)
In some circles, Texas Tech has been titled “WR U” and Ezukanma looks to continue the rich tradition of WR’s in the 806. As an RS Freshman in 2019, Ezukanma becomes only the second Red Raider in program history to lead the team in receiving as a freshman. The only other Red Raider to do so was the best WR in program history, Michael Crabtree. Ezukanma is a big play waiting to happen and he proved that in 2019 with 13 plays of 25+ yards. He will look to build off the impressive RS Freshman season he produced in 2019. Look for Erik to potentially eclipse the 1,000-yard mark as a sophomore and lead the Red Raiders WR core with a healthy Bowman under center in 2020.
Zech McPherson (RCB)
The Penn State transfer stepped foot on campus before last season, but he made a sizable impact in his first season as a Red Raider in 2019. He was one of only four Red Raiders on the defensive side of the ball to start in all 12 games in 2019. The first season for a transfer can sometimes be rough, but not for McPherson. In 2019 Zech had 51 tackles (42 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, 5 PBU, and blocked two kicks on special teams. McPherson will look to evaluate his game in 2020 and become the shutdown corner some thought he could be as a 4-Star recruit coming out of Riverdale Baptist HS in Upper Marlboro, MD. With him and Adrian Frye on the outsides for the Red Raiders, the defense will have two impactful corners.
Casey Verhulst (RT)
In 2019, the Red Raiders had the most experienced OL in the Big 12 and the 5th most experienced in the country in terms of total starts. In 2020, that will be much different, but that doesn’t mean the guys moving into starting roles aren’t talented and have the experience, Verhulst is the prime example of that. Verhulst finally got his chance to play as a sophomore and he capitalized on his limited opportunities. He got to start three games in 2019 and the Red Raiders went 3-0 in those games. With both Travis Bruffy and Terence Steele leaving due to graduation, Verhulst looks to have his chance to become a full-time starter in 2020 at the RT position.
Jaylon Hutchings (NT)
The defensive line is losing their leader Broderick Washington Jr. due to graduation and being drafted in the 5th round of the NFL Draft in 2020 by the Baltimore Ravens. As just a sophomore, Jaylon Hutchings looks to be the man to take over that role. As an RS Freshman in 2019, Hutchings played in 12 games and started 10 for the Red Raiders. In those games, he produced 27 tackles (18 solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two QB hurries and forced a fumble. This all from a guy two years prior in his senior season of HS was also playing running back for his team. Hutchings is a great athlete that will continue to be disruptive in the middle of Keith Patterson’s defense. Look for him to take that next step as a sophomore alongside returning defensive lineman Eli Howard (SR) and Nick McCann (SR).