August 16, 2011

Injuries create OL depth issue

Starting center Justin Keown was injured during Monday's practice and is expected to miss between four weeks and five weeks, according to Texas Tech head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Texas Tech's offensive line could be one of the stronger suits in the 2011 campaign but it has taken some setbacks early. Aside from Keown, high school All-American recruit Tony Morales is out for the year with season-ending shoulder surgery and his twin brother Tony Morales is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury of his own.

Now the Red Raiders are forced to take a good look at depth on the line and understand there's not much behind the starters.

"We're really thin up front," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said Monday while Keown underwent an MRI. "I feel good about six or seven of those guys but we're thin."

Brown added Keown was having the best camp performance on the offensive line along with right guard Deveric Gallington.

With Keown out of the picture for the Red Raiders' Sept. 3 season opener against Texas State and maybe beyond, Gallington has been moved to center and Terry McDaniel takes over the right guard position.

It could make for an interesting situation when Keown returns to center. McDaniel has given Gallington a real run for his money for the starting right guard spot.

For now though, Brown's confidence in six or seven drops to five or six players.

The coaching staff has always said good things about redshirt freshman Beau Carpenter but only senior backup center David Neil has any playing experience whatsoever behind the current five starters.

Redshirt freshman James Polk, sophomore Kyle Clark, true freshmen LeRaven Clark, Matt Wilson and senior walk-on Jonathan Guerra make up the rest of the offensive line corps.

But even at the starting level, Gallington is forced out of position. He's never snapped a football in a game during his playing career.

The decision to start Gallington in favor of Neil and move McDaniel to right guard had been made ahead of time though. Keown missed an earlier fall camp practice with a back problem and the coaching staff put Gallington at center.

Gallington's first time at center was tough to watch early. A couple of snaps were skidders the backfield would have to dive down for but he improved with the more reps he took.

Seth Doege seemed much happier with Gallington's performance in Tuesday's practice but said he will miss the leadership aspect Keown possesses on the field.

"We don't know the full extent on Justin," Doege said after Tuesday's practice. "He's a great guy, he loves this team, he's a leader on this team and it's definitely going to hurt us there because he's so vocal and the guys listen to him. If I know Justin like I do, he'll be back here in no time.

"(Gallington) took snaps all day today, he's doing a lot better. I don't think he's ever snapped before but today he did really well. I can't remember a bad snap during a live team session. He did good today."

Tuberville said he hopes Keown can get back in time for Big 12 Conference play which begins Oct. 1 at Kansas.

"You just hate to lose a guy that's been out here so long and played in so many games," Tuberville said. "Senior leadership, , those types of things. Obviously it's a disadvantage. Hopefully we can get him back, especially before conference play. It just depends on rehab."

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