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' 6" 165
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown has commented that one piece missing from last year's offensive puzzle was a receiver who could make people miss in space. The desire for a play-making jitterbug may account for Jakeem Grant's meteoric if largely unnoticed rise to first-team status at the H-receiver position.
But that is not to say Brown handed the redshirt freshman a starting berth on a silver platter. On the contrary, Grant earned his position by outplaying heralded University of Florida transfer Javares McRoy and underrated walk-on Jordan Davis. Grant will face additional competition when former starter Austin Zouzalik returns from injury in August, but don't be surprised if Grant holds him off, too.
What Grant most brings to the table is rocket-like acceleration. Directly Grant catches the ball he vaults forward like a top-fuel dragster when the Christmas tree shows green. Not since Harrison Jeffers in his pre-injury days have we seen a Red Raider who accelerates as strikingly as Jakeem Grant.
It is difficult for defenders to account for the sort of burst Grant possesses. Not only is it almost impossible to catch a player like Grant from behind, his acceleration queers the geometry of pursuit angles. What should have been a five-yard slant turns into a 50-yard touchdown bolt.
Grant should also be a factor on jet sweeps and end arounds of all sorts. For Grant to succeed on these plays, it will simply be a matter of harnessing his acceleration, showing patience, and reading his blocks.
With the likes of Tyson Williams, Eric Ward and Alex Torres throwing blocks downfield, it is almost inevitable that jackrabbit Grant will spring several spectacular and explosive plays in the fall. And that is exactly as Neal Brown has planned it.