Critical 20: No. 10 Rashad Fortenberry

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 may 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
Micah AweLBJRArlington, TX6-0200No. 14
Ryan BustinKSRKilgore, TX5-11180No. 13
Rika LeviNTJRSan Francisco, CA6-3350No. 12
Keenon WardSSOSnyder, TX5-9195No. 11
Rashad FortenberryOTSRTylertown, MS6-5285No. 10

The case of Rashad Fortenberry is a study in the slow, steady progression football coaches would like to see from every player.

Fortenberry arrived at Texas Tech in 2012 as an unheralded junior college transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. In his first season as a Red Raider, Fortenberry played sparingly.

In 2013 Forenberry rose to the starting position at right tackle and started every game of the season. Many observers doubted Fortenberry's ability to hold down the fort—so to speak—and early on it looked as though they might be right. Fortenberry was beaten frequently on both running and passing plays, and committed more than his fair share of holding penalties.

But over the course of the season, the area around the right end of Tech's offensive line grew very silent. And for an offensive lineman, that is a very good sign.

Indeed, Fortenberry developed into an ultra-solid tackle, and by season's end was one of the offense's most reliable players.

Now, in his senior season, Fortenberry is counted upon as one of the stalwarts on the team. He is a very experienced player who has been through the Big 12 and bowl wars, and has acquitted himself very well.

Fortenberry has not garnered any preseason accolades, but nowhere is pre- and postseason plaudits more dependent upon reputation—sometimes unearned—than at offensive line. It is entirely conceivable that Fortenberry could be one of the Big 12's best offensive tackles in 2014, and that the only people who notice will be Tech coaches and players.

Be that as it may, it is critical that Fortenberry continues to build upon what he has accomplished over the course of his collegiate career, and that he continues to demonstrate the durability that has been one of his hallmarks.

Behind Fortenberry on the depth chart is freshman Josh Outlaw. The Lithonia, Georgia product is seen as a future star, but all coaches are rightfully chary of chucking freshmen into the fire at offensive line. Another possibility at right tackle is talented incoming JUCO recruit Dominique Robertson. Nevertheless, it is very much in Tech's best interest for Fortenberry to stay healthy and for him to continue to develop into a real asset rather than a mere placeholder.

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