It isn’t difficult to discern which part of Texas Tech’s blistering offensive performance on Saturday against New Mexico most pleased LaAdrian Waddle.
The senior left tackle helped spearhead a 325-yard rushing effort — the largest output for the Red Raiders in 14 years — and he didn’t try to downplay what it meant for the offensive line.
“Especially being at Tech, it’s always good to run for that many yards,” Waddle said. “Being at Tech, everybody considers us pass-first. I’m not going to stay it doesn’t feel good to see that (rushing) stat. It does. I just really think that’s the result of all the hard work we’ve been putting in at practice.”
Tech entered the season knowing it would have three seniors on the offensive line, but that didn’t mean there weren’t some uncertainties.
For starters, Deveric Gallington, though an experienced member of the unit, was being moved full time to center after playing guard his first three seasons at guard. The Red Raiders were also breaking three redshirt freshmen — Alfredo Morales, Beau Carpenter and Le’Raven Clark — into the guard rotation. Carpenter and senior right tackle Terry McDaniel missed time during fall camp, further delaying some cohesion along the offensive front.
But despite some setbacks and prolonged learning curves, the starting line — Waddle, Morales, Gallington, Clark and McDaniel — was able to cement chemistry during August, coach Tommy Tuberville said. And once the unit took shape, the coach liked what he saw.
“In two-a-days that we were a lot more athletic,” he said. “We do a better job against the blitz. We do a better job of staying on the first level, then getting to the second level on runs. We’ve been more physical.”
The offensive line’s triumphs were visible to the naked eye during Tech’s 49-14 win Saturday. Lineman weren’t so much making holes as they were forging canyons for the running backs to breeze through.
Quarterback Seth Doege said after the game he was impressed by a front-row view of the performance, adding that his field of vision included plenty of open green.
“It was great to see those kinds of things,” Gallington said. “It all started from having a good week of practice. It was basically communicating, trying to get five guys on five guys, and after that just finishing blocks.”
The play of the guards was closely monitored during spring ball and fall camp, and it continued into the first three weeks of the season. Carpenter entered August slated to be the starting left guard, but his absence for a portion of camp allowed Morales to win the first-team job. Carpenter has received reps, too, and the three new guards have received solid marks thus far.
It helps to have experience to lean on, whether they turn left or right.
“It makes them a lot more comfortable in there knowing they have three seniors who can guide them,” Gallington said.
Meantime, Gallington’s development at the center position, where he started only one game last season (Iowa State), will continue to be key for the team’s offense with Big 12 Conference play on the horizon.
“Gallington is trying to find his way at center,” Tuberville said, “but he’s getting better.”
Waddle likes what he sees from the offensive line as a whole as it prepares to face defenses that are bigger, faster and stronger than the ones Tech saw during its non-conference schedule. His 30 career starts — Tuberville calls him “an iron man” — also give him the latitude to let his fellow linemen know when changes need to be made.
“I’m more of a lead-by-example guy,” Waddle said, “but just knowing it was my senior year, and knowing my position on the team, I just feel like I need to be more vocal. I’ve really embraced that and tried to roll with that. I lead by example, but then again if I need to get on somebody I’ll get on them, try to encourage them and tell them to pick it up.”
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