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No easy task: Texas Tech's new LT must learn quickly, handle array of talented pass rushers

Texas Tech offensive line coach Lee Hays calls Dominique Robertson "Dom-O" for short.

Posted: August 8, 2014 - 10:36pm  |  Updated: August 9, 2014 - 12:22am
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Texas Tech will face a wealth of talented defensive ends during the season including Arkansas' Trey Flowers. (AP PHOTO)   Danny Johnston
Danny Johnston
Texas Tech will face a wealth of talented defensive ends during the season including Arkansas' Trey Flowers. (AP PHOTO)
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Texas Tech offensive line coach Lee Hays calls Dominique Robertson “Dom-O” for short. The Red Raiders don’t need “Dom-O” to dominate as he steps in at left tackle, but he has to show he’s capable — and right away — to keep the job.

The Ted Hendricks Award watch list was released this week, and it underscored the need for Robertson to make a smooth transition from Riverside (Calif.) City College to Tech. The Hendricks Award goes to the nation’s top defensive end, and five of the 29 players on the watch list are on Tech’s schedule.

One of Tech’s biggest offseason storylines was moving returning first-team All-Big 12 left tackle Le’Raven Clark to guard and installing Robertson at left tackle right off the bat. The main reason: Robertson has played only left tackle in the past, and Hays believes keeping Robertson at a position he knows gives him the best chance to help immediately.

Of course, it’s not Robertson’s job alone to keep those highly regarded defensive ends from building their Hendricks Award resumes. Right tackle Reshod Fortenberry’s likely to grapple with them, too.

Given Clark’s credentials at left tackle, Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury probably wouldn’t hesitate to move him back there if Robertson struggles early in the year.

Bringing the heat

Trey Flowers, Arkansas (plays Tech on Sept. 13): Chris Low, ESPN.com’s Southeastern Conference blogger, ranks Flowers the No. 2 defensive end in the SEC.

Once lightly recruited and undersized, Flowers grew up to 6-foot-4, 268 pounds and made 131/2 tackles in the backfield and five sacks last season — virtually identical to his numbers from the year before.

He considered a jump to the NFL, but decided to return for his senior season.

Ryan Mueller, Kansas State (Oct. 4): Speaking of lightly recruited players that blew up, Mueller’s a former walk-on who tied a Kansas State record with 111/2 sacks last season and earned second-team all-America recognition from the Football Writers Association of America.

He got three of his sacks in Lubbock, which tied a KSU single-game record. Mueller’s small for a defensive end at 6-2, 245, but active with six batted passes each of the last two years.

Cedric Reed, Texas (Nov. 1): The Longhorns’ pass rush wore out the Tech offensive line last Thanksgiving with nine sacks. Three of those came from usual end Jackson Jeffcoat, who spent all game rushing through the guard-center gap. Reed had a career-high four tackles for loss and tied a career high with two sacks.

Jeffcoat was a senior last season, so Reed becomes the point of the spear on the Longhorns’ pass rush. It’ll be interesting to see if he can match his 10 sacks and 14 TFLs from last year.

Charles Tapper, Oklahoma (Nov. 15): A 6-4, 281-pound junior, Tapper had an ordinary game last year in the Sooners’ 38-30 win over Tech. He finished with two quarterback hurries and one tackle. He made 51/2 sacks for the season. When facing the Sooners, pass protectors have to be at least as concerned with small, speedy linebacker Eric Striker bringing the heat.

Shawn Oakman, Baylor (Nov. 29): Oakman sat out the 2012 season after transferring to Baylor from Penn State, then showed immense promise last year as a sophomore. Though not in the starting lineup, he made two sacks and 121/2 tackles for loss. A giant of an end at 6-9 and 280 pounds, Oakman was likely just scratching the surface during his first season of action.

don.williams@lubbockonline.com

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