The Elite 18 - No. 15 Mickey Okafor's Joe Yeager takes a look at Texas Tech offensive lineman Mickey Okafor.

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.

Mickey Okafor

During his first two seasons as a Red Raider Mickey Okafor changed positions more often than a yoga instructor on a sugar high. He bounced around to every offensive line position except center without ever seeming to settle into a comfort zone.  Of course, it's hard to get comfortable when you never get a chance to put down roots.

Okafor's days as the Magellan of the offensive line, however, are definitively over. Setting up shop at right tackle in 2010, Okafor quietly garnered 2nd team All Big 12 honors as a junior.  He has clearly found a home.

Okafor was a highly regarded prospect coming out of Houston Westbury, but because of the almost constant moves during his freshman and sophomore campaigns, became something of a forgotten man going into his junior season. Left guard Lonnie Edwards and left tackle LaAdrian Waddle had passed Okafor in terms of hype and publicity. It was therefore somewhat of a surprise to see Okafor emerge as he did in 2010 and pick up the postseason hardware. Heck, he was arguably Tech's best offensive lineman.

So the circle has come full for Okafor and he is once again a player to watch.

He is a solid run-blocking tackle, but pass protection is his specialty. An athletic six-foot-six and 305 pounds, and with a good high school basketball background to boot, Okafor uses his quickness, footwork and wingspan to neutralize speedy pass rushers.

With first-year starter Seth Doege in the saddle at quarterback, veteran offensive linemen, and particularly those who can provide pass protection, will be critical. If Mickey Okafor can turn in a first team All Big 12 performance in 2011, he will be a better friend to Doege than perhaps any receiver on the team.

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