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' 0' 205
Scarce in D1 football are 205-pound middle linebackers. Even more rare are D1 football players majoring in petroleum engineering. Texas Tech sophomore and soon-to-be sensation Micah Awe is both. And that makes him a unique player.
Awe played in all 13 games last season, but didn't start any. And statistically, there was nothing special about his performance in 2012. But along with center Jared Kaster, Awe was the only freshman from his recruiting class to avoid a redshirt. That fact alone gives some idea of his talent.
Even though Awe played rather sparingly last season, he was the sort of player who jumped out at you when he was on the field. To begin with, Awe's energy level is off the charts. He plays the game like he's been pumped to the bursting point with hydrogen. Awe flies all over the field and will chase down ball-carriers from behind like a heat-seeking missile. And when he gets to the ball-carrier, he detonates. There is every reason to believe that during the upcoming season Awe will establish himself indisputably as Tech's hardest hitter since Dwayne Slay, a 2005 All American.
Obviously, Awe brings a load for a linebacker who weighs 15 pounds less than Tech's starting running back. And indeed, defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt would like to see Awe carry 220 pounds or more. But at this point, Awe's lack of heft isn't presenting any problems.
Awe simply plays much larger than his weight. He is immensely strong and explosive, and those characteristics make up for his smallness. Awe is also too quick for most backs and linemen to block effectively. Awe need not confront blockers head up when he can simply zip around them to make the tackle. And he certainly did plenty of that during spring scrimmages. Awe was easily one of Tech's most impressive defenders and he earned a starting spot at the MIKE linebacker position ahead of Blake Dees who is no slouch himself.
All that remains for Awe is to convert all of his practice-field potential to game-day performance, and to do it for an entire season. Offenses will test him early and often next season. Coordinators will see a 205-pound true sophomore starting in the heart of the defense and they will go right after him. They will attempt to pound him into the turf. It will be up to Awe to provide so much resistance that offenses are forced to go in another direction. The bet here is that Awe will do just that and then some.