The move came without notice.
Nor did it come with any pomp and circumstance.
Baylen Brown was simply told he was — once again — starting at right guard.
“They just said ‘You are running with the ones’ and that was about it,” said Brown, who started his fourth straight game for Texas Tech in the win over Central Arkansas last week.
And then Brown went back to work. He knew even though he was getting the start at right guard against the Bears that unless he continued to push for the spot every day in practice he was going to lose it.
“I just had to fight for it,” Brown said. “All throughout camp I had to work hard and beat the guy behind me and the guy in front of me.”
Until Aug. 20, Brown, who had started the last three games of last season, had been relegated to a backup role.
In the offseason, Tech offensive line coach Lee Hays had moved the team’s best offensive lineman, Le’Raven Clark, to right guard — Brown’s spot — in order to make way for Dominique Robertson at left tackle.
Against Central Arkansas, though, the Red Raiders went back to the lineup of Clark at left tackle, Alfredo Morales at left guard, Jared Kaster at center, Reshod Fortenberry at right tackle — a lineup virtually identical to last year’s.
It is a lineup that seems to be working — at least in live action.
The Red Raiders haven’t given up a sack on their last 96 passing plays — a streak that dates back to the last three passes thrown against Kansas State on Nov. 9, 2013.
“We feel great together and we know what to do — our weaknesses and strengths as individuals,” Brown said. “We know what we are doing. ... Our second-year in the offense we are doing well. Everyone who started last game had experience last year. When you have that experience it helps a lot.”
And while Hays won’t grade the performance against Central Arkansas anything special (because the Bears primarily used a three-man front), the line did its part to help Texas Tech win 42-35 and narrowly escape the upset.
“I thought protection was pretty good,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said at the Monday news conference. “They were only rushing three guys most of the night, so it should have been. In the run game I thought we were soft at times. We have to continue to get better. Our running backs did a good job making people miss, but we have to get more movement up front.”
Despite that criticism, the Red Raiders’ offensive line not only didn’t give up a sack against Central Arkansas but also helped DeAndre Washington rush for a career-high 104 yards and the team had its third-highest rushing total (184 yards) in the 14 games of the Kingsbury regime.
“We give (DeAndre) a lot of credit,” Hays said. “They gave us a run-friendly box. We should have run for 400. So, we still have a lot of work to do — same thing with the pass rush. They brought three, or five at the most. So, we are not going to jump up and down and do cartwheels. We still have a lot of work to do to get ready.”
Hays wouldn’t even guarantee Brown — or anyone else for that matter — a starting spot Saturday against UTEP.
“I wouldn’t say any of them can camp out and pitch a tent and think they have a spot right now,” Hays said. “We saw some of the performances last week and our expectations are to play hard every snap. And if you are not doing that I don’t care who you are, we can go and get you out.”
From here on out, the Tech offensive line coach said anyone’s job along the line is up for grabs — except maybe for Clark’s.
Clark is back at left tackle where he was first-team All-Big 12 a year ago. And unless something drastic happens, that is not likely to change.
“I think Baylen realizes he has to play hard every snap — same thing with Alfredo (Morales) and (Jared) Kaster and the tackles. If they don’t play hard we can move Dom back out to tackle. I wouldn’t even say Baylen would be the odd man out.
“I just hope we have the same depth four or five weeks from now.”