Critical 20: No. 18 Donte Phillips

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 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 absent for any reason.

Perhaps the best way to conceive of the critical players is to determine if 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.

Texas Tech Critical Twenty
Gary MooreDERS FRClarksville, TX6-5245No. 20
Rodney HallRBSRAngleton, TX5-10240No. 19
Donte PhillipsDlJRMilwaukee, WI6-2280No. 18

One of the best developments of the previous spring football camp was also one of the least expected. The Red Raider defense, thin and suspect up front, and relying on incoming fall recruits to solve its problems, desperately needed at least one hitherto unheralded lineman to really step up his game. But frankly, the prospects didn't look too promising.

Enter previously unproductive junior Donte Phillips, stage left.

Phillips, a player who looked a bit like late filler in the 2011 recruiting class and played like it his first two seasons (his only time on the field last season came against Stephen F. Austin) was a borderline revelation in the spring. He wasn't especially remarkable in Friday Night Lights, but in the Petro Scrimmage and the Red-Black game Phillips was easily the most disruptive defensive lineman on the field.

Some players are simply late bloomers. Perhaps it takes them a couple of years to adjust to the speed of the college game, or to become physically strong enough to compete. For others, it may be a case of psychological maturation making all of the difference. Or maybe they just need to be coached up by coaches who really know what they're doing.

Whatever the explanation, it looks like the proverbial light has finally come on for Phillips—so to speak. He is currently listed at No. 2 on the depth chart at nose tackle behind Jackson Richards, but there can be little doubt that Phillips is neck-and-neck with the senior. And at tackle, another position Phillips could easily handle, the top two players are Demetrius Alston and Keland McElrath.

Depending upon how quickly newcomers Rika Levi and Brandon Thorpe adjust, and how much more Phillips develops, there is every reason to believe that Tech's only player from The Badger State will get the opportunity to prove himself on the field of battle against the enemy. And if he gets into the backfield as frequently as he did in the spring, he might not exit the field very often.

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