Probable Starters: Le’Raven Clark, 6’ 5” 305, sophomore, Rockdale, Texas; Beau Carpenter, 6’ 6” 285, junior, Sulphur Springs, Texas;
Jared Kaster, 6’ 3” 270, sophomore, Altair, Texas;
Alfredo Morales, 6’ 3” 300, sophomore, Arlington, Texas; Trey Keenan, 6’ 6”
280, freshman, Argyle, Texas
Backups: Tony Morales, 6’ 3” 300, sophomore, Arlington, Texas; James Polk, 6’ 6” 330, Junior,
Houston, Texas; Matt Wilson, 6’ 6” 270, sophomore, Coldspring,
Texas; Kyle Clark, 6’ 5” 285, senior, Denton, Texas; Rashad
Fortenberry, 6’ 5” 275, senior, Tylertown,
Battle: What the heck happens at right tackle? This is the biggest
personnel problem on the offensive side of the ball and it may not be resolved
until game time against SMU.
Texas Tech’s offensive line situation is one of rags and
riches. On the positive side, there is bona fide talent in the starting lineup.
Left tackle Le’Raven Clark has as much ability as
recently departed LaAdrian Waddle. Left guard Beau
Carpenter is a solid veteran who may be ready to come into his own. Jared Kaster is a smart player and a great technician, which is
what you need at the center position. And right guard Alfredo Morales is a
nasty brawler who can help make the running game go.
But beyond that quartet there are grave concerns. Four
players are nowhere near enough to form a competent offensive line.
Particularly in the Big 12 where the number of snaps is tremendous and the
heavy jumbos are apt to get gassed. (That problem will be compounded,
incidentally, if what we hear about the ultra-high tempo of Tech’s offense
under Kliff Kingsbury is true.)
Before addressing depth issues, however, there is the little
matter of finding a starting right tackle. Frankly, there is not a candidate in
camp at this moment who will help Tech’s offensive brass sleep well at night.
Who is the likely starter? Pull a name out of the hat. You
may just be right.
I’ve penciled in redshirt freshman Trey Keenan simply
because he has the frame for the position, and appears to have some ability.
But he has no experience at all, and if the current roster is accurate, remains
rather light in the pantaloons.
If not Keenan, whom? Sophomore Matt Wilson is a possibility,
but he’s even more gravitationally challenged than Keenan, and doesn’t have
much more experience. Senior Kyle Clark hasn’t scratched in his first three
seasons in Lubbock, so there’s not much reason to believe he will do so now. Rashad Fortenberry looked iffy at
left tackle during the summer of 2012; will he fare any better on the right
side? James Polk is an intriguing prospect, but he has played his entire Tech
career inside; does he have the quickness to handle defensive ends on the edge?
Barring the rapid development of one of the above, or a huge
impact from one of the newcomers in August, the best solution could be moving
Carpenter from left guard to right tackle and allowing Polk to slide into the
starting lineup at Carpenter’s old spot. Carpenter has every tool needed to do
the job at right tackle, and he’s a smart, experienced, versatile performer.
If and when right tackle gets squared away, there still
remains the matter of depth. Of the 10 players expected to vie for spots in the
rotation, five are sophomores and one is a freshman. And among that group,
three players are currently listed at less than 280 pounds. Whether Kingsbury
and his offensive staff can find eight legitimate Big 12 offensive linemen from
those presently camp is questionable. That being the case, Tech needs to hit a
grand slam with its incoming offensive line class.