Inside receiver McLane Mannix, a newcomer to the Texas Tech football program has been named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list.
Texas Tech football fans likely don’t know much about new inside receiver McLane Mannix but that could change if he becomes the type of player in Lubbock that he has been the last two years while playing for Nevada. After two standout seasons with the Wolf Pack, Mannix is now ready to take the field for the Red Raiders and he will do so as a member of the Biletnikoff Award watch list.
Given annually to the nation’s top receiver, the Biletnikoff Award is one of the most coveted individual trophies in college football. Past winners include some of the game’s all-time best receivers including Randy Moss of Marshal (1997), Larry Fitzgerald of Pitt (2003), Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech (2006), and former Red Raider great Michael Crabtree (2007-08). Crabtree is the only Red Raider to win the award and one of only two players to take home the Biletnikoff in back to back seasons joining Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon (2010-11).
Mannix has yet to reach those heights but he’s been impressive in his two years as a collegiate. In 2017, the Midland native amassed 778 yards and 6 touchdowns on his way to earning freshman All-American honors. Last year, he surpassed those numbers with 875 yards and 7 touchdowns while averaging 17.5 yards per reception.
After being granted a waiver by the NCAA, Mannix will not have to sit out this season despite being an undergraduate transfer. That is fantastic news to a Red Raider offense that will be looking for new playmakers at inside receiver.
Neither of the 2018 starters in the slot will be back there this fall for Matt Wells’ team. Ja’Deion High, Tech’s second-leading receiver last season with 804 yards exhausted his eligibility last fall and Seth Collins, who had 317 yards and two touchdowns, has moved back to his natural position at outside receiver.
Of course, one of the inside receiver spots will be manned primarily by a true tight end this year in the new offense of OC David Yost. But the other slot receiver position is up for grabs.
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Mannix will likely be competing with sophomore KeSean Carter who had 28 receptions for 238 yards and a touchdown last year. But after pulling in at least four passes in six of Tech’s first seven games, Carter caught only one pass in each of the next two games before missing the final three contests of the season.
Carter brings an intriguing element to the football field; elite speed. Also a sprinter on the Texas Tech track team, Carter is a player that Tech will try to isolate in space in hopes that his speed can be a game-changer.
Mannix does not have that type of speed but he has proven to be a big-play receiver. Thus far, he has five touchdown receptions of 50 yards or longer including a career-long of 75 yards.
Manufacturing big plays is something Tech will have to focus on this year after losing last season’s top big-play threat, Antoine Wesley, who skipped his 2018 season to enter the NFL. Fortunately, there are a number of potential home run threats on the roster.
In addition to Mannix and Carter, wide receiver T.J. Vasher has the size to make plays down the field with his 6-foot-5 frame. Meanwhile, sophomore running back Ta’Zhawn Henry has the explosiveness to be a game-breaker as well.
Mannix seems a bit of a long shot to actually win the Biletnikoff though. For its entire existence, the award has been essentially an outside receiver award. And it is extremely difficult to be included as one of the finalists for the award as Wesley learned last year when he was not one of the three finalists despite putting up the third-most yards in Red Raider history.
But what is most important is the understanding that Mannix is a key addition to the Texas Tech football program. And if he comes anywhere close to being a contender for the Biletnikoff Award, he could make the Red Raider offense nearly unstoppable.