For years, the Texas Tech football program has protected its quarterbacks with some of the largest, most aggressive bodies in the country. It all started back in the Mike Leach era, with the recruitment of big, mean, imposing lineman like Brandon Carter, who became known nation wide for using face paint as a measure of intimidation to compliment his enormous size.
But more importantly, Tech has a recent history of producing NFL talent along the O-line, with players such as Manny Ramirez and Louis Vasquez both playing for the Denver Broncos and competing for a Super Bowl. This year however, Tech has some new faces charged with the burden of protecting star quarterback Davis Webb; here’s a look from inside the trenches at Texas Tech’s big nasties.
Offensive Tackles- At the tackle positions the Red Raiders have more depth and experience than anywhere else along the line. Starting with the left tackle spot, the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Le’Raven Clark will anchor and protect Webb’s blindside for the second consecutive year.
Clark played in all 13 games in 2012, and then went on to start all 13 games in 2013 at left tackle, giving him 26 games worth of experience. In 2013 he was also named to ESPN’s Big 12 All-Bowl team. He’s big and has quick feet, basically the ideal package for a left tackle.
On the other side, Reshod Fortenberry appears to be the best candidate to start at right tackle. After starting every game in 2013 at right tackle for Tech, the 6-foot-5, 285-pound Fortenberry received an additional year of eligibility for medical reasons. He is a guy that spent much of 2012 and 2013 learning and getting better. Now in 2014, Fortenberry possesses solid skill and technique, and is more than capable of coming off the ball quickly.
Clark and Fortenberry will be backed up by the remarkable freshman Poet Thomas, who already stands 6-foot-5 and weighs more than both of them at 335 pounds.
Guards- The interior of the line is less experienced, but still has big, able bodies ready to step up.
After playing in all 13 games and starting 7 at left guard in 2013, James Polk is the Red Raiders ideal option at the left guard position. Polk is one of the biggest lineman on the team, at 6-foot-6, 335 pounds, and he runs well too. Polk has the ability to drive big defensive tackles off the ball, and can be used to pull out in front of screens as a lead blocker.
At right guard, the Raiders will likely start a fresh face in Trey Keenan. Keenan played in all 13 games in 2013, but primarily as a special teams player, he made no starts on the offensive line. But after an impressive spring Keenan has inserted himself atop the roster. He has decent size at 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, but his intelligence might have been the reason for his expected success. Keenan has shown he can play multiple positions along the line, as well as understanding defensive blitz packages.
Polk and Keenan will be backed up by Alfredo Morales, a junior who can play any of the interior three positions. Morales has spent time in the program and has a good understanding of the Red Raiders offensive attack, if Polk or Keenan go down, Morales can get the job done.
Center- At center, the Red Raiders return Jared Kaster, who started every game in 2013. Kaster played well in 2013 and continued his solid play through the spring. He is a leader along the offensive line and a expert at reading defenses, and getting his guys set accordingly.
On top of this, Kaster and Webb have a good relationship and together, have displayed ball security. Ball security between a center and quarterback are key for any offense to succeed.
Kaster will be backed up by another Morales brother. Tony Morales has also been in the program for a few years and has light game experience. Look for him to play special teams and be a solid second option at the center position.
Overall expectations– With a decent amount of playing time experience along the line, Texas Tech could have the right formula to be one of the dominant o-line’s in the Big 12 conference. Tech’s offensive performance and the success of Davis Webb will really depend on this groups ability to block up front. By themselves, they all have the size and are more than capable individuals, but can they play as a disciplined unit? If they can come together, play fast and smart, the Red Raiders have potential to compete for a Big 12 title.