Critical 20: No. 7 Devin Lauderdale

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.

It certainly took awhile, but Devin Lauderdale finally began showing Texas Tech faithful what he was capable of late last season. Folks in Raiderland were expecting great things from the Houston Bellaire prospect in 2013 after Tech bested a who’s who of college football programs for his services. But Lauderdale was temporarily sidetracked into the JUCO lane and spent 2013 at Navarro College before re-upping with the Red Raiders in 2014.

Lauderdale’s sophomore season, but his first at the FBS level, began a bit slowly. Over the course of the first four games of the season he tallied only eight receptions, but in game No. 5 against West Virginia, Lauderdale exited the waiting room. He hauled in a modest three catches against the Mountaineers, but they went for 112 yards and two touchdowns. From that point forward Lauderdale snagged 23 receptions for 377 yards seven touchdowns. In three of the last four games of the season he netted at least 80 receiving yards.

For the season Lauderdale finished with 31 receptions for 589 yards and seven touchdowns, while averaging 19 yards per grab.

But Lauderdale was about more than just catching the football and making explosive plays. He also proved to be one of the best blocking receivers to don the scarlet and black in many a moon, and that is saying something considering that Tech has long been a program whose receivers take pride in their blocking.

Blocking, of course, requires some talent and technique, but perhaps more than anything, it requires effort. By his willingness to repeatedly run hard down field to help spring teammates—see Justin Stockton’s 75-yard TD run at UTEP for a prime example—Lauderdale marked himself as an “effort” player. And it’s not all that often you see a player with Lauderdale’s talent who is also a tireless worker on the field.

Lauderdale Pancakes Two

So Lauderdale clearly established himself as one of Tech’s better offensive players by the end of last season, and according to most accounts, Tech’s best receiver period. He provided the Tech offense with a combination of speed, quickness and route-running skill that resulted in that most sought-after of gems, the proverbial “deep threat.”

As 2015 approaches, Lauderdale is clearly Tech’s No. 1 receiver. And he is the only truly proven outside receiver on the roster (Dylan Cantrell and Reggie Davis still have things to prove). As such, Lauderdale’s importance is hard to overstate. Barring major impacts from the likes of J.F. Thomas and Furquan Shorts, Lauderdale gives Tech’s offense with its sole quick-strike capability from anywhere on the field, and quite possibly, its best overall productivity in the passing game.

It’s taken Lauderdale a while to arrive, but now that he’s here, he might as well take the Big 12 by storm.

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