Like any football team, good, mediocre or bad, Texas Tech has several players whose play will be particularly critical to the squad's success. These players, whether by virtue experience, leadership ability, importance of the position played, depth concerns, or sheer talent, 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 series, we will take a reverse order look at the Red Raider football players we consider most invaluable.
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Redshirt freshman Le'Raven Clark is hardly the most accomplished player on the team right now. But he is listed as a starter at a very important position, and that is why he is one of the most important players on the team.
Clark would not be in the starting lineup—despite his utter inexperience—unless the coaching staff believed he had worlds of talent. It would have been the easiest thing to shuffle offensive line personnel, place Terry McDaniel at right tackle, and stash Clark on the second unit behind McDaniel.
But that's not what Tommy Tuberville, Neal Brown and Chris Thomsen felt like they should do with one of their most talented offensive players. Instead, the idea was to get Clark tons of reps this past spring against Tech's best defensive players.
The logic behind this decision was that a baptism by fire would quicken Clark's development and whip him into a legitimate starting Big 12 offensive lineman. And if Clark faltered, there would still be the option of moving McDaniel (or current backup left tackle Rashad Fortenberry) to right tackle.
So how did Clark fare in the spring?
There's no denying the fact he struggled considerably. Clark faced off against Dartwan Bush, Tech's premiere pass rusher, and lost more battles than he won. Bush spent an awful lot of time whispering sweet nothings through Seth Doege and Michael Brewer's earholes.
But Clark did show signs of improvement late in the spring. He seemed to stabilize as a borderline competent starter in the offensive line.
That may sound like faint praise, but it's not. For, if Clark can continue to take baby steps through fall camp and non-conference play, he may indeed be able to start against Big 12 competition.
And that would be huge because Clark is what the Tech coaches want in a right tackle. His solidification, moreover, would obviate the need to play musical linemen, and in turn, would help the line gel more quickly.