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' 2" 280
The number 91 has proved a rather fortuitous one for Texas Tech defensive linemen. Adell Duckett, an All Big 12 defensive end wore it. So did McKinner Dixon, who, when he was academically eligible, was easily All Big 12 caliber. And the current holder of the auspicious integer, one Kerry Hyder, is better than both Duckett and Dixon.
Hyder is one of those players who has built himself into a star at the collegiate level. He arrived in Lubbock an undersized, six-foot-two 250-pound defensive lineman. But through persistent hard work in the weight-room and dedication to his craft on the field, Hyder is now roughly the same size as former standout Colby Whitlock, and is easily Tech's best interior defensive lineman since that stalwart from Oklahoma matriculated in 2011.
Whitlock and Hyder are very different players, though. Whitlock was the classic run-stuffing defensive tackle who occupied multiple blockers and created a logjam in the middle of the line. But Whitlock was no threat as a pass rusher.
Hyder does not have Whitlock's bull strength, but is instead a mobile, tornadic presence on the line. He is very much an interior lineman, but possesses the athleticism of a defensive end. Indeed, it is not easy to recall a Texas Tech defensive lineman as athletic as Hyder.
For example, during one workout in 2011, quarterback Seth Doege, after a three-step drop, fired a missile toward a receiver who was running a crossing route. Hyder, all 280 pounds of him, rocketed high off the turf, tipped the ball and then laid out for a spectacular interception. The quickness, the vertical leap and the agility—not to mention the effort—were astonishing. From that point on it was clear to this observer that Kerry Hyder was a special player.
Now Hyder is the unquestioned leader of Tech's defense and clearly its best player. He won multiple All Big 12 accolades as a junior and should contend for All American honors as a senior. And as such, Hyder's responsibilities to the team are tremendous.
Hyder is currently listed as the starting defensive end ahead of Dartwan Bush, but with Delvon Simmons' departure to other pastures, Hyder could well slide over to defensive tackle, a position he can man with ease.
Regardless of where he plays, however, Hyder will be the man who makes the defense click. He will be expected to make big plays behind the line of scrimmage, and to free up Tech's talented linebackers to wreak havoc all over the field. As Hyder goes, so will go the defense. And that's actually a pretty comforting thought.