Critical 20: No. 13 Ian Sadler

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.

Ian Sadler’s Texas Tech football career got off to a rocky start. His first game action came on the road in a surprisingly tight game against UTEP. On the first play of the fourth quarter, and with Tech nursing a tenuous 23-19 lead, Davis Webb dropped back and hit a wide-open Sadler in the breadbasket on a crossing route. It was 2nd-and-14 deep in Tech territory, and the play had huge yardage written all over it.

But it never happened. Sadler dropped the ball.

And with that drop, in a critical situation, Sadler telegraphed to the coaches that he could not yet be relied upon to come through when the chips were down. Consequently, Sadler vanished from the radar screen for quite some time. Indeed, in Tech’s next two games, against Arkansas and Oklahoma State, Sadler didn’t catch a single pass. His “redemption”—of a sort—came in the next outing against Kansas State, where he caught three passes for 21 yards. And from that point on, his snaps and his productivity steadily increased.

Sadler finished out his true freshman season admirably, concluding the season with 23 receptions for 336 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged an impressive 14.6 yards per catch. Sadler’s 336 receiving yards were the most by a Tech freshman since Alex Torres hauled in over 800 yards’ worth back in 2009. In other words, Sadler bounced back strongly from what could have been a costly mistake. In the process, he marked himself as a Red Raider to watch in the coming years.

Sadler’s moment to truly shine could easily come in 2015. With the graduation of Bradley Marquez, and Jakeem Grant and Reggie Davis coming off of disappointing seasons, it is hardly out of the question that Sadler could not only start at inside receiver, but that he could be Tech’s No. 2 wideout behind Devin Lauderdale who made a big splash in 2014.

Sadler has more than a little Danny Amendola to him. He’s got a tough mentality, and packing 200 pounds on a 5-foot-10 frame, he’s got the build to not only withstand punishment, but to deliver a little of his own in the middle of the field, which figures to be his territory. And the drop against UTEP notwithstanding, Sadler shows promise of having Amendola-like hands.

If, like Amendola, Sadler can prove to be a clutch inside receiver, a chain-mover, he will be the ideal compliment to Lauderdale’s outside speed and explosive-play ability. He will also be Patrick Mahomes’ best friend.

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