The Texas Tech Red Raiders will kick off the 2022 season with coach Joey McGuire taking on the Murray State Racers on Saturday night in Lubbock. Members of the Ohio Valley Conference, the Racers went 6-5 last season.
Although McGuire made it clear on Monday that the Red Raiders would do anything but underestimate Murray State, who enters the season opener as a clear underdog on the road, he did say all three quarterbacks would enter the field for the Red Raiders in Saturday.
With this experimental approach, Tech fans could see a lot of players from other positions get action in the first game of the season that they wouldn’t otherwise get when the deeper part of conference play unfolds.
At first glance, this might be the real freshman Koi Ikin. But if he lives up to the accolades McGuire has showered on him, his opportunity to prove it could carry over into the most important parts of the season.
“Koi does a lot of good,” McGuire said. “This is a guy who led the nation – and for some reason was underrated – but led the nation in receiving yards and catches, and he brings a lot to the table when it comes to receiving, but also … in the return game.”
Eakin had one of the best individual seasons a senior wide receiver at the high school level can have in 2021 at Stevenville High School. As McGuire said, the 6-2, 200-pound pass catcher led the league in receiving yards with 2,140 yards on 93 catches and a whopping 31 touchdowns.
He capped it off with a victory in the Division 1 State 4A title game as Eakin had nine passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns, adding one on the ground to give Stevenville the championship and a perfect 16-0 record.
Exactly a third of his catches last year ended in touchdowns. Yet his list of top offerings included Tech, TCU, Washington State, North Texas, and more.
As a true freshman, Eakin can certainly redshirt if he plays a maximum of four games. But McGuire acknowledged that judging by his performance in training, Eakin may not need to waste a year when he could have made an immediate contribution on the field instead.
“My expectation is that he will probably play four games and be in the red shirt, but if he does what he did in training, then there is a chance that he will not be in the red shirt at all,” McGuire said.
Ikin’s clear playability combined with his size can make him a dangerous comeback player in the kicking game as well. For McGuire, it’s a “natural” look.
“I feel good about our returnees, but throwing him in there, he’s just a natural at it,” McGuire said. “He has a big body.”
If he stays ready to play this season, Eakin will have to compete for playing time with the likes of JJ Sparkman, Trey Cleveland, Loic Fuonji and Miles Price.
But for McGuire, avoiding the red shirt would be in Eakin’s best interest, which speaks to how the freshman head coach sees him as a player. Tech fans could soon watch intently as Eakin opened one of them for a touchdown, something he did more often than not as a high school star.
That first opportunity could come as early as Saturday when the Red Raiders and Racers take to the field for a 7:00 pm CT kickoff at Jones AT&T Stadium.
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