The 2008 season was a special one for the Texas Tech football team and head coach Mike Leach. The Red Raiders capped off a record-best 11-1 regular season with only the fourth Cotton Bowl invite in the program's history. Over the next few weeks, RedRaiderSports.com will recap every position and talk about what the future holds for each of them. Today we continue our "season in review" feature by recapping the offensive line.
THE HIGH POINT: Nearly unstoppable through 10 games
Through the first 10 games on their schedule, Texas Tech's offensive line was nearly unstoppable. They had allowed only five sacks in 463 pass attempts, paved the way for 100-plus rushing yards in every game, and were vital to the success of the Red Raiders' Big 12-best offense. At this point, after a 56-20 shellacking of Oklahoma State, Graham Harrell was the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, running backs Baron Batch and Shannon Woods ranked both ranked in the top 12 in the league in rushing, and Texas Tech led the conference in sacks allowed. Without the efforts of left tackle Rylan Reed, left guard Louis Vasquez, center Stephen Hamby, right guard Brandon Carter and right tackle Marlon Winn, none of that would have been possible.
THE LOW POINT: Can't get anything going against Oklahoma
While everything seemed to go right for the Red Raiders in their first 10 games, nothing went their way in their eleventh. After allowing only five sacks on the entire season, Texas Tech nearly double that by giving up four against Oklahoma. After rushing for more than 100 yards in the ten previous contests, the Red Raiders could only muster a meager 45 net yards. While the blame for the massacre in Norman is not completely on the of the offensive line or any other position, they are the key to the Air Raid and shoulder just as much responsibility as a unit as the quarterback for the offense's successes and failures. Perhaps the most alarming thing about the game against the OU is that offensive line never seemed to recover, allowing two sacks against Baylor the next week and another two against Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: Controlling the Longhorn's defensive line
One of the biggest questions being asked leading up to the Texas Tech's game against then No. 1 Texas, which was being billed as "the biggest game in the history of the Red Raider football program," was how would Matt Moore's offensive line be able to withstand the onslaught of the Longhorn's premier defensive line. The prevailing thought was that Brian Orakpo, Roy Miller and Sergio Kindle would have their way with Texas Tech's offensive line, and that was that. It didn't quite turn out that way. The Longhorns did notch two sacks, but the Red Raiders rushed for over 100 yards on the Big 12's top rush defense and largely controlled the line of scrimmage throughout most of the game. Orakpo was limited to one tackle before leaving the game with an injury. Texas Tech dominated time of possession, 36:53 to 23:07.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS: Tech looking to replace three starters
The immediate focus on the offensive line is replacing departing starters Reed, Vasquez and Hamby. Moore indicated before the Cotton Bowl that he was inclined to experiment with moving Carter to left tackle during spring football. This makes sense as Carter is Texas Tech's best returning lineman, and where better to put your best OL than at left tackle? Senior-to-be Shawn Byrnes, who started every game at center in 2007, is the odds-on favorite to regain his spot in 2009 but junior-to-be Chris Olson may challenge him during the offseason. This leaves both guard spots up for grabs, and while Olson will be in the mix here as well, so will sophomore-to-be Lonnie Edwards, and redshirt freshmen Deveric Gallington and Joe King and others.