March 16, 2012

Midway Report: OL

What we knew heading into spring:

We knew the Texas Tech offensive line would be much different in the spring than it was in the 2011 season.

Justin Keown, Lonnie Edwards and Mickey Okafor have graduated and it's time for younger players to step up and make an impact.

Le'Raven Clark, a 6-foot-3, 309-pound right tackle, almost played last season before the offensive coaching staff determined it was in the team's best interest to redshirt him and keep him around an extra season. Terry McDaniel, a 6-foot-6, 329-pounder, got a lot of experience last season filling in for Keown and Okafor injuries at various points in the season and Beau Carpenter finally would get a chance to shine as a potential starter.

The newcomers join Deveric Gallington, a senior who will start for the first time ever at center, and left LaAdrian Waddle who could be an NFL Draft pick in 2013.

Behind the starting offensive line are guys like the Morales twins in Tony Morales and Alfredo Morales, Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College transfer Rashad Fortenberry and early enrollee Jared Kaster to give help the Red Raiders form a second line of depth.

Due to Clark's redshirting, the injuries to the Morales twins and fact Fortenberry and Kaster had not even been signed yet, everything we didn't know much about the offensive line prior to the spring workouts save Gallington and Waddle.

Things changed from a coaching standpoint from 2011 to 2012 as well. Former offensive line coach Matt Moore was let go shortly after the end of the 2011 season and Texas A&M offensive line coach Jim Turner was hired. Turner subsequently resigned to join his former boss, Mike Sherman, on the Miami Dolphin football staff.

Tech reacted by hiring former Abilene Christian University head coach Chris Thomsen from Arizona State after Thomsen's very short offseason stint with Sun Devil head coach Todd Graham just before spring ball began.

What we know about the offensive line at the midway point:

The offensive line has a long way to go to become the unit it needs to be by September.

It didn't come as much as a surprise.

Gallington is much better at snapping the ball than he was in the Oklahoma and Missouri games, but the Red Raiders are struggling to find a second team center. Tony Morales and Kaster keep flip-flopping for the second team duty.

As a whole, the offensive line has struggled to hold an improving defensive line and a vastly improved linebacker corps at bay and that's hindered the offense's progress almost as badly as the loss of Eric Stephens, Eric Ward and Alex Torres.

It is worth noting though that the offensive line has turned it around a little during the past three practices and the offense as a whole has benefited for its best three practices of the 10 practices thus far.

No one expected the offensive line to have it together in March, but they're going to have to continue to improve during the next five practices and fall camp if the Red Raider offense is going to float the boat for Tech as the defense comes along. There's a lot to like about the offensive line, it just has not come together yet.

Projecting the offseason:

While all the offensive linemen have something to gain this summer, an offseason with Joe Walker is going to help Kaster and Foster get with the program from a strength and conditioning standpoint.

The Red Raiders also will add Trey Keenan who helped his Argyle (Texas) football team to a State Championship game appearance. He could be a factor for the offensive line from day one.

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