On national signing day at Texas Tech, not all the conversation centered around the newcomers. Offensive line coach Lee Hays mentioned that he’d talked to two-year starter Le’Raven Clark about moving from left tackle to guard.
The idea was that, in a perfect world, new junior-college signee Dominique Robertson might be capable of taking over at left tackle and Clark could move back inside and give the Red Raiders dominant guard play. Best of both worlds, right?
Clark’s proven he can do either, and Robertson has little experience at anything but left tackle.
Time will tell whether the idea ever moves past the thinking-out-loud stage.
Asked last week whether he’s trying Clark inside this spring, Hays said, “We’re thinking about it. We’re still at a point where depth is still an issue and, with our quarterback depth also, we’re not going to just flop guys around until we actually get people (new signees) here.”
Robertson, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound signee from Riverside (Calif.) City College, and Shaq Davis, a 6-4, 320-pounder from Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College, both arrive after this semester.
The Red Raiders started spring practice March 5 and have had five of their 15 workouts. Now they’re off for the university’s spring break this week. Hays said Clark had gotten a little bit of work on the right side, at tackle, early.
Hays said on signing day that Clark is OK with wherever the staff puts him. He’s shown he can be a key piece at different spots. The 6-5, 315-pound junior from Rockdale made freshman all-America two years ago at right guard and first-team All-Big 12 last season at left tackle.
Three offensive line coaches and two head coaches have done nothing but rave about Clark in his first three years on campus.
Former Tech line coach Chris Thomsen said he told Hays when the latter succeeded him that he “would have the best left tackle in the country.”
Now the Red Raiders are toying with the thought of changing his position again, which might be ambitious. It presupposes that Robertson (6-5, 300) can arrive in the summer, process the offense and handle Big 12 edge rushers right off the bat.
What’s the difficulty level of doing that?
“I think for anybody, it’s difficult,” Hays said. “I know that athletically, he and Shaq (Davis) both have an opportunity, and we’re expecting them to come in and compete. But at the same time, they’re going to need that summer to get in here and learn the system, and you don’t want them out there thinking the whole time. You want them to be at a point where it’s just a reaction.”
Robertson has little experience at any position other than left tackle in his career, which is part of the reason for the discussion. If he doesn’t have to move, he doesn’t have to learn a new pass-protection setup.
“It’s going to be tough, and they know that coming in,” Hays said. “It’s not a deal where you’re just going to walk in and ... . And even if you do, it’s still a situation where you’ve got to earn a spot up front.”
Tech’s need for immediate help at right tackle was alleviated with Rashad Fortenberry’s return to the team via a medical hardship waiver. Having started all 13 games in 2013, Fortenberry will be hard to unseat. Tech coaches liked his attitude and approach before he ran into a string of injuries.
He’s one of the line’s most athletic players and finally got a chance to show it once he recovered from a back injury in 2012, an ankle injury that sidelined him last spring and arthroscopic knee surgery that cost him preseason camp time last year.
His waiver was granted on Feb. 28.
“I think it was the right thing to do,” Hays said. “It meant a lot for him.
“For us, it’s a little bit of continuity. He was getting to the point where he was really making strides. He struggled early because he couldn’t go through two-a-days because of that one (knee) injury and he missed spring. I’m happy for him, and I like him in my room. He’s a funny kid.”
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