Critical 20: No. 14 Alfredo Morales

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.

Alfredo Morales is living proof that star ratings and Top 100 lists are no more than ballpark indicators of a football recruit’s ability. Morales, a middling three-star recruit from Arlington, signed on Texas Tech’s dotted line in 2011 along with twin brother Tony, a clearly more sought-after prospect. Four years later, and Alfredo, a 23-game starter, is hoping to crash All Big 12 teams as a senior, while oft-injured Tony is slated for backup duty at center and guard. Injuries aside, few people would have predicted this scenario back in 2011.

Huge parts of Morales’ success have been “intangibles” work ethic and toughness. He suffered an injury early in his freshman season which necessitated a medical redshirt, but was not discouraged by the ill fortune. He rehabbed well enough to play in 10 games as a redshirt freshman, starting four. Morales has steadily improved in the years since.

Offensive line coach Lee Hays has cited Morales as one of, if not the toughest and hardest working players on the team. And it is those traits that have served him well at the blue-collar position, left guard. Guards probably get less publicity than any position on a team outside of special team’s positions. And Morales hasn’t gotten much attention, even by the standards of guards.

But all of that could change in 2015. Morales had a very solid junior season on a very good offensive line. Outside of several penalties, he excelled in both run blocking and pass protection. Tech’s quarterbacks and running back Deandre Washington, the first Red Raider runner to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing since Ricky Williams in 1998, profited by Morales’ efforts. With the return of three fellow starters in the line, along with Washington and quarterback Pat Mahomes, who finished the season strongly, Tech’s offense could return to historical form, and this could mean the spotlight for the line, and linemen other than Le’Raven Clark, who seems to have been in the media’s sites since day one of his collegiate career.

Barring injury, Morales looks rarely to leave the field in 2015. Brother Tony could spell him a snap here and there, but outside of him, the pickins are slim for backups in the interior of the line. And this deeply concerning lack of depth only magnifies Alfredo Morales’ importance.

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