L e’R aven ready to bloom for Tech
The Red Raiders lost three multi-year starters up front at a time they were already shallow thanks to attrition.
“We know from depth-wise and from experience-wise, we’re the guys that are considered the weak link,” Hays said last week. “This summer, that’s all I’m thinking about. I hope that’s all they’re thinking about, that we’re only going to go as far as that front five take us.”
Tech is counting on offensive line stability from several returnees with varying but limited experience. In that group are senior Rashad Fortenberry, junior Beau Carpenter, sophomores Le’Raven Clark, Alfredo Morales, Tony Morales and Jared Kaster.
The Red Raiders need Clark’s talent to blossom with his move to left tackle, Carpenter to solidify a spot based on his experience and the Morales brothers to recover from injuries and live up to the reputations they had as recruits. And not last, they want Kaster and redshirt freshman guard Trey Keenan to get bigger and stronger.
All good resources, but in the spring Clark—a 2011 Rockdale graduate—changed positions and coaches didn’t get much of a read on Fortenberry and the Morales brothers because of injuries.
“We’ve got some kids working hard,” Hays said. “We just still have so many unknowns.”
Worrisome gaps were created by the losses of first-team all-Big 12 honoree LaAdrian Waddle, his fellow tackle Terry McDaniel and center Deveric Gallington. Those three accounted for more than 100 career starts.
Of the 10 scholarship offensive linemen on campus this spring, three were out or limited to non-contact work. One of the aforementioned 10, guard Kyle Clark, has since graduated and left the program, Hays said.
Hays said two players who came out as walk-ons were in the second-team huddle their first day.
“After the spring, you don’t have a great feel for what anybody can do, really, based on the fact they were probably exhausted every single practice,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said, “because there were only seven guys rotating through.”
Whereas an offensive lineman might get 30 snaps in a spring scrimmage when part of a deep, experienced group, Hays said, Tech’s linemen were seeing double that amount.
That made it hard on everybody, including the ones doing the evaluations.
“Trey (Keenan) would literally come off the field and throw up two or three times, then go back on the field,” Hays said. “Like in a scrimmage.”
Clark started 13 games last season, and Carpenter and Alfredo Morales had nine and four starts, respectively, at guard. Clark has been deemed Waddle’s successor at left tackle after he made freshman all-America last year playing right guard.