Like any football team, good, mediocre or bad, Texas Tech
has several players whose play will be particularly critical to the squad’s
success. These players, whether by virtue experience, leadership ability, importance
of the position played, depth concerns, or sheer talent, are especially
crucial. They may or not be the best players on the club, but they would be
very conspicuous were they to be absent for any reason. In fact, that may be
the best way to conceive of the critical players—they are the performers
the team could least afford to lose.
With this series, we will take a reverse order look at the
Red Raider football players we consider most invaluable.
6’ 3” 310
Redshirt freshman Le’Raven Clark
is hardly the most accomplished player on the team right now. But he is listed
as a starter at a very important position, and that is why he is one of the
most important players on the team.
Clark would not be in the starting lineup—despite his
utter inexperience—unless the coaching staff believed he had worlds of
talent. It would have been the easiest thing to shuffle offensive line
personnel, place Terry McDaniel at right tackle, and stash Clark on the second
unit behind McDaniel.
But that’s not what Tommy Tuberville, Neal Brown and Chris
Thomsen felt like they should do with one of their most talented offensive
players. Instead, the idea was to get Clark tons of reps this past spring
against Tech’s best defensive players.
The logic behind this decision was that a baptism by fire
would quicken Clark’s development and whip him into a legitimate starting Big
12 offensive lineman. And if Clark faltered, there would still be the option of
moving McDaniel (or current backup left tackle Rashad
Fortenberry) to right tackle.
So how did Clark fare in the spring?
There’s no denying the fact he struggled considerably. Clark
faced off against Dartwan Bush, Tech’s premiere pass
rusher, and lost more battles than he won. Bush spent an awful lot of time
whispering sweet nothings through Seth Doege and Michael Brewer’s earholes.
But Clark did show signs of improvement late in the spring.
He seemed to stabilize as a borderline competent starter in the offensive line.
That may sound like faint praise, but it’s not. For, if
Clark can continue to take baby steps through fall camp and non-conference
play, he may indeed be able to start against Big 12 competition.
And that would be huge because Clark is what the Tech
coaches want in a right tackle. His solidification, moreover, would obviate the
need to play musical linemen, and in turn, would help the line gel more