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' 6" 285
Sulphur Springs, Texas
Every offensive line needs a utility man. A player who is smart, experienced and versatile enough to pitch in at any position if the need arises. Because often the need does arise. Offensive lineman is a physical position, and the chance of injury is high. What's more, finding eight or nine guys who are big enough and talented enough to play on the offensive line at the D1 level is not easy. For that reason, the utility man is all the more valuable.
Texas Tech has been fortunate enough to have a couple of those types of players in the past. From 2002 to 2005 that man was Bryan Kegans, a solid scrapper whose manifold contributions outstripped his raw talent. Most recently, Terry McDaniel filled that role, playing snaps at virtually every position on the offensive line during his Tech career. The current candidate to do that yeoman work is Beau Carpenter.
The bruising junior from Sulphur Springs has played the vast majority of his Texas Tech snaps at left guard, although he did play some at right guard as a freshman. And during the most recent spring drills, Carpenter was often seen at right tackle. Currently, however, he is slotted as the starting right guard ahead of Alfredo Morales.
Do not be surprised, however, if Carpenter winds up as Tech's starter at right tackle for most of the games in the upcoming season. Redshirt freshman Trey Keenan is presently listed as the starter there, with former JUCO transfer Rashad Fortenberry backing him up. Keenan has real talent, but starting a freshman at either tackle spot, particularly in the Big 12, is never an appetizing prospect. And Fortenberry, who tips the scales at a mere 275 pounds, did not look like the answer last season as a backup to LaAdrian Waddle at left tackle. What's more, Fortenberry missed the most recent spring camp with an injury. So, if Carpenter's backup, the hard-nosed Alfredo Morales, is able to recover in time from a shoulder injury, he could easily start at right guard with Carpenter sliding over to right tackle.
But wherever Carpenter plays, he could easily be Tech's best offensive lineman. Left tackle Le'Raven Clark is getting most of the pre-season publicity, but there is not a more solid, reliable and tough offensive lineman on the squad than Carpenter. Factor in his versatility, and Carpenter is a player the Red Raiders could ill afford to lose.