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.
6' 1" 225
It is not easy being thrown into the Big 12 fire having played only one year of organized football, but that is exactly what happened to Sam Eguavoen last season. Eguavoen, who played only his senior season at Garland Lakeview Centennial, was thrust into Texas Tech's starting lineup for the season opener against Texas State and started four more games in the remainder of the season. It was a tough row to hoe.
Unsurprisingly, Eguavoen struggled a great deal. His chief problem was simply not knowing what his assignments were most of the time. Consequently, Eguavoen was often a step slow to make the tackle whenever he didn't bust a play entirely.
Obviously, utter inexperience hurt Eguavoen badly in 2011. And it didn't help that Eguavoen's defensive coordinator was as raw as the linebacker.
But that, as they say, was then, and this is now. Eguavoen has a year's worth of college football experience under his belt, not to mention a spring camp. He's also got a defensive coordinator who flat out knows what he's doing. All of that is already paying dividends for Eguavoen.
The sophomore improved markedly as spring camp 2012 wore on. By the end of workouts, he was actually making some plays rather than merely keeping his head above water. Art Kaufman was offering testimonials on Eguavoen's behalf, and as of the present, he is in the starting lineup.
In the upcoming season, Eguavoen will make his presence felt most heavily in pass defense. His primary assets are speed and athleticism. Eguavoen uses those abilities to drop into passing lanes and disrupt the aerial game. Such is his range that he is fully capable of curling back into coverage and helping safeties on intermediate slants and posts. Not many collegiate linebackers are capable of doing that.
As good as Eguavoen may be now, he will be so much better as a junior and senior. He is still learning the game, and that hurts his reaction time. But the more he learns, the faster he will play.
Eguavoen is also not the most physical linebacker in run support right now, but time in the weight room and another 10 pounds of muscle will go some way toward solving that problem. And when Eguavoen puts it all together, we will be looking at a strong All Big 12 candidate.