Texas Tech’s Not-So-Secret Weapon: Dylan Cantrell

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Photo via Michael C. Johnson, USA TODAY Sports

 

Offensive production is hardly ever an issue at Texas Tech. Part of the reason this seems to be the case is a receiving corps that perpetually reloads every year. Even when stars like Jakeem Grant, Eric Ward and Jace Amaro graduate or turn pro, whoever the Red Raiders trot out at receiver the following season excels.

In 2017, it could be redshirt senior Dylan Cantrell’s turn to shine. Cantrell has always been a contributor since arriving in Lubbock, earning some playing time as a true freshman in 2013. As a sophomore in 2014, he recorded 20 catches for 312 yards, including these two
insane receptions.

But Cantrell missed the entire 2015 season due to a back injury, and redshirted while he recovered and prepared for 2016. Last year he impressed as a starter and was perhaps the most consistent Texas Tech receiver despite not leading the team in the major statistical categories. Cantrell finished with 58 catches for 675 yards and eight touchdowns.

Highlighting how valuable Cantrell was, he missed two consecutive games due to injury against West Virginia and Oklahoma and the two starting outside receivers in his place combined for just 10 receptions in that two game span. This year Cantrell will enter the season healthy and an unquestioned starter outside for the Red Raiders as their offense tries to adjust to life after Patrick Mahomes.

Physically, Cantrell is a unique specimen. He lacks true top end speed, but his leaping ability and knack for making nearly impossible catches are unmatched. It’s not every day you see a guy who can catch a football while landing a backflip, for instance.

He also looks like he could play middle linebacker after two years of going through Texas Tech strength and condition coach Rusty Whitt’s offseason program. Cantrell’s size (6’3″ 220) and strength will be imposing on smaller corners in the Big 12, and that’s how he’ll stand out in 2017.

Cantrell is going into his fifth year at Texas Tech, just like head coach Kliff Kingsbury. In other words, nobody on the roster knows the offense as well as Cantrell does. That will be another big factor in trying to replace Mahomes, who started for two-plus seasons while his replacement under center, Nic Shimonek, has never started a game in his collegiate career.

With 2016’s leading receiver Jonathan Giles transferring to LSU, it feels like we’ve seen this movie before. Texas Tech has lost a ton of statistical production on the offensive side of the ball from last year. Yet someone always seems to fill the void. In 2017, most are expecting that to be slot receiver Keke Coutee.

But don’t count out Cantrell either. In Kliff Kingsbury’s offense there are plenty of passes to go around, and Cantrell is primed for a big year complementing Coutee on the outside.

 

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