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July 26, 2012
Preview: OL is a question mark
The Red Raiders must replace two starters from last year's team in left guard Lonnie Edwards and center Justin Keown, although Keown only started eight games due to injury. The unit is also entering its first under offensive line coach, and former Abilene Christian head coach, Chris Thomsen.
Thomsen inherits a unit that is more experienced than most assume -- especially on the front line -- but still needs time to gel as a unit. Left tackle LaAdrian Waddle is a three-year starter, right tackle Terry McDaniel started nine games in 2011 and center Deveric Gallington has a number of starts under his belt but only one at center. Tech's offensive line is further boosted by the transfer of former Texas A&M starter Brian Thomas, who started 25 games for the Aggies before transferring this summer.
Redshirt freshman Le'Raven Clark is the only projected starter with no college football experience.
Gallington's continued development at center is also a huge question heading into camp. He filled in for an injured Justin Keown at points last season -- including most of the Oklahoma upset -- and entered the 2011-12 offseason as the Red Raiders' starting center. He had some low snaps early this spring, but those should be resolved after doing a lot of one-on-one work with Doege.
The experience and talent is there for the Red Raiders' offensive line to have a good season this fall, but it will all depend on the group's chemistry and the leadership of Gallington. With Thomas still finishing up the semester at A&M, and Clark just getting his feet wet, the offensive line struggled at points this spring. That was somewhat expected, but the will need to take a big step in camp and during the team's non-conference if they want to have success against Big 12 opponents.
[ More RRS: Thomsen feels good about eight guys up front ]
"We have an offensive line that I trust will get the job done," quarterback Seth Doege said. "The new offensive line coach, Chris Thomsen, has a lot of experience and he is working with some good players up there. I think we're going to be fine."
Depth is somewhat of a concern this season as none of the players listed on the second level of the team's official pre-camp depth chart saw any meaningful action last year.
Tony Morales and Alfredo Morales, coming off of redshirt seasons, impressed this spring. Midterm transfer Rashad Fortenberry, who signed with Tech out of Gulf Coast Community College in December, still needs to add weight but should be a serviceable No. 2 this season.
NEW FACES: Thomas may be the first Texas A&M player to transfer directly to Tech in the modern era of college football. He took advantage of an NCAA rule that allows players to transfer and receive immediate eligibility as long as they have obtained a bachelor's degree and enroll in a graduate school program not offered at their original university.
[ More RRS: Who will start for Texas Tech at left guard? ]
Fortenberry was a nice get for the Red Raiders because he has two years of playing experience beyond the high school level. If McDaniel or Waddle goes down with an injury, Fortenberry should be serviceable in fill-in duty.
Tech added high school offensive tackle Trey Keenan and Rivals.com's fifth-ranked center prospect in Jared Kaster. Both players are expected to redshirt.
PRESSURE IS ON: Deveric Gallington. Gallington's performance will largely determine how well the offensive line performs as a unit, which in turn will dictate how smoothly the offense as a whole operates. He filled in admirably last season as a late fill-in for an injured Justin Keown, despite having limited experience at center. Gallington's biggest issue then, and at points this spring, was getting the football back to Seth Doege in the shotgun.
BIGGEST QUESTION: How quickly will the Red Raiders' offensive line mesh? LaAdrian Waddle, Deveric Gallington and Terry McDaniel have all started games for Tech, but only Waddle started all 12 games last season at his current position. There will be a new starter at left guard, either Beau Carpenter or Brian Thomas, and presumed starting right guard Le'Raven Clark is fresh off of a redshirt season.