Like any football team, good, mediocre or bad, Texas Tech has several players whose performance will be particularly critical to the squad's success. These players, whether by virtue of sheer talent, experience, leadership ability, importance of the position played, or depth concerns, 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 weekly series, we will take a reverse order look at the Red Raider football players we consider most invaluable.
Were it not for a heavy dose of bad luck, Alex Torres would be No.6 on this list rather than No.16. All one has to do is recall Torres' history in scarlet and black to verify that statement.
It wasn't so very long ago that the departure of Michael Crabtree, possibly the greatest receiver in Texas Tech history, precipitated a good deal of head scratching about what the Red Raider offense would do without this nonpareil talent. Many folks nominated Detron Lewis as a poor man's Crabtree, but nobody, and I do mean nobody, dared suggest that a guy named Alex Torres would significantly soften the blow of Crabtree's absence.
Well the totally unheralded Air Force transfer did just that in his freshman season. Torres actually led the Red Raiders with 67 receptions and hauled in six touchdown catches, which was tied for second best on the team. It seemed a new star was born.
The star burned even brighter in the spring of 2010 when Torres put together one of the most stellar camps by a Red Raider in recent memory. It is not a stretch to say that Torres was as dominant as Crabtree on the practice field. Tech's defensive backs could do nothing with Torres, and even when a ball was thrown poorly, Torres would pull off a miraculous catch.
New Tech boss Tommy Tuberville was mighty impressed, too. Unfortunately, near the end of spring drills Torres suffered a back injury. At the time few people realized how persistent this injury would be and how negatively it would affect Torres.
From that point on, Torres has simply not been the same player. Indeed, it is a testament to his talent that despite playing at perhaps 70 percent of full health, Torres managed to finish third on the team in catches, yards and touchdown grabs a year ago. Thirty-nine receptions and three TDs, however, is a far cry from what we would have expected from Torres in the spring of 2010.
Be that as it may, and without accurate knowledge of Torres' current health, he does still remain a starter, albeit at an inside rather than his customary outside receiver position.
If Torres has managed to heal up fully, he will be a bombshell in the Big 12 just as he was in 2009. And the Red Raiders, not exactly stacked with proven talent on the inside, could certainly use his considerable talents.
But the reality is that Torres was not exactly a force this past spring. Yes, he made his fair share of catches, but also dropped many others, and did not shine as a blocker as he did in the past. We should also note that Tech's quarterbacks looked to the outside receivers seemingly 80 percent of the time. Is that a commentary on the inside receivers? Hard to say.
What we can say is that with talent such as Jace Amaro and Jakeem Grant arriving in August, Torres had better return to freshman form or he could find himself on the outside looking in when it comes to playing time.