A truly exceptional group of seniors will play their final home game in a Red Raider uniform this afternoon against Baylor. Certainly no other group of Texas Tech seniors has won as many games as the 2008 class. As of the present, the current seniors have won 36 games against only 13 losses. And with any luck, they will add a few more wins to that already impressive tally.
As it turns out, the most decorated members of this senior class are on the offensive side of the ball. And they have contributed mightily to whipping the Air Raid into one of the most fearsome attacks in the history of college football.
Headlining the seniors on offense is quarterback Graham Harrell. He is the most prolific passer in Big 12 football history, and his passing numbers probably will not be broken for some time. Then again, as long as Mike Leach coaches the Red Raiders, no passing record is very secure.
Harrell arrived at Texas Tech from Ennis, Texas where his high school exploits gave him the reputation as probably the best quarterback in the state during his senior year. Harrell has certainly lived up to that reputation in college and may go down as the greatest quarterback ever to play for the Red Raiders up to this point.
Harrell's best friend on the team is diminutive inside receiver Eric Morris. Unlike Harrell, however, Morris did not arrive on the Texas Tech scene as a blue chip recruit. On the contrary, Morris was a lightly recruited player from Shallowater, Texas, of all places.
But Morris' impact on the Red Raider program has far outstripped his physical size and his high school reputation. Pound for pound one of the toughest players in recent Tech memory, Morris has been a critical go-to receiver for Harrell, and has dazzled many a fan and defender with his cuts and open-field running. Morris is also highly intelligent and a "character guy." Look for him to make his mark in the coaching ranks, if he so chooses.
No senior on the current squad has had a more eventful career than running back Shannon Woods. Another lightly recruited player, Woods made an impact early as a solid substitute for the superb Taurean Henderson. Then, after earning a starting berth, Woods played well enough to erase some of the Henderson memories.
But various infringements against team policy and a comparatively poor on-field performance throughout his junior season resulted in him almost being kicked off the team. Woods, however, earned his way back into Mike Leach's good graces and has turned in a stellar senior campaign in which he has established himself as one of the best blocking backs in Tech history.
As much as it will hurt to lose Harrell, Morris and Woods, the loss of senior offensive linemen Rylan Reed, Louis Vasquez and Stephen Hamby will be just as painful. They have anchored what may be the best Red Raider offensive line ever.
Reed was initially courted as a tight end, but grew into a massive and massively talented left tackle. And his weight room exploits are the stuff of legend. Reed owns Tech's school record in the bench press with a lift of 625 pounds.
Vasquez has been a presence on the Tech line almost since his arrival from Corsicana, Texas. He combines superior polish and technique with physical strength that rivals that of Reed. Red Raider supporters will be able to watch Vasquez do his thing in the NFL for many years to come.
Hamby is one of the great characters on a team filled with them. He has also developed into a very fine center. A walk-on from San Antonio, Hamby was a backup early in his career, but then surprised many by winning the starting position over incumbent Shawn Byrnes last spring. By his play in 2008, Hamby has validated the decision to make him the starter.
Only three key seniors depart from the defense. Cornerback L.A. Reed is one of them. A sometime starter at outside receiver during his first three years in Lubbock, Reed made the jump to safety during this past spring, and then surprisingly, transferred to cornerback in the summer. Despite the steep learning curve and nagging ankle injuries, Reed has earned a starting post of late and given a respectable account of himself.
Starting safeties Daniel Charbonnet and Darcel McBath will leave a major hole in the secondary when they conclude their Tech careers in the coming weeks. Charbonnet, a transfer from Duke, is a cerebral, big-play performer with a knack for finding the football. He is also speedier than most observers realize.
McBath may be the fastest player on defense, and has had a truly exceptional senior campaign. He has also been one of Tech's true team leaders and has been a key component of the locker room chemistry that has propelled the current team to its special season.
Verily, this group of seniors has made an indelible mark on the Texas Tech football program and will never be forgotten by those who have watched them play the last four years. We can expect to see them many times in the future for honorary reunions on the football field where they created so many memories and authored so many remarkable accomplishments.