Despite earning First Team All-America honors in 2008 and already being named to one preseason First Team All-American unit in 2009, there remain a few pundits who do not recognize the ability of Texas Tech guard Brandon Carter.
The people who know Carter best however, his teammates, certainly recognize his value. This became readily apparent one warm spring afternoon in Lubbock when Carter, pass protecting in a spring workout, collapsed to the turf in agony clutching his knee. What had been a boisterous and rambunctious practice turned deathly silent.
Practice ground to a halt for several moments.
Eventually, head coach Mike Leach rallied the troops and practice started once again, but with only a fraction of its prior intensity.
Those players and coaches understood the enormity of what may have just happened. They understood that the team had potentially lost what may have been its best player and one of the team's leaders. And they realized that it was possible that their hopes for another outstanding season had taken a tremendous hit.
Fortunately, Tech's light-footed leviathan from Longview made a rapid recovery and was able to rejoin spring workouts a week or so later. But it had been a close shave.
Those players who had a lump in their throats the size of a small moon as they glanced furtively at the prone Carter would be the first to tell you how absurd it is to create a list of the Big 12's best players that didn't include Carter. He well may be, after all, one of the conference's best offensive lineman.
Of course the Big 12 is a mighty football conference and it is stocked with talent. And there are several players who may plausibly be better than Carter. Guys like Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Dez Bryant, Jermaine Gresham, Robert Griffin, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, and Russell Okung are all superb and no reasonable person could quibble with their being placed on a list ahead of Carter.
But that group comprises a mere octet. And Carter is absolutely in the same class as every player in that group. Even if one ranks all of those players above Carter, is it really conceivable that there are 40 other players in the Big 12 who are better than Carter, as one observer has stated? The notion is curious.
Carter, one recalls, had an all out war last year with Nebraska's Suh, but more than held his own. Likewise, Carter played a significant role in neutralizing Texas' outstanding defensive tackle Roy Miller in Tech's win over the No. 1 Longhorns a year ago. And Carter probably did a better job on Mississippi's Peria Jerry, a then future first-round NFL draft pick than another first-round selection, Michael Oher, did against Tech's Brandon Williams.
Did Carter struggle against Oklahoma's defensive linemen when the Sooners drubbed Tech in Norman? Absolutely. Was there a Red Raider who didn't struggle that night? No.
Carter, as anybody who has watched him play knows perfectly well, is an athletic freak. At 6-foot-7 and 355 pounds he is one of the largest and most imposing players in college football.
Simultaneously, he is one of the fastest and most nimble players for his size outside of the NFL. Nobody gets downfield to deliver blocks better than Carter, and no offensive lineman plays in space as well as Carter. Those assets are critical to the success of Tech's screen package.
Carter is also one of the nastiest, toughest players in the college game.
And all of the above is why Carter will likely be a day-one selection in the 2010 NFL draft.
Are there 40 players in the Big 12 who have better talent or a more impressive resume than Carter? Better yet, is there a coach in the conference who would trade Carter for Oklahoma fullback Matt Clapp(?!).
It is to make one's sides ache with laughter.