COLLEGE: Texas Tech’s Wells, Hocutt talk Red Raiders’ athletics

Texas Tech head football coach Matt Wells is looking forward to getting back to a basic tenet of college athletics:

>> Recruiting.

Not that the Red Raiders stopped scouring the country for top talent since Wells was hired in November, 2018.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in February and March of 2020, the NCAA mandated that coaches would not be able to have in-person recruiting visits because of the virus.

Those restrictions will finally be lifted on June 1.

“I can’t wait to get back out on the road,” Wells said. “We haven’t been able to look at live practices or see spring games for more than a year.

“We weren’t able to hold camps and that’s something we are looking forward to.”

Wells, along with Red Raiders athletic director Kirby Hocutt, was in Odessa to speak at a luncheon Wednesday at the Odessa Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, a “State of the Red Raiders” update in essence for the attendees.

Things are going very well at Texas Tech and Hocutt expects that to continue.

“Everything is a process and we want success yesterday,” he said. “We will not shy away from the aspirations that we want to be the very best in everything we do.

“When you compete at this level and you invest the resources that we have to use to invest in our program, we want to play to win. We are not going to shy away from being a relevant football program in November playing for championships; we are not going to shy away from the aspirations of playing on Monday night in men’s basketball again and we’re not going to shy away from talking about Omaha.”

The last was in reference to the site of the College World Series, a place that the Red Raiders have visited four times (2014, 2016, 2018, 2019).

Hocutt understands the importance that Odessa and neighboring Midland have in the Red Raiders’ success.

“This is our home away from home, that’s truly how I feel,” he said. “The support we get every year from the Permian Basin is second to none in the great state of Texas outside of Lubbock.

“Coach Well has put a foundation in and you are starting to see the result of two years of very hard work and recruiting. The caliber of young man that Coach Wells and his staff has brought to Lubbock, you are going to see a football team that looks better; when you see the size, the speed, the talent level that you are going to see at Jones AT&T Stadium this year, it’s going to be noticeably different.”

There will several very familiar things on the Red Raiders’ sideline this season as 10 seniors have chosen to return, thanks to an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA because of the pandemic.

Add them to the players from the transfer portal and suddenly Texas Tech has a very good problem to deal with in an abundance of talented, game-tested veterans ready to lead the team.

“Three of those guys have draft ratings,” Wells said of the returnees. “They could have absolutely easily applied and gone into the draft and they chose to come back.

“I think that, more than anything, is an indication of a locker room change, a culture change. I’m so glad that January through right now we’ve had no interruptions; this has been a really good offseason, low drama and our guys have a good vibe.”

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