These players, whether by virtue of 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.
|Texas Tech Critical Twenty|
|Gary Moore||DE||RS FR||Clarksville, TX||6-5||245||No. 20|
Gary Moore is surely the most talked about but least seen player on the Texas Tech football team. He was recruited out of Clarksville primarily as an outside receiver prospect. And not long after Moore arrived from east Texas, word leaked out of the Tech camp that he was a phenom in the making. He was called a "freak—but in a good way—and wagging tongues mentioned him in the same breath as NFL star Calvin Johnson. Folks were fairly vibrating with anticipation to see him play.
But somewhere between all of the overheated comparisons to All Pros and superheroes, and this past spring camp, the devastating wide receiver somehow found himself on the defensive side of the ball.
Perhaps Moore's hands were unreliable. Possibly the development of D.J. Polite-Bray and Reginald Davis made Moore's continued presence on offense a luxury. Or maybe defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt threw a tear-strewn temper tantrum that tugged at Kliff Kingsbury's heartstrings. Who knows? But for whatever reason Moore is now a defensive end rather than an outside receiver.
Naturally, people were almost as excited to see him play defensive end as wideout. We didn't hear anybody compare him to Reggie White, but we did hear that Moore's specialness translated to his ability on defense. Problem was, Moore was banged up for much of the spring, and nobody got to see much of him until the Red-Black scrimmage.
Well call me crazy, but what little I saw of Gary Moore was enough to make me believe the hype. To begin with, he has the frame of the classic defensive end. Moore is a legitimate 6-foot-5, he has bulked up to at least 245 pounds (from 210), and looks like he could pack on another 25 pounds without adding an ounce of fat. Moreover, he has the long legs that so often signify power in a defensive lineman. From a strictly physical standpoint, he looks like a Jadeveon Clowney starter kit.
And his play—what little we saw of it—confirms the positive results of the eyeball test. It is clear that Moore packs an unusual load. At this point he may actually be a better bull than speed rusher, but with his athleticism—he was also a very good high school basketball player in addition to his aforementioned stint as a receiver—there can be no doubt that the moves and the speed rushes will come. In short, Moore is a tantalizing prospect.
As of this moment, Moore is not in the two-deep. Branden Jackson and Zach Barnes are one-two at defensive end. But assuming that Moore plays at full health next season, I would be hugely shocked if he doesn't make a major impact in an area of weakness for the Red Raiders, the pass rush. And that's enough to make him the lead-off man in this series.