Like any football team, Texas Tech has several players whose performance will be particularly critical to the squad's success. These players, whether by virtue experience, leadership, 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' 3" 270
In all honesty, Texas Tech's offensive line looks like a cruise liner that has taken a couple of torpedoes from a German u-boat. At least on paper. If the current depth chart is to be believed, the Red Raiders will trot out a sophomore former guard (Le'Raven Clark) who has never played a game at tackle, at the all important left tackle spot. And an even more inexperienced sophomore (Matt Wilson) will back him up.
A redshirt freshman (Trey Keenan) is penciled in as the starter at right tackle with a completely inexperience JUCO transfer (Rashad Fortenberry) scheduled to be his caddy.
But there is a bright spot. Jared Kaster at center is a promising prospect, and Tony Morales, provided he has fully recovered from an earlier injury, is a very capable substitute.
And if you're going to have a strength in the offensive line, center is a good place to do so. Center is the position that calls out the signals and coordinates the line on the field. It is also the position closest to the quarterback, which means that if your center is vulnerable, so is your quarterback.
That does not look to be a problem for Michael Brewer and the Tech offense. Jared Kaster is a very talented lineman and he gained valuable experience last season, playing in all 12 games. Along with linebacker Micah Awe, Kaster was the only true freshman to play in 2012. That is a testament to his ability.
Kaster is only 270 pounds, which is pretty light, even by the standards of center, usually the smallest position on the offensive line. But Kaster makes up for the lack of size with very good quickness, tremendous technique, smarts, and tenacity. Kaster has also shown good durability thus far, and that is important for a line that has been injury prone. Provided he stays healthy, Kaster will be a stabilizing force for the Tech line, not only in 2013, but for years to come.