Spring Football Preview: Offensive Line

RaiderPower.com takes a look at the Texas Tech running back situation heading into spring practice.

Texas Tech returns four starters to an offensive line that turned in a stellar performance in 2014.

The Red Raiders produced the first 1,000-yard rusher (Deandre Washington) since 1998 and allowed just 13 sacks all season, which ranked No. 12 in the nation despite the Red Raiders also being among the national leaders in pass attempts.

While the positive press surrounding the big uglies is nice, offensive line coach Lee Hays says keeping the guys motivated and on-edge shouldn't be a problem this spring and moving forward this offseason.

"They did some good thing statistically last year, but we looked at the cutups and there was a lot of room for improvement," Hays said. "Nobody has arrived and I think with new guys coming in, you know one of the biggest things up front is you always have to have competition, and for us the biggest deal as a unit is you want to play the hardest in the country. We control that."

Even Hays, who is trying to keep the offensive line playing with an edge, admitted the unit played hard to a man last season and it is the main reason for their success.

Hays can rest a little easier knowing two-time All-Big 12 offensive tackle Le'Raven Clark is returning of his senior season at left tackle. The 6-foot-6, 318-pound lineman has made 38 consecutive starts for the Red Raiders and will likely be an early to mid-round NFL Draft pick following next season.

Le'Raven Clark

Lining up next to Clark will be a guy who is not nearly as talented, in fact he wasn't even considered the most talented lineman in his family coming out of high school, is rising senior Alfredo Morales. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound left guard, who has 23 starts under his belt, has earned the respect of his coaches and teammates with his physical play and strong work ethic. You can point to Morales' development as a major part of the group's success, especially in the running game.

The anchor is Jared Kaster, who has started at center all 25 games the past two seasons. At 6-3, 293 pounds Kaster isn't physically imposing, but he isn't small either. He also commits too many penalties, but overall he's smart and he's another guy with a hard nosed "I'm going to outwork you" mentality.

Kaster missed most of last spring practice due to injury, so it will be nice for all involved to have him out there this year.

Baylen Brown returns at right guard having started 12 games the past two seasons, including nine in 2014. The 6-4, 310-pound junior is yet another lineman who continues to improve and has been invaluable for his ability to play either left or right guard and serve as the backup center.

Brown seems to have found a home at right guard and will also have to help ease the transition for whomever wins the vacant right tackle job with longtime starter Reshod Fortenberry having exhausted his eligibility.

It's a short list of candidates, at least of guys available this spring, but the first name off everyone's lips is redshirt freshman Justin Murphy. Not much is known about him other than he is a big dude at 6-foot-7, 297 pounds.

His redshirt season allowed him to add over 20 pounds to his frame and many of the coaches gushed about his progression throughout last season when asked.

Another redshirt freshman who received a ton of praise is Robert Castaneda. Though originally thought to be more of an interior guy, some of the Tech coaches have said the 6-foot-5, 295-pound lineman has shown enough athleticism to play outside as well.

Also in the mix is redshirt sophomore Poet Thomas. The 6-5, 308-pound lineman made his Tech debut on special teams in the season finale against Baylor. Alfredo's brother Tony, who has been oft-injured and has yet to play a snap for the Red Raiders remains on the roster.

That is essentially it as far as scholarship linemen for Texas Tech this spring. Needless to say the group is top heavy with the four returners having started a combined 98 games and then virtually zero experience and depth behind them.

A strong influence of talent is expected in the fall, but that's it for the spring.

Predicted starters: LT-Clark, LG-A. Morales, C-Kaster, RG-Brown, RT-Murphy.

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