The Red Raider football team will open up fall camp in less than a week when they take the practice field on Monday August 4th. As the countdown to practice begins, RedRaiderSports.com will breakdown each position heading into camp with in-depth position analysis. This afternoon we break down the offensive line. Is Stephen Hamby the answer at center or will Shawn Byrnes retake the starting position?
Biggest Question: Who will start at center, Hamby or Byrnes?
Byrnes, a junior from Phoenix, Arizona, started eleven games last season and was slated as the starter going into spring practices. However, Hamby, the former walk-on, did not let that keep him from trying to overtake his fellow junior. Hamby's hard work paid off and offensive line coach Matt Moore rewarded him by naming him first-string center at the end of the spring. Some have speculated that Hamby was promoted only to push Byrnes harder, but that is not the case. One thing in particular that Hamby did better than Byrnes during the spring was pick up blitzing linebackers. This will certainly be an interesting battle to watch over the course of fall camp. Regardless of whether Byrnes or Hamby starts, the center position will be in good hands.
What We Know Right Now: Reed and Vasquez make up one of the best tackle-guard combos in the nation.
The left side of Texas Tech's 2008 offensive line is as solid as it gets. Louis Vasquez, a 6'6", 335 pound guard, did not give up a sack last season and has appeared on nearly every preseason All-Big 12 list. Next to Vasquez is fifth-year senior Rylan Reed. The 6'7", 305 pound left tackle recently broke the Texas Tech school record for bench press (which he set last year) with a lift of 625 pound. Reed, who suffered a grotesque lower leg injury in the final minutes of the Gator Bowl, is an excellent pass blocker as well.
Fresh Fall Camp Faces: Deveric Gallington, Joe King, Terry McDaniel, and Omar Castillo
Simply put, none of these four freshman will see the field this year. Castillo participated in spring drills, but still has a way to go before he is able to contribute. Perhaps the most highly touted of the incoming freshman is Gallington. At 6'4" and 347 pounds, Gallington projects as an interior lineman. The Richland High School alumnus earned 2nd team 5A All-State honors his senior season and participated in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. While Gallington projects on the inside, King and McDaniel project to be tackles. Both have the requisite size to play tackle in the Air Raid (6'6", 324 pounds and 6'7", 323 pounds, respectively).
Early Camp Prediction:
Hamby will edge Byrnes for the starting job by the end of fall camp. Reed will return from his leg injury and pickup where he left off last year- shutting down whatever defender thrust at him. Two redshirt freshmen offensive linemen, Mickey Okafor and Lonnie Edwards, will establish themselves as the successors to the left tackle and left guard spots vacated by Reed and Vasquez. Overall, the offensive line should perform better in fall camp than in the spring when several key linemen were out with injuries.