January 12, 2009
Yeager: Examining The Carter Shuffle
Texas Tech offensive line coach Matt Moore's job one is to make sure that the Red Raider quarterback is upright and comfortable at all times. Toward that end, he will experiment with moving Brandon Carter, the team's best returning offensive lineman, to left tackle, which is the most important position in Tech's line.
This move has provoked a few critical comments. Carter, after all, received some All-American notice at the right guard position. Why, therefore, disrupt a good thing? And does Carter really have the physical tools to play effectively at left tackle?
Those are perfectly valid questions and concerns. Nevertheless, I predict this will prove to be a tremendously successful switcheroo by Moore and that it will work to Carter's benefit in all sorts of ways. And to the Tech football team's, as well.
To begin with, Carter is actually more suited to the tackle position than guard. At a towering six-foot-seven (the same height as graduated left tackle Rylan Reed), Carter has the ideal frame to play tackle. Carter has the long arms to grapple with speedy pass rushers, and when he delivers a "punch" and keeps the rusher at arm's length, he is giving the quarterback a nice comfort zone in which to operate.
Carter is also incredibly athletic and has tremendous footwork. For a man of his immensity, he is incredibly light on his feet and plays in space better than any Tech offensive lineman in recent memory. These traits will work very much to his advantage at tackle where he will be isolated against extremely athletic defensive ends and linebackers who will try to defeat him with speed and quickness. Those defenders will be in for a rude awakening.
Additionally, Carter is one of the most intelligent players on the entire Tech roster. He should, therefore, be able to pick up the nuances of his new position and to learn his new assignments very quickly.
One area in which Carter will need to improve is all around strength. He's no Rylan Reed or Louis Vasquez when it comes to upper body torque, but then again, this was a greater liability at guard where he was forced to repel brute-strong bull-rushers than it will be at tackle where speed and quickness is the name of the game. So again, win-win.
Now what does the move of Carter mean to the offensive line in general? Assuming Carter masters the left tackle position effectively, he will team up with Marlon Winn to secure both starting tackle posts. That leaves the interior positions to be filled.
Shawn Byrnes is a past starter at center, and, presumably, will get first crack at resuming that role. Chris Olson, however, is a talented and versatile offensive lineman who has gotten some repetitions at center and impressed Moore in that capacity.
The only thing certain about Olson is that he will start. Whether he starts at center or guard depends on how well Byrnes performs in spring and fall workouts. If Byrnes develops into a solid pass protector then he will secure the center position and Olson will start at a guard position. If not, then Olson will be the starting center and your two starting guards will likely come from the foursome of Lonnie Edwards, Deveric Gallington, Justin Keown and Joe King.
Of that group, Keown, a junior, will be the only player who is not a freshman. In other words, the Red Raiders really need Byrnes to come along so that Olson can start at guard and provide a veteran, steadying influence.
A final note about the move of Carter to left tackle: it is not necessarily permanent. If Moore does not like what he sees on the interior he can always move Carter back to guard and take his chances with a Mickey Okafor, a Terry McDaniel, or even a Chris Olson at left tackle. The bet here, however, is that left tackle is Carter's permanent new home and all but the opposition will be better off because of it.
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