February 15, 2012

Spring Preview: Offensive Line

2011 RECAP

The Texas Tech offensive line was supposed to be a strong suit on the 2011 season, but didn't even make it out of the chute.

Problems started when highly touted recruits Tony Morales and Alfredo Morales suffered season-ending shoulder injuries early into fall camp. But that was only a problem from a depth perspective because the Red Raiders had five established starters returning on the offensive line.

But problems really started when starting center Justin Keown tore his ACL just a couple of days later and was sidelined until the beginning of Big 12 Conference play.

Tech didn't really have a back up answer at center, but Terry McDaniel was adequate in games against Texas State, New Mexico and Nevada.

But from a fan standpoint, it became evidently clear the Red Raiders supposed immense depth on the offensive line didn't exist. Tech had five quality starters and two good back ups in McDaniel and Beau Carpenter.

Enter the Oklahoma game. Keown aggravated his knee injury on the third play of the game and starting right tackle Mickey Okafor had injury issues of his own which put McDaniel at right tackle to start the game.

Starting guard Deveric Gallington moved to center and quarterback Seth Doege nearly got nominated for a Golden Glove award in the Red Raiders' surprising -- and final -- victory of the season.

With Keown and Okafor already battling injuries and out of the lineup, left guard Lonnie Edwards went down with a pretty bad looking injury at Missouri where the Red Raiders were within a touchdown of bowl eligibility later in the game. It was one of three injuries the Red Raiders suffered on the Missouri turf that day.

So when all was said and done three of five Tech starters were either entirely out of the lineup or very limited down the final stretch of the season with no depth behind them.

Still, the Red Raiders' offensive line was adequate throughout the 2011 season.

Gallington got his snaps up and a couple of unlikely backups, like David Neal, came in and filled nicely.

Doege was sacked 19 times on 600 passing attempts and a crippled running game had run for 1,502 yards behind the line.

WHAT TO EXPECT

First of all, it's going to be interesting to see what new offensive line coach Chris Thomsen can do with the offensive line this spring.

He has a lot of good tools to work with in replacing everyone but Gallington and potential NFL Draft pick La'Adrian Waddle.

First, the Morales brothers are at full strength after responding very well to their rehabilitation sessions and Le'Raven Clark, who almost played last season as a true freshman, is out of his redshirt year.

James Polk and Kyle Clark also could break out during the 2012 spring to add some sound depth.

Then of course you have McDaniel who will probably get the right tackle spot and Carpenter is a likely candidate to start after a couple of spot starts last season.

Each Tech offensive lineman is fairly versatile, but no one has any real experience playing center. That's where early enrollee Jared Kaster might be able to make a difference.

Kaster enrolled at Tech in January as the No. 5 high school center in the country. If he can have a good spring, it's possible he'll back up Gallington during the regular season. It will be interesting to watch him during the spring practice sessions.

Another guy to watch early is Rashad Fortenberry, an offensive tackle transfer from Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College. He might be able to contribute somewhere on the line as well and can at least add depth.

It's unlikely the Red Raiders will suffer as many injuries in the offensive line department as they did last season, but at least there's a little more depth to work with in 2012.

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