Texas Tech offensive line coach Lee Hays doesn’t have to raise his voice every time he gets irritated.
Red Raiders center Jared Kaster will detect his coach’s frustration and take action.
“He’s been good for the young guys, helping teach them,” Hays said this week. “He’s been a little coach. He’s been around me long enough to know if they’re fixing to do up-downs because they’re not moving fast enough.
“He’ll turn the tempo up on them, which saves my voice a little bit.”
Even better for Hays, this year he has a healthy Kaster, something the Red Raiders never had in 2013 season. The hub of the team’s offensive line suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder in preseason practice last year.
He stuck it out, started all 13 games and got it fixed after the season.
“You love it,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said of the toughness, “especially when that’s the leader of the offensive line. He’s the voice of the huddle for that group, and that means a lot that he’s willing to pay that price and push through, knowing what he was dealing with.”
Hays said at the beginning of August that coaches would monitor Kaster and make concessions in practice if his shoulder acted up. So far, there’s been no need.
“It’s strong,” Kaster said. “I’ve heard people come back even stronger, and it’s true. I came back feeling really good.”
Kaster knew immediately when he hurt the shoulder. He’d get reminders during the season when he’d wake up feeling pain.
Kingsbury said there was some concern going into the 2013 season if his center would be full go, but Kaster tried to ease coaches’ minds.
“I made sure and told them, ‘You don’t have to ask. Don’t worry. I’ll do it. I’ll be fine,’” he said. “It’s a tough injury. I just pushed through it, because I wanted to be out there for my team.”
The Red Raiders hope that by putting the shoulder issue behind him, Kaster can take off this season. Unable to lift weights last fall, his playing weight dropped from 285 pounds at the start of practice to a range between 270 and 275. Now the junior from Altair Rice is carrying 291, the most he’s ever weighed, on a 6-foot-3 frame.
“He looks like a different guy,” Kingsbury said, “and has really been steady for us.”
To Hays, he’s the same ’ol Kaster — just a little older, a little healthier and a little more take-charge.
“The thing with Kaster is he has fun,” Hays said. “He loves playing football. He comes out here and gets after it. He does anything you ask him. He’s been a good little leader as far as pushing the tempo and all that stuff.
“It’s good to have him back.”
Follow Don on Twitter