Texas Tech’s Kosi Eldridge eyes healthy return from rough end to 2021


Kosi Eldridge is gearing up for his last year of college football in 2022, and the Texas Tech linebacker says he hasn’t been this excited for a season since probably the first year he ever played.

Eldridge has three years of Big 12 experience, he’s in the two-deep for Joey McGuire’s team and his head is clear again. The latter is no small consideration, given that Eldridge wouldn’t wish his last three months of 2021 on someone else.

Early in the fourth quarter of Tech’s Oct. 2 game at West Virginia, Eldridge and Tech safety Adrian Frye were sprinting from opposite directions to converge on Mountaineers receiver Winston Wright. Eldridge, chasing the play from the box, hit Wright near the far sideline. A split second later, Frye, coming up from the deep secondary, blasted them both.

Eldridge remained down, flat on his back, as Tech medical staff attended him.

It’s the kind of play that happens many a Saturday, after which the announcers up in the booth throw it to commercial break and the game goes on a few minutes later. For Eldridge, the concussion experience was just beginning.

“Yeah, it was scary,” he said Thursday. “That was scary for me, because I’ve had concussions in the past. I’ve never had one affect me the way it did afterwards like that.”

Eldridge watched the play later, only because he didn’t remember it.

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“I don’t watch it anymore,” he said, “but I didn’t know what happened. So I watched the play on film the next day to see what happened.”

The 6-foot, 233-pound Denton Ryan product returned four Saturdays later. He made a couple of tackles against Oklahoma, a couple more against Iowa State. And when the Red Raiders routed Mississippi State in the season-ending Liberty Bowl, he made a tackle and caused a fumble.

But if all appeared back to normal in Eldridge’s life, it was an illusion. November and early December were a scramble.

Initially, Eldridge planned to file for “incomplete” status on nine of the 12 credit hours in his fall-semester classes, then finish the coursework during the break between semesters. However, he had to pass those classes within the semester to be eligible for the bowl game.

“Even after I was playing, I still wasn’t really allowed to do school that much,” he said, “because all my classes were online. They didn’t want me to be on the screen that long. So that last week of school, I was working all day, all night, finishing all my work up and I ended up getting all my classes passed and finished. It was hard, but I did it.”

The symptoms subsided. Eldridge went through spring practice. The Red Raiders started preseason practice on Friday, and running back SaRodorick Thompson, for one, can’t wait to see what his buddy can do. Eldridge said his roommate, defensive tackle Jaylon Hutchings, and Thompson helped him get through the rough stretch last fall.

When both are feeling fine, Thompson and Eldridge have squared off over a chess board and on the basketball court. When illuminated screens were forbidden for Eldridge — a short time for schoolwork, but no television or video games — Hutchings and Thompson were around to keep him company and keep his spirits up.

“Kosi’s a resilient dude, man,” Thompson said. “He’s gone through two shoulder surgeries, that bad concussion. He’s been going through a lot. But he knows what type of football player he is. He knows who he is as a person, so he’s going to be fine. He knows he’s going to be fine. And now we finally get to see what Kosi can bring to the table.”

More:Joey McGuire expresses confidence in rebuilt Texas Tech linebacker corps

Eldridge has played in 30 games, starting two, since he transferred to Tech from Kilgore College. He’s mostly been a multi-faceted backup, and Thompson says Eldridge deserves to go out with a good year.

“Kosi’s been dealt a crap hand,” Thompson said. “He’s been behind (Colin) Schooler. He’s been behind Riko (Jeffers) for the past two, three years and he’s had those injuries.

“Now we get to see who Kosi actually is. Kosi’s a stud, man. He’s one of the most versatile players I’ve seen, that I have seen, period.”

The latest example of Eldridge’s versatility came this summer. He spent most of spring practice as the backup to Marquis “Muddy” Waters at the Star position, a combo outside linebacker/safety/slot corner. Coaches have since moved him to weak-side linebacker, where he’s second team behind newcomer Dimitri Moore.

No problem, Eldridge says, considering the number of positions he’s played between high school and college.

“The good thing is Star taught me a lot of coverage things that I needed to know that are helping me at will (weak-side linebacker),” he said. “And will and Star have a lot of similarities. Since I’ve been here, I’ve played safety, I’ve played nickel, I’ve played linebacker, so it didn’t make a big difference.

“I’m actually super excited to play will, because I think me and Mud (Waters) on the opposite side is going to be something special.”

Now Eldridge just wants to play all 12 regular-season games and whatever comes after that.

He says he has no reservations about soldiering in football after his concussion experience.

“There’s no concern about that. The only person who’s concerned about that is my mother,” he said with a chuckle. “Yeah, we’ll be fine.”

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