Critical 20: No. 15 Baylen Brown

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
DeAndre WashingtonRBJRMissouri City, TX5-8190No. 17
Bradley MarquezWRSROdessa, TX5-11200No. 16
Baylen BrownOLSOSan Antonio, TX6-4305No. 15

How on earth could a backup guard by the 15th most critical player on a football team? Well don't let the depth chart fool ya'.

When Texas Tech's post-spring depth chart was released, more than a few eyebrows arched upon seeing Trey Keenan rather than Baylen Brown listed as the starter at right guard. After all, Brown had a pretty darned good first year in Lubbock.

As a true freshman, he played in 11 games and started the final three. What's more, in those final three games Brown was easily one of the top performers on the offensive line. By all indications, Brown was headed for an All Big 12 career. At the very least. And now Brown finds himself a second-teamer behind a fellow sophomore.

In the three public scrimmages, was there any indication that Brown had regressed? Not really. Did Trey Keenan turn into instant Larry Allen? Not that I could tell. So what's the score?

To begin with, post-spring depth charts mean absolutely nothing in relation to who will actually start and who will play in the season-opener. By definition, a depth chart created some four and a half months before the first game is open to dramatic revision. And because it is hardly set in stone, the coaches can wipe the slate clean in August and roll onto the field with an entirely different set of starters and backups (not to mention players playing different positions and Brown saw some time at center during the spring) when it's time to tee it up in earnest.

With regard to Baylen Brown, the demotion smacks of a motivational tool. Kliff Kingsbury and Lee Hays (Tech's offensive line coach) know that Brown is a very talented player, and they want him to maximize his potential. And to maximize one's potential, it is important that a player give supreme effort on each and every down. The demotion will compel Brown to do just that.

Brown also missed the beginning of spring ball with shoulder tendinitis, so that could have something to do with it as well.

Then there's another factor to consider. Trey Keenan came to Tech a highly regarded recruit, and there's no doubt he will be a strong contributor and quite possibly a starter during his collegiate career. But as of the present, he is listed at 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds. To put it lightly—so to speak—that is not the ideal frame for a power conference guard. Let alone is it the sort of bulk you'd expect to see at guard on a team that is working to strengthen its rushing attack.

Keenan's rangy frame, long arms and quickness will help in blitz pickups and pass protection in general, but one doubts it would be worth the presumed liability in the ground game, particularly when Baylen Brown seemed to do just fine in pass protection last season.

Keenan will be a valuable rotation guy in 2014, but look for Brown to get back into the starting lineup and establish himself as one of the best young offensive linemen in the Big 12.

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