Critical 20: No. 8 D.J. Polite-Bray

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
Justis NelsonCBSOMesquite, TX6-2170No. 9
D.J. Polite-BrayWRSOLithonia, GA6-1175No. 8

D.J. Polite-Bray's first two years at Texas Tech could well match his name.

His freshman campaign was humble, low-key and well, polite. Polite-Bray did well in avoiding a redshirt, but he hardly made any waves, as veterans such as Jace Amaro, Eric Ward, Bradley Marquez and Jakeem Grant snatched all the headlines. Polite-Bray snatched two passes for five yards.

But if his work in the 2014 spring camp is any indication, the sophomore from Lithonia, Georgia will be able to bray to his heart's content this season. And he may be doing it in the end zone.

To say that Polite-Bray's emergence is a surprise would be an understatement. Sure, he was a highly thought of recruit who had offers from Tennessee, Mississippi, Utah and Louisville, but there was nothing on film or on record from the coaches to make one think that he was on the verge of becoming a truly formidable player. Heck, if anything, most people were expecting junior college transfer Devin Lauderdale to come in and sew up the outside receiver spot opposite Reginald Davis. Instead, Polite-Bray is running with the ones and Lauderdale with the twos.

Much to the delight of spring camp onlookers, Polite-Bray added yet another explosive propellant to an offense already lit with kerosene, nitro glycerin, and hydrogen. Davis has deadly quicks in the open field, Grant adds speed to those quicks, and Marquez becomes more dangerous the closer Tech's offense gets to the goal line. The addition of Polite-Bray to the brew will only complicate and compound the problems defensive coordinators will face in trying to rein in the stallions powering through their secondaries.

During the spring of Polite-Bray's emergence, he was, along with Grant and Marquez, consistently one of Tech's top three receivers. He showed the ability to uncover on routes short, intermediate and long, demonstrated excellent ability to run after the catch, and very rarely mishandled passes that came his way.

Following the 2012 season Texas Tech lost an extremely talented receiver named Javon Bell to academic problems. Bell's quickness off of the snap made him almost uncoverable in man-to-man situations, and his speed made him an extremely dangerous deep threat. What Tech lost in Bell they may have regained in Polite-Bray. And if so, the 2014 Red Raider offense will be one of the very most dangerous and exciting in college football this season.

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