Texas Tech didn’t need Rashad Fortenberry to come in and make a quick impact last fall, which is a good thing because he spent much of his first season injured. The outlook in year two is altogether different.
Now the Red Raiders are hurting for players to step up on the offensive line, and Fortenberry’s one of the candidates under the microscope.
“I really wouldn’t say it’s pressure,” he said Tuesday. “I just feel like it’s my time right now and I’ve got to bring it to the table.”
Tech lost both its starting offensive tackles and its starting center from the team that went 8-5 last season. Freshman all-American Le’Raven Clark is getting first crack at left tackle with Fortenberry being the first option at right tackle, competing with redshirt freshman Trey Keenan.
The transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College spent last fall training behind first-team all-Big 12 honoree LaAdrian Waddle at left tackle.
“LaAdrian taught me a lot,” Fortenberry said. “He was a technician. He helped me with my technique every day in practice. I got better, and now I’m just ready to show it.”
Fortenberry has done what he can to prepare not only on the field, but off it. He’s gone from 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds when he first showed up on campus to the 297 pounds at which he weighed in Tuesday.
He’s spent time with a nutritionist who’s persuaded him to eat a more healthy diet. That’s a challenge given that Fortenberry is a self-described vegetables hater.
He’s discovered they’re not all bad.
“I’m kind of digging on the broccoli,” Fortenberry said. “I kind of like that one for a start. I’m eating right and getting stronger. I guess my body’s filling out finally.”
Fortenberry has terrific athleticism, which the Red Raiders are trying to mold into a starting Big 12 tackle soon. After playing three games last season, Fortenberry was sidelined by a back injury. Tech is appealing for a medical hardship waiver on Fortenberry’s behalf that would restore his junior-year status.
Fortenberry played almost exclusively as a defensive lineman at his high school in Franklinton, La., then converted to offensive line at Mississippi Gulf Coast. And with the switch from left tackle to right tackle, he has to learn a new setup.
“When I moved to the right side, at first I was real uncomfortable with it,” he said. “I really didn’t know how to set with it. But every practice got better and better, and now it’s getting like I was on the left side.”
Fortenberry also recognizes that there’s an opportunity that wasn’t available in 2012.
“I pretty much stayed hurt all last season,” he said. “I just got here, learning and trying to fit in with the system, but now I’m ready to get the show on the road. I feel like I can be one of the leaders out there, and I just feel more at home now.”
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