Brian Thomas’ departure from the Texas Tech program, and
Matt Wilson’s season-ending injury have thinned the ranks of the offensive
line, but they certainly have not clarified the rotation for 2012. If anything,
this situation may be even more turbid than it was before.
Of the two losses’, Thomas’ hurts more.
Now before the knee injury, Wilson was listed as Terry McDaniel’s backup at right tackle. But it is doubtful whether the redshirt
freshman would actually have been in the rotation. At six-foot-six and only 270
pounds, Wilson was long on length but very short on heft. One suspects that if
McDaniel suffered an injury, Le’Raven Clark would
have moved out to replace him rather Wilson. Nevertheless, it is never good to
lose a potential competitor in the offensive line, and Wilson would have been
Brian Thomas was a very different story. The transfer from
Texas A&M was a talented, and more important, experienced player who bulked
very large in the plans for Texas Tech’s offensive line.
Before Thomas’ departure, offensive coordinator Neal Brown
stated, “Based on his film and his performance from last season I think he’s
got a chance to compete and get in that starting five.”
In losing Brian Thomas the Red Raiders lost not only a
player who would have been in the rotation, but one
who very well may have started. His unexpected absence creates a ripple effect
on the line, but not exactly a tsunami. And that is because there is very good
depth in the offensive line’s interior.
Prior to Thomas leaving, here is how Brown summed up the
“One of the biggest competitions we’re gonna have in camp is
for that left guard spot. You’ve got Brian Thomas coming in, but you’ve also
got Beau Carpenter and Alfredo Morales that have more experience in this
offense. Brian’s got more experience playing Big 12 football games, but Beau
Carpenter and Alfredo Morales have more experience in this offense, and I think
that’s gonna be one of the most highly contested positions. One of them will
eventually have to flip over and be the backup right guard or compete for that
right guard spot.”
With Thomas gone, the situation has changed markedly, but
still looks quite good. As Brown stated, one of those left guards did indeed
flip to the right side, and it was Alfredo Morales who did the flipping. He is
now battling with Le’Raven Clark for starting honors
at that position.
But what about depth at left guard with
only Beau Carpenter remaining? Fortunately, big James Polk has stepped in
to fill the breach.
At six-foot-six and 330 pounds, the sophomore from Alief is as massive as any player on the Tech roster.
Indeed, he is the same size as left tackle LaAdrian
Waddle, but looks even larger. Polk has always battled conditioning problems,
but appears to be in better shape now than before. At any rate, he should be
more than an adequate substitute for Carpenter.
Despite struggling mightily in the spring while playing
tackle, the aforementioned Le’Raven Clark is still
very much a favorite of Tech’s coaches.
“Le’Raven is a guy I’m excited to
see,” Brown declares. “He’s really grown. I mean, he
was 240 pounds when we recruited him. He’s about 305 now. And he’s athletic and
he’s exactly what we’re looking for when we’re recruitin’
In other words, Clark is a prototype. But he’s a very
inexperienced prototype. Alfredo Morales, who played some as a true freshman,
and is a talented player in his own right, will push Clark very hard indeed.
The center position, which was arguably a question mark
entering fall camp, is now turning into a source of strength. The starter is
senior Deveric Gallington,
and Brown has always been confident in him.
will be our starting center and I feel very comfortable with him. He’s played a
lot of football here. He’s progressing with his snaps. He had a good three or four scrimmages that we had in the spring; I
don’t think he had any bad snaps. That was a good sign,” Brown asserts.
“He’s got game experience at center. He started the Iowa State game and played all but one play of the Oklahoma game, so he’s been there
and done that in big games. He knows the offense. He’s a very smart football
player. He works hard away from here so he’ll be able to handle identifying the
fronts and identifying things like that as far as the center goes. “
But as good as Gallington may be,
the competition between him and Tony Morales is very real. Speaking of Morales’
play late in the spring, Brown states “he came on, particularly the last five
practices of the spring, I was excited about his development and I’m excited to
see how he’s gonna continue that development over the summer.”
And in a recent post-practice statement Brown upped the
ante, stating that Morales is pushing Gallington very
hard for the starting role. Were Morales to unseat Gallington,
it would be a case of a freshman ousting a senior.
Left tackle is the most stable position on the line. LaAdrian Waddle is the starter and Rashad
Fortenberry backs him up. There may be some uncertainty
about Fortenberry’s ability to fill in for Waddle,
but he will be given every opportunity to do so in the event Waddle is unable
to go for some reason.
That is where Texas Tech’s offensive line stands at the
moment. Talent and experience are quite abundant in the two-deep, but with the
departure of Brian Thomas and Matt Wilson, the Red Raiders can ill afford any
further injuries, especially at tackle.