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.
5' 10" 195
Given the tremendous depth of Texas Tech's receiving corps, and the precarious shape of the Red Raider backfield, the temptation to return former running back Bradley Marquez to his old position will be strong. With any luck, Tommy Tuberville and offensive coordinator Neal Brown will resist that temptation.
Marquez, a sophomore from Odessa, has split time between running back and receiver in his young Texas Tech career. And while Marquez has looked serviceable carrying the ball, catching it will be his ticket to stardom.
Over the course of this past spring camp, Marquez emerged as Tech's most consistent, and arguably its best receiver. Eric Ward and Alex Torres sat out the spring, but Marquez's accomplishment was still impressive. Even with Ward and Torres on the field, Marquez is one of Tech's best offensive weapons.
Marquez looks to be building on a solid freshman campaign which saw him catch 25 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown. His 9.6 yards per reception average, however, was nothing special, and he'll definitely need to work on his yards after the catch. By the same token, the entire offense will need to do a better job of creating explosive plays down the field.
As of the present, Marquez is not even listed as a starter at the Z-receiver position. That honor goes to senior Darrin Moore, a player who had a fantastic start to the 2011 season and is much beloved by Neal Brown.
Below Marquez on the depth chart is junior college transfer Javon Bell. Like Marquez, Bell looked excellent in the spring, although he was sidelined for almost half the camp with an injury.
Obviously, Z-receiver is absolutely flush with talent. The bet here, however, is that Marquez continues to develop into one of Tech's most productive skill position players. If, that is, he is allowed to master the receiver post rather than be asked to become a jack-of-all-trades.