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March 13, 2013

Preview: All eyes on the OL

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If there's one concern with the Texas Tech offense in 2013, it's the offensive line.

The Red Raiders must replace three starters, including both tackles, and depth is a major concern for a third consecutive season. There just aren't enough bodies here until the Class of 2013 enrolls for summer courses.

The Red Raiders open the spring needing to replace three starters up front, but a lack of depth seems to be a bigger, more immediate concern than the team's front-line players. LaAdrian Waddle and Beau Carpenter are Big 12 tested and proven, Jared Kaster showed flashes in spot duty last season, and James Polk and Rashad Fortenberry seem capable enough. Unfortunately, there isn't much depth behind them at this point, which could make for a difficult spring.
The Basics
Returning Starters: Le'Raven Clark (13), Beau Carpenter (9), Alfredo Morales (4)

Others Returning: Kyle Clark, Rashad Fortenberry, Conner Grooms, Jared Kaster, Trey Keenan, Tony Morales, James Polk, Matt Wilson

Departures: Deveric Gallington (Graduation), Terry McDaniel (Graduation), LaAdrian Waddle (Graduation)
Notable 2012 Statistics
• Texas Tech's offensive line allowed 1.46 sacks per game, the program's lowest average since the 2008 team logged just one sack per game.

• The Red Raiders 4.56 yards per carry average was its highest since 2008.

• Aside from the three returning starters, the rest of the returning offensive linemen combined to play in a total of 11 games in 2012.
It's another situation where the starting five players are expected to be adequate, but depth is completely exhausted around the eighth-best player on the line.

The entire offense will be anchored by sophomore Le'Raven Clark at left tackle after the 6-foot-5, 303-pounder spent last season at right guard. It sounds cliché, but Clark will be protecting quarterback Michael Brewer's blindside. Fortunately for Tech, Clark has one year of experience and succeeded at right guard last year.

Beau Carpenter started nine games at left guard last season and is expected to retain his spot; a fourth-year junior, he's the grizzled veteran of the group.

Sophomore Jared Kaster should begin the spring as the first-team center. He will be replacing Deveric Gallington, but actually played in favor of Gallington at times last season. Rivals.com's No. 5 center in the Class of 2012, the 6-foot-3, 271-pound player is a natural center and showed promise in 2012.

Former JUCO transfer Rashad Fortenberry is expected to begin spring practice as the Red Raiders' top right tackle and rising junior James Polk -- who has played in nine career games -- will start out at right guard.

The Morales twins could factor in somewhere if healthy. Alfredo Morales and Tony Morales have been plagued by injuries in their first two seasons at Tech. Shoulder injuries causes them to redshirt in 2011, Tony Morales missed most of the 2012 season with another shoulder injury and Alfredo Morales was injured late last season. Their availability for the spring is questionable.

Matt Wilson's availability is also up in the air. He sustained a knee injury last fall which sidelined him for the entire season.

With the Morales brothers and Wilson potentially limited or unavailable, Trey Keenan will need to have a big spring. The Argyle product impressed during his redshirt season, and now has an opportunity to push for playing time in his first spring on campus.

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PRESSURE IS ON: Clark will move from right guard, where he started 13 games in 2012, to the most important position on the offensive line -- left tackle -- for the 2013 season. There is no doubting his talent or ability, but Clark will be thrust into a very prominent role relatively early on in his collegiate career. There are others on the offensive line with perhaps more to prove this spring, but the spotlight will be on Clark.

BIGGEST QUESTION: Who emerges on the right side of the offensive line? The left side, with Clark at left tackle and Carpenter at left guard, doesn't seem like a huge question mark. Things are more fluid on the right side, although Polk (guard) and Fortenberry (tackle) will likely start out the spring running with the first team.

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