Critical 20: No. 9 Jared Kaster

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.

Once upon a time, Jared Kaster had to get by on his wits and his technique. By Big 12 standards, he was small for a center—in the neighborhood of 275 pounds—and could be overpowered by the hulking tackles and noseguards that marauded through the conference.

But a funny thing has happened to Kaster. As a senior, he has plumb grown up, to such an extent that he now tips the scales at a rock-solid 295 pounds. That is bona fide Big 12 beef, and he no longer should have any difficulty locking up the various monsters he will face in 2015.

The best thing about Kaster’s physical development, however, is that he still has those smarts and that technique in his hip pocket. Now he is a big center, but he’s also a big, intelligent center who knows how to use his hands and feet. In short, Jared Kaster, who got an honorable mention All Big 12 nod last season, should be in strong contention for first- and second-team honors this year.

Kaster, who along with Micah Awe, was the only true freshman to play in 2012, is without question one of the most experienced players on the entire Texas Tech team. Going back to his sophomore season, he has now started 25 straight games for the Red Raiders at center. That is some serious experience, and it is also some terrific durability. Kaster has seen it all at this point, and should be unfazed by anything thrown his way in 2015. And he is also one of the iron men of the Big 12.

He’ll need to be, too, because depth behind Kaster is a major question mark.

Tony Morales is a possibility at center. Or is he? Injuries have prevented him from playing a single down for Tech and his status for the upcoming season is murky.

During the Petro scrimmage redshirt freshman Cole Collier got most of the snaps behind Kaster, but many of those snaps were practically airmailed over the quarterbacks’ head! Whether he will be a viable backup center at the Big 12 level within a few months seems iffy.

Another possibility could be incoming freshman Cody Wheeler, who looks like a sleeper supreme, but there again, you’re relying on an extremely inexperienced player at a difficult position.

Ultimately, should somebody have to fill in for Kaster, it could be starting right guard Baylen Brown. One suspects he has been working some at center, just in case. The problem with sliding Brown to center means that redshirt freshman Robert Castaneda comes in at guard. But Castaneda did well in the Petro scrimmage, so perhaps that is not really a problem at all.

At any rate, it is good to know that Jared Kaster, one of the most critical members of the current Red Raiders, is also one of the most reliable.

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