Starters Returning: LaAdrian Waddle, Deveric Gallington, Terry McDaniel
Players Lost: Mickey Okafor, Lonnie Edwards, Justin Keown
By the Numbers: The Red Raiders were No.44 nationally in sacks allowed per game last year, but bear in mind that Tech was also No.2 in pass attempts. Pass protection was not a problem for the Red Raiders in 2011.
The Spring Mix: For an offensive line that returns three starters, Texas Tech's blocking unit will look very different than it did a year ago. Forget that line coach Matt Moore is no longer with the team and that Jim Turner lasted less than a week in Camp Lubbock before heading to the NFL, and that a certain Chris Thomsen has settled in to replace him. No, the real story is the personnel on the field.
Deveric Gallington, a fixture at right guard, is now the team's starting center. Terry McDaniel, the starting right tackle from a year ago, now plays right guard. Redshirt freshman Le'Ravin Clark is now penciled in as the starting right tackle, and JUCO transfer Rashad Fortenberry has been brought onboard to challenge consensus 2nd-team All Big 12 left tackle, LaAdrian Waddle.
That's a great deal of juggling and turbulence up front, but this offensive line possesses enough talent and experience to weather the turmoil.
Hard as it may be to believe, Waddle, Gallington and McDaniel are all seniors. And all three have started double-digit games in their Tech careers. They will anchor and lead this group.
Tech coaches, as well as other observers, have spoken of Waddle as an NFL prospect, and there's no reason to back off that praise now. He's not infallible, but he has the footwork, the mobility and the physicality to make it at the next level. When the spirit comes over Waddle, he dominates.
Do not believe for an instant that newcomer Fortenberry will unseat Waddle. If Fortenberry is better than Waddle, then he will move to right tackle and start in place of the freshman Clark, whose starting status is a bit of a surprise. The coaches are obviously high on the Rockdale product and it will be very interesting to see how he actually performs this spring.
Gallington at center is another interesting development. Clearly the Tech coaches are uneasy with the idea of freshman Tony Morales starting at the most mentally demanding position on the line, so the veteran Gallington solves that problem. He's a classic interior bruiser, but it remains to be seen whether he has the lateral quickness to pick up inside blitzers. And interior blitzes are becoming evermore popular with defensive coordinators.
In Beau Carpenter and Terry McDaniel, the Red Raiders will start two six-foot-six guards. That is tall for basketball guards, let alone those of football stripe. Will those skyscrapers be able to maintain good pad level in the running game?
There's certainly no doubting the talent of this duo. Carpenter plays with a nasty streak much like Louis Vasquez, Manny Ramirez, Rylan Reed, Brandon Carter and Stephen Hamby, all fine linemen for the Red Raiders. And McDaniel will easily be among the more athletic guards in the Big 12.
On the whole, this appears to be a very promising unit. But much hinges upon the development of young Clark. Any weakness in the offensive line is one weakness too many, and it will be exploited remorselessly by the opposition. Clark simply must be solid and steady as a freshman. And that's no mean feat.