Critical 20: No. 2 Le'Raven Clark

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.

One could argue Texas Tech’s success in the spread offense has been predicated upon good offensive line play, and good talent in that area, as much as anything else.

The list of top-shelf O-linemen to come through Texas Tech during the last 15 years is impressive: Dylan Gandy, Cody Campbell, E.J. Whitley, Rylan Reed, Brandon Carter, Louis Vasquez, Manny Ramirez, and LaAdrian Waddle, among others, have stamped their names onto All-Big 12 and All-American rosters, and many have carved out NFL careers. And the beat goes on with current left tackle Le'Raven Clark.

Clark, a senior who toyed briefly with declaring early for the NFL draft, has started 38-straight games in the scarlet and black, earning first-team All-Big 12 honors each of the past two seasons. He’s sure to make many a preseason All-America teams in 2015, and will certainly be on the Outland and Lombardi Award watch lists. He has the opportunity to be Tech’s most decorated offensive lineman since Brandon Carter.

As good as Clark is, he still does have some room to improve. Tech’s line gave up only 13 sacks in 2014, and a few of them came against Clark. Getting into his set quicker would certainly help his cause against speed rushers. On the other hand, Clark may actually be a bit underrated as a run blocker. When Tech runs over left tackle, Clark almost always silences his man.

Clark’s durability has been one of his greatest assets, as 38 consecutive starts fully attests. And for Tech’s sake, Clark needs to continue that streak throughout his senior season.

Depth behind Clark is a bit worrisome. Poet Thomas, a sophomore who has played in only one game, is currently the only option, and nobody really knows how good he is. Another possibility will be Houston transfer Emeka Okafor, and failing that, true freshmen Connor Dyer and Madison Akamnonu will get hard looks. But ideally, none of these question marks sees the field for significant snaps in 2015.

There’s only one guy on the roster who can guarantee Patrick Mahomes’ blind side, and that is Le’Raven Clark.

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