Editor’s note: Texas Tech begins spring football practice on March 5. This is the second in a series of spring football previews looking at offensive tackles.
Texas Tech’s offensive tackle arrangement figures to change a lot between spring practice and the start of 2014 preseason workouts.
For one thing, the Red Raiders have to wait until the end of the semester for junior-college signees Dominique Robertson and Shaq Davis to arrive. And they’re waiting to learn whether Rashad Fortenberry, who started all 13 games at right tackle in 2013, will receive a medical hardship waiver that would put him back on the team for one more year.
Fortenberry played in only three games in 2012, when he had back issues.
Asked recently if he’d just like to know Fortenberry’s status by the first day of spring practice, line coach Lee Hays said, “You know what? If they told me the last day of spring practice that I get him back, I’ll be happy for Rashad. It’s just sad anytime you see a kid get a year taken when it’s not his fault. You never want to see that happen.
“The more kids we have, the more competition there is, and I think it steps up (the level of play). It at least gives us some more options up front.
“It’ll be interesting. Spring’s going to be a little rough, though.”
Tech has first-team All-Big 12 honoree Le’Raven Clark returning at left tackle, and the possibility of Fortenberry on the other flank. Hays also would like to see development in March and April from junior Matt Wilson, sophomore Trey Keenan and redshirt freshman Poet Thomas.
Wilson missed the end of last season with a broken foot and has also had recent, recurring problems with the knee on which he had ACL surgery around the start of the 2012 season.
Hays says few, if any of his linemen work harder than Keenan, but the heralded 2012 signee has had trouble keeping weight on his 6-foot-6 frame. He’s dropped to 265 and is back up to 270, Hays said last week. Keenan saw some action last season as a tight end in short-yardage, double-tight sets.
With the JC signees not on campus this spring, Keenan is slated to practice at both tackle spots.
The 15 sessions of spring ball also will be valuable time for Thomas, who redshirted in the fall and started the process of reshaping his physique. The 6-foot-5 freshman from Michigan was in the low 320s at season’s end and is being groomed at right tackle.
The summer is when the tackle positions will get more interesting. Hays has discussed moving Clark, his most marquee lineman, to guard for a couple of reasons. One, Clark’s already proven he’s up to it, having been a freshman all-America honoree in 2012 playing right guard. Secondly, Robertson has played left tackle throughout his career, and staying at that position would ease his transition.
Robertson played left tackle at Riverside (Calif.) City College, and Davis played left tackle at Mt. San Antonio College. Davis is viewed as a swing man who can play either tackle or guard.
“They’ll be down here this summer,” Hays said. “With the rule changes with college, we can meet with them now in the summer, so that’s going to help. You get ‘x’ amount of time to sit down and go over the offense and meet with them, and I can test them and get them ready to roll.”
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