Texas Tech Red Raiders Top 10 Returning Players in 2023 Including Jerand Bradley, Tahj Brooks

    The Texas Tech Red Raiders showed last season they are a winning team and with multiple super seniors returning to the roster, they should be in contention for a Big 12 title.

    After finishing the season with a four-game winning streak and defeating Ole Miss in the Texas Bowl, the Texas Tech Red Raiders head into the 2023 season with a new-look Big 12 and high expectations to compete for a conference title. Twelve starters return from the 8-5 team Texas Tech was a year ago, with improvement on their minds.

    Texas Tech Red Raiders Top 10 Returners in 2023

    Analyzing the returning players at every school is a difficult task in the transfer portal area. As such, we’ve included transfer-portal athletes that were included on each team’s roster page to open fall camp in addition to the rostered players from last year.

    1) Jerand Bradley, WR

    The Red Raiders’ most reliable receiver from 2022, Jerand Bradley, is back to help support Texas Tech’s passing game. In his freshman season, Bradley led the team in receptions (51), receiving yards (744), and receiving touchdowns (six).

    He was highly regarded as one of the top five freshman receivers in the country, which earned him Honorable Mention All-Big 12 and has put him in the preseason All-Big 12 conversation going into 2023.

    MORE: Big 12 WR Rankings, 2023

    The former Frisco receiver has great height and athleticism that makes him a threat anytime he’s on the field. While he only had three games with over 100 yards, Bradley should experience more consistency at the quarterback position, which will lead to better performances.

    Not only will Bradley be in the conversation as one of the best receivers in the Big 12, but he should also be considered one of the best in the country by the end of the season.

    2) Malik Dunlap, CB

    Texas Tech saw cornerback Malik Dunlap take big strides in his second season starting for the team and proved to be one of the top cornerbacks in the Big 12. Dunlap finished last season second in the conference in pass deflections per game and third in total pass deflections with 12.

    He also recorded an interception en route to earning a Second-Team All-Big 12 honor in 2022.

    Dunlap is the best shutdown defensive back on the roster and has continued to improve year after year. Some could argue he might be one of the best in the conference, as he might not create as many turnovers, but he has a significant effect on completion percentage by getting his hands on the ball.

    While there is a lot of attention on the defensive line, the secondary also has solid contributors to their unit.

    3) Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, FS

    Another key puzzle piece in the secondary, Dadrion Taylor-Demerson is a tackling machine at the safety position. Last season, Taylor-Demerson recorded 73 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, three interceptions, and five pass breakups.

    The super senior can do it all for Texas Tech, from supporting the run defense to breaking up passes in the secondary. He’s one of the leaders of the defense and will continue to play a critical role for the Red Raiders in helping their defense.

    For years, the team’s offense has garnered all the attention, but now the defense is a focal point and Taylor-Demerson’s versatility plays a role in that.

    4) Tony Bradford, DT

    One of the most dominant pass-rushing defensive tackles in the conference is back to help the Red Raiders’ defensive line. Tony Bradford finished second at Texas Tech last season in sacks with 5.5 on the season as he started all 13 games for the team.

    He was able to earn an honorable mention on the All-Big 12 list after also recording 32 tackles, nine tackles for loss, six quarterback hits, and one block.

    The 300-pound defensive lineman is on multiple preseason All-Big 12 lists, ranging from first team to third team. Bradford’s expectations are bigger than ever after electing to return to school for his super senior season.

    With his size and ability to get to the quarterback, he could end up making a name for himself in the upcoming NFL Draft as a sleeper pick.

    5) Jaylon Hutchings, DT

    The other outstanding defensive tackle on the Red Raiders, Jaylon Hutchings, returns, playing a different role from the one Bradford plays. Hutchings also played all 13 games for the team last season, racking up 50 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and four quarterback hits.

    Hutchings is being included on preseason All-Big 12 teams, the same as Bradford, but he’s more of a nose tackle. He’s been great against the run and at plugging up the middle of the line. Texas Tech’s defensive line is strong, and Hutchings could be argued as the more important player on the defense.

    6) Tahj Brooks, RB

    With SaRodorick Thompson in the NFL, running back Tahj Brooks has nobody holding him back from getting more touches as the leading back. Last season, Brooks led the team in rushing yards with 691 and seven touchdowns to add to it. He also contributed with 26 receptions for 164 yards and one touchdown.

    Brooks enters the season being included on All-Big 12 preseason lists, with most publications adding him to the third team.

    As the top back on the team now, Brooks has a chance to have a breakout season leading the rushing attack for Texas Tech. The passing game is solid, but the strength of this offense could end up being their running back position, so Brooks will be taking on more this season.

    7) Tyler Shough, QB

    One thing that has been consistent with Tyler Shough starting at quarterback for the Red Raiders is his ability to win games for them. Shough appeared in seven games and started five, winning all five starts while throwing for 1,304 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. He also ran for 269 yards and four touchdowns.

    Unfortunately, a shoulder injury ended his season early.

    Now back as the full-time starter as a super senior, Shough is accurate and can use his legs when he needs to make a play. He’s got a great arm but tends to turn the ball over at times. In his last season with the school, he should be able to make significant strides with the program and help them contend for a Big 12 title.

    8) Rusty Staats, C

    To help the offense stay on pace for a good year, the Red Raiders bring in reinforcements on the offensive line by adding former Western Kentucky center Rusty Staats. He started all 14 games for the Hilltoppers and was part of an offensive line that only allowed 14 sacks all season.

    Texas Tech is looking for improvement on the offensive line after surrendering 41 sacks last season. Bringing in Staats should help provide some leadership and experience to the line. It should also improve communication along the line, leading to a better pass protection performance in 2023.

    9) Steve Linton, OLB

    The Red Raiders brought in more help with their pass rush by acquiring former Syracuse defensive lineman/outside linebacker Steve Linton. The transfer hybrid defender played in 11 games last season, recording 22 tackles, six tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, and three quarterback hurries.

    Quick off the edge and athletic, Linton brings an attitude that will give him the opportunity to start and play more often with Texas Tech. He’s expected to come in and make an impact on the defense.

    A bit of a sleeper pick since he is a transfer, but he is someone who could put up big numbers with more pass-rush opportunities on the team, complementing their strong interior defensive line.

    10) Austin McNamara, P

    The program’s best punter in school history is back for his final season in college, and Austin McNamara is looking to close out in a big way. McNamara has had four straight seasons with an average punt of 44 or more yards per game. Last season, he averaged 44.3 yards per punt over 50 punts.

    He landed on the All-Big 12 honorable mention list for the 2022 season.

    This season, McNamara is going into the year being included on the Ray Guy Award preseason watch list, as well as being featured in preseason All-Big 12 lists. He possesses a cannon of a leg and has improved his accuracy in pinning the ball inside the 20-yard line. Last season, he had a career-low three touchbacks.

    The Red Raiders have a chance to showcase the completeness of their team with McNamara being a top performer on special teams once again.

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