The college football season begins on Sept. 2 for 12 of the 13 FBS teams in the state of Texas. The lone exception in the Lone Star State is UTEP, which faced Jacksonville State in Week 0 to begin Conference USA play.
As we approach the start of another season, we’ll countdown the 50-most important players in college football. We’ll go one-by-one until Sept. 1 as we enter the top 20.
No. 5: Texas Tech defensive tackle Jaylon Hutchings
Hutchings was a two-way star at Forney High School before choosing Texas Tech over programs such as Kansas State and SMU. He arrived in 2018 and took a redshirt year after appearing in three contests. The big man became a consistent presence on the defensive line as a redshirt freshman, starting the final 10 games of the year at nose tackle. He started all 10 games of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and all 13 of the 2021 year.
Hutchings came into his own in 2022 under defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter. Hutchings started all 13 games, primarily at nose tackle. He finished the year with 50 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He was selected to the honorable mention All-Big 12 team for the second consecutive season.
Every coach tells you that a strong defensive unit requires talent and depth in the interior of the defensive line and the Red Raiders have exactly that thanks to Hutchings and running mate Tony Bradford. The duo returns for their super senior seasons to anchor the Red Raiders defensive attack. Hutchings has played 49 games in his Texas Tech career and has started in the last 46 straight contests. He excels as a run stuffer, which forces opponents to double-team him most plays. That allows the Red Raider linebackers to play free and clean at the second level.
The Red Raiders are receiving so much love heading into the 2023 season that the description as Big 12 dark horse might be misleading. The Red Raiders were picked fourth in the conference by the media in the preseason behind future SEC teams Texas and Oklahoma, as well as defending Big 12 champion Kansas State. Joey McGuire’s club, in only his second season in charge, was picked ahead of a TCU team that went to the national title game a year ago. The momentum is real in Lubbock and Hutchings is a big reason why Texas Tech has a chance to win big in 2023.
Previous: No. 6 Texas A&M WR Evan Stewart
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