Critical 20: No. 17 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.

Amid a generally dreary season in 2014, Texas Tech’s offensive line was both a bright spot and a bit of a surprise. Lee Hays’ unit rolled out the red carpet for Deandre Washington who ran for over 1,000 yards, the first Red Raider back to do so since Ricky Williams in 1998. Tech also allowed a modest 13 sacks, 10th best in the nation, and you can be certain that if there was a stat for sacks per passing play the Red Raider offensive line would have finished in the top five.

In short, Tech’s offensive line performed far better than the team’s 4-8 record would suggest.

One of the key cogs in that line, and one of its rather unsung heroes was guard Baylen Brown, who, as a sophomore, played in 10 games, starting nine. In this writer’s opinion, Brown was Tech’s third best offensive lineman, behind left tackle Le’Raven Clark and left guard Alfredo Morales. He was very sound in both run blocking and in pass protection, and unlike a few of his mates on the line, was not whistled for many infractions such as holding, false start and chop blocking. Thus, we can add smarts and discipline to Brown’s kit of positive characteristics.

For his efforts in 2014, Brown earned ESPN All Underclassman honors for the Big 12. All of this suggests that Brown’s name will begin appearing on various All Big 12 teams, perhaps as early as a few months from now.

Brown’s importance to the 2015 Red Raiders, while readily apparent, is difficult to classify. On the one hand, the starting offensive line looks incredibly strong. Brown, Jared Kaster, Morales and Clark comprise a quartet of returning starters that should make Tech’s starting line one of the best in the nation. Thus, were Brown not in the lineup the strength of the starting unit is such that the loss might not be catastrophic.

On the other hand, however, depth on the offensive line is very much unproven. Indeed, the only interior backup with any real experience is oft-injured Tony Morales. Some help should arrive in August in the form of several highly touted high school linemen, but it is always a risky proposition to play freshmen in the line at the Big 12 level. That being the case, Brown’s importance becomes much more glaring.

But regardless of where Baylen Brown slots in the Critical 20, there can be no doubt the right guard position is a source of strength with Brown manning the post.

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