First in a series previewing Texas Tech spring football practice, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 17.
When Texas Tech begins spring football practice next week, the Red Raiders will do so with three returning starters in the offensive line and another member of the regular rotation. There will be more plot lines than that implies, though.
■ Senior Deveric Gallington will move to center after starting 25 games in a row at right guard.
■ Senior Terry McDaniel will move to right guard after starting the last nine games of last season at right tackle.
■ Senior LaAdrian Waddle, coming off consensus second-team all-Big 12 Conference honors, will get a push from one of the team’s mid-term signees.
■ Beau Carpenter out of the 2010 signing class and Le’Raven Clark from the 2011 recruiting class will open practice as first team, Carpenter at left guard and Clark at right tackle.
■ Since the season ended, Tech fired line coach Matt Moore, replaced him with Jim Turner from Texas A&M, had Turner resign after six weeks and then hired former Abilene Christian University head coach Chris Thomsen to coach the line.
So even the veterans will have something new to learn.
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown said he thinks Gallington will be a more natural center than a guard. Gallington played center in a pinch last season, taking over on the third play of the game in Tech’s 41-38 upset at Oklahoma and playing the rest of the way after starter Justin Keown got hurt.
Gallington made several low snaps that night, but Brown said he did everything else right.
“His blocking assignments were correct,” Brown said. “He did a good job. He gives us some strength there, and I think he’s better there in one-on-one pass protection.”
One of the best competitions might be at left tackle, where incoming transfer Rashad Fortenberry has been put on the board behind Waddle. Brown said Waddle has NFL potential, but needs to play like it all the time.
“This is a big spring for him,” Brown said. “He had flashes last year, but he wasn’t as consistent as he needs to be. Rashad Fortenberry will challenge him, and Waddle needs to be challenged.”
Fortenberry was one of three players Tech signed in December off a 10-2 team at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Juco all-America wide receiver Javon Bell is most heralded of the three, but the Tech staff had tracked Fortenberry’s progress for a year.
Brown’s relationship with Mississippi Gulf Coast coach Steve Campbell dates to Brown’s 2006-09 tenure at Troy, Campbell’s alma mater.
“In spring, we obviously were recruiting Javon Bell heavy and went out and watched them practice twice,” Brown said. “He (Campbell) kept saying, ‘I have an offensive lineman that’s a little bit undersized, but he’s got great feet, he’s athletic and he’s going to be a big-time Division I player.’”
Brown said Fortenberry did well coming back from a preseason shoulder injury and impressed again in the team’s 46-17 bowl win against Blinn College.
“He got up to 275 (pounds), and we started recruiting him heavy,” Brown said. “We got him on a visit and he liked it, and I think he’ll come in and compete. If he can’t beat out Waddle, we’ll flip him over and give him a chance at right tackle.”
For now, most of the snaps at right tackle will go to Clark, who redshirted in 2011 after being a member of the Avalanche-Journal Fabulous 44 list last year.
“We’re excited about him,” Brown said. “He performed at a high level during preseason camp. In our Sunday night redshirt games, he played at a high level, and I think he’s ready to play. He’s a redshirt freshman, but he’s got the ability, and he’s got the size. We’re going to give him first crack at right tackle.”
Tech coaches hope left guard can be secured by Carpenter, another of the team’s most promising young linemen. Carpenter’s competing with Alfredo Morales. Both are sophomores, but Carpenter’s been in the program 11/2 years longer.
“He played well in five or six games last year,” Brown said. “He’s big. He’s strong. He’s mature. I think he’s ready to take his performance to the next level.”
Depth could be a big concern going into next season. None of the second-teamers have significant Division I experience, and Tech had only 11 offensive linemen on scholarship before it signed three.
“You need 16,” Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said, “and we’re still, even after this signing class, going to be short of that. We’re steadily climbing back to it.”
To comment on this story: