Critical 20: No. 4 Pete Robertson

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
Sam EguavoenLBSRGarland TX6-1220No. 7
Jakeem GrantWRJRMesquite, TX5-6160No. 6
Branden JacksonDEJRMcKeesport, PA6-4265No. 5
Pete RobertsonLBJRLongview, TX6-3225No. 4

In preseason prognostications and college football annuals, the Texas Tech defense is getting little love. Rare is the Red Raider defender tabbed for any All Big 12, let alone All America honors.

To a certain extent, this is understandable. After all, Tech's defense didn't set the conference afire in 2013 and it doesn't return any players who were bona fide stars a year ago. But if there is one Red Raider on defense who could very easily carry the Texas Tech banner when postseason awards are announced, it is one Pete Robertson.

The junior outside linebacker from Longview slipped into the starting lineup last season and started every game. He registered 60 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hurries, three pass breakups, two interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles, en route to honorable mention All Big 12 status. That is pretty good productivity across the board, and it suggests strong big-play potential.

And potential is something Robertson has in spades. A dual-threat high school quarterback who started out at Tech as a safety, Robertson is arguably Tech's most athletic defender. He is aggressive, runs very well, and makes plays all over the field against both the run and the pass. And at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Robertson has good size. Indeed, if he can pack on 10 to 15 pounds over the next two years, Robertson could very easily emerge as an NFL Draft prospect.

Robertson is also a real leader on the defensive side of the ball. While fellow linebacker Sam Eguavoen may be the defense's leader by dint of seniority and knowledge, Robertson is the vocal leader of the defense and a firebrand who gets his buddies fired up. As a senior, Robertson will become the defense's unquestioned leader.

There is room for improvement, however. Robertson isn't the surest of tacklers, and his pursuit angles don't always put him in ideal position to make the tackle. With experience and coaching, Robertson should improve in those areas.

Robertson's value to the defense is hard to overestimate. He is the primary disruptor among the defense's front seven, is a creator of turnover opportunities, and is the unit's emotional sparkplug. And he simply has worlds of talent.

What's more, depth behind Robertson is suspect. Kris Williams, a sophomore who has yet to play a down, backs up Robertson. Williams has looked good in practice, but how much he can contribute in actual games remains to be seen. Clearly, the drop-off from Robertson to Williams is something Tech's defense doesn't need to see.

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