Sprinting to Spring: Offensive Line

With the graduation of 4 offensive linemen from one of the best lines to ever play at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders have a lot to do to reload. New offensive line Coach Jack Bicknell has alot of talent and promising players to work with though. Come inside with Red Raider football analyst Mitchell Fish to see who will man the trenches for the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 2007 football campaign.

Left Tackle

Left Tackle- The left tackle is the anchor of any good offensive line. The player responsible for protecting the quarterback from the opposing teams best pass-rusher. He must be strong, fast, smart, quick and incredibly agile. A huge wingspan and good height are also must haves for a starting left tackle. With a good left tackle, a line can be solid and easily dominate the opponents in the trenches.

Left Tackle depth chart- Marlon Winn (Starter) Chris Olson (2nd String) *Mickey Okafor* (Wild Card)

Marlon Winn - Marlon is a player in a mold similar to that of the Red Raiders last several left tackles. At 6 feet 5 inches tall and 324 pounds, he is a commanding presence on the left side of the line. Winn has terrific wingspan and incredible agility to go along with his massive frame. He is very fluid in pass protection and a strong run blocker. While Marlon didn't get a lot of chances to show his stuff last season, he did play well in limited duty and showed flashes of brilliance. In particular his ability to quickly close on a defensive end attempting to run between the left tackle-left guard gap is particularly impressive. Look for Marlon to very quietly continue the trend of strong and intelligent left tackles that Tech has been blessed with for the last several seasons.

Chris Olson- Olson is another large tackle at 6 feet 5 inches and 298 pounds and most likely would have challenged for a spot in the two deep last fall had he not suffered an injury to the sole of his foot that forced him to red shirt. Chris was a dominant tackle in high school and is certainly capable of showing that same strength at the collegiate level. He has the ability to play either left or right tackle but left is his most natural position. Much like Marlon Winn, Olson has good wingspan and footwork. He has a good first step but is lacking on experience, having red shirted during the 2006 campaign. With some seasoning though, Chris has the potential to be another very effective offensive lineman.

*Mickey Okafor*- Okafor is one of the talented offensive linemen that signed with the Red Raiders on national signing day and he just so happens to be the wild card at left tackle.. He is a massive prospect at 6 feet 6 inches tall and 290 pounds with terrific footwork and agility. His technique could use some work but with some time spent with offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, Okafor should be ready to contribute heavily before his time in Red and Black is up.

Left Guard

Left Guard- The left guard is one of the least publicized positions on any football team. Expected to fearlessly take on massive defensive tackles and quick defensive ends without blinking, it is a huge burden for any athlete to bear. A good left guard can help compensate for a lack of experience at both the center and left tackle positions if needed.

Left Guard depth chart- Louis Vasquez (starter) Josh Aleman (2nd String) *Justin Keown* (Wild Card)

Louis Vasquez - The only returning starter from the 2006 offensive line, Vasquez brings a wealth of knowledge and experience with him. He is simply huge at 6 feet 6 inches tall and an astounding 341 pounds. Yet anyone who has ever watched Vasquez play can tell you that he doesn't move like he weighs that much. He has the versatility to play left tackle in a pinch and is a dominant force in the trenches. The closest former Red Raider he can be compared to is Manuel Ramirez just because of his sheer size and agility. Red Raider faithful can expect number 65 to continue to be a force in the trenches and blossom as one of the best guards to ever wear a Double T.

Josh Aleman- The lone remaining offensive linemen from the 2004 signing class, Alemans' biggest strength is his versatility. He can play either guard position or center with skipping a beat. While not as large as Vasquez at 6 feet 3 inches and 308 pounds, he can certainly make his presence felt. He will provide insurance across the front of the line, much like versatile former Red Raider EJ Whitley.

*Justin Keown*- A transfer from Hargrave Military Academy, Keown is the wild card at left guard. He is an imposing presence at 6 feet 4 inches tall and 280 pounds but may need to add a little more weight to truly be ready for Big XII football. Luckily for Keown and the rest of the Texas Tech offense, Keown was a mid-term transfer and is already on campus preparing to compete in spring drills. This should give him time to add the weight that he needs and to grasp Tech's system so that he can contribute when the 2007 season rolls around.


Center- The center is usually the smallest of the starting offensive linemen, although that by no means makes him small. A good center must be very quick on his feet as well as with his head to decipher exactly what it is that the opposing defense is trying to accomplish and being able to react to the left or right to support either guard. He is also responsible for one of the single most important jobs on the football field, that of course ensuring that the ball makes it to the quarterback cleanly and in a time fashion, something that is only noticed when it doesn't happen.

Center depth chart- Shawn Byrnes (Starter) Josh Aleman (Back-up) *Lonnie Edwards* (Wild Card) Shawn Byrnes-Byrnes is a very physical blocker with a bulldog mentality and the willingness to bring his best every play. While smaller than the other starters at 6 feet 3 inches tall and 317 pounds, his job doesn't require him to be quite as large as the other offensive line positions. Byrnes has the quickness and intelligence to play at a very high level and ensure that the middle of the line is well secured. His biggest asset may just be his lightning fast snap and his ability to then get into his blocking stance almost before anyone takes note that the play has started. Explodes off of the line and should fill in well for former Red Raider Brandon Jones.

Josh Aleman- Aleman's versatility was already mentioned at the left guard section and it certainly carries through to his number 2 spot at center. While Aleman isn't given the starting nod, expect for there to be a battle of fairly serious proportions during spring drills to cement the center position. While he might not be starting at center, Aleman is a very capable back-up and gives the offensive line a measure of security that is always appreciated incase of some unexpected injury.

*Lonnie Edwards*- Edwards is not only the highest rated offensive linemen or recruit signed by Texas Tech on signing day but he is also the wild card at the center position. Simply massive at 6 feet 5 inches and 315 pounds, his skill set certainly lends him to the interior of the offensive line and his intelligence could easily turn him into a very good center. His biggest issue will be lack of time in the system but with practice and teaching, Edwards will certainly make an impact at either center or one of the guard positions.

Right Guard

Right Guard- The right guard in the Air Raid Offense has the daunting task of making the majority of the protections and calls at the line of scrimmage. A daunting task, this position is granted only to those with an intense grasp of the offense and a wealth of practice and game experience to draw up.

Right Guard depth chart- Brandon Carter (Starter) Josh Aleman (2nd String) *Lonnie Edwards* (Wild Card) Brandon Carter- Perhaps the most pleasant surprise on offense of the 2006 season was the emergence of Brandon Carter. Another simply massive guard at 6 feet 6 inches tall and 356 pounds, he dwarfs even the gigantic Louis Vasquez. Carter played both left and right guard positions last year, starting against Iowa State for the Red Raiders in place of the injured Manuel Ramirez. Carter is a fierce competitor who held a block last season after having his helmet ripped from his head allowing Shannon Woods to score a touchdown. Carter's physical play is impressive but even more impressive is his willingness to move down field and get in front blocking on screens and draws. His size hides his agility and fast feet coupled with a mentality that would scare almost any opposing lineman to be on the opposite side of the ball. While replacing a fixture like Manuel Ramirez is never easy, Carter certainly seems to be the heir apparent.

Josh Aleman - Aleman makes his 3rd and final appearance in this article at right guard. His versatility has been mentioned already and continues to be one of his strongest traits. His ability to provide the needed stability and backing up three offensive linemen gives the Red Raiders a myriad of options, should they ever need to be exercised.

*Omar Castillo*- An offensive linemen with a nasty streak a mile wide, he is also the wild card at right guard. An imposing 6 feet 7 inches tall and 310 pounds, he can play either tackle of guard. Yet with his combination of size and strength, guard could be in his future. He is a physical run blocker and adequate pass-blocker, he can be expected to play at a very impressive level once he has the Red Raiders system down.

Right Tackle

Right Tackle- The right tackle theoretically has the easier job of the two starting offensive tackles on a football team but with all of the attempts at creating a mismatch employed by defensive coordinators, right tackle has become almost as necessary as left tackle. Responsible for the Strong Side defensive end whom is usually the stronger of the two ends on the field, the right tackle must be incredibly strong and quick enough to recover if a stunt or twist is called by the defense.

Right Tackle depth chart- Rylan Reed (Starter) Adrian Archie (2nd string) *Jerrod Gooch* (Wild Card)

Rylan Reed- Rylan Reed was technically a tight end in the 2005 football season but instead looked like an offensive tackle attempting to play down a year in pee-wee football. A massive player 6 feet 6 inches tall and a reported (though out of date) 285 pound, he certainly has the height and wingspan to play right tackle. His strength is one of his greatest assets as is his quick burst off of the line and speed down the field. While he is a little light on experience, Rylan more than makes up for it with his tenacity and explosive first step.

Adrian Archie- Another younger offensive lineman who has the physical tools to become a very talent player, his biggest concern is a lack in experience. Fits the mold of other offensive tackles at 6 feet 5 inches and 313 pounds, he can establish himself in spring practice as the primary back-up at right tackle.

*Jerrod Gooch*- Good is the final offensive wild card and comes in at the position of right tackle. Physically seems ready to play division 1 football at 6 feet 5 inches tall and 295 pounds, he was a late switch commitment from the University of Texas. A strong and physical blocker, once he gets pass protection down to a science he will be hard to keep off of the field.

Come back next week as Mitchell Fish continues his "Sprinting to Spring" analysis, this time covering the quarterbacks and running backs who will rule the backfield for the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 2007 season.

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