A huge number of factors go into the success of any football team. In this series, we will be examining 25 of them. More specifically, we will take a reverse-order look at the 25 players who will be most crucial if the Texas Tech Red Raiders are to have a successful 2008 season, however that may be defined.
This is not, however, a list of the best players on the team. Rather, this series takes into consideration the importance of a given position on the team, depth issues, experience and inexperience, and the historic strengths and weaknesses of Mike Leach's program. The results, therefore, may surprise many readers, and will hopefully spur discussion and debate.
BRANDON SHARPE: With the early departure of Brandon Williams for the NFL, and the indefinite suspension of McKinner Dixon, Texas Tech's depth chart at defensive end is much lighter than one would have guessed six months ago. Brandon Sharpe, who signed with Texas Tech in 2007 after a stint at Fresno City Community College, didn't see a lot of snaps 2008, but is expected to either start or be a key figure in the rotation. He ran with the first group through much of spring and registered two sacks in the Red & Black Game.
HE IS RANKED TOO LOW BECAUSE...: Assuming, for the moment, that Brandon Sesay is not an option this fall, Sharpe will be one of three returning players - Daniel Howard and Sandy Riley are the others - that saw live snaps at defensive end last season. Converted defensive tackle Rajon Henley will see a lot of time at end, but beyond that the Red Raiders don't have a ton of experience at the position. Sharpe showed in the spring that he is a capable pass rusher, which is key in the Big 12.
HE IS RANKED TOO HIGH BECAUSE...: Sharpe may be one of three players with game experience but he didn't see many live defensive snaps last season and only registered four tackles. And with four 2009 signees expected to start out at defensive end, defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill will have plenty of options at their disposal.
2009 EXPECTATIONS: Much like McKinner Dixon in 2008, Sharpe won't "start" this season, but will be the first guy rotated in and should see plenty of action.
OFF THE CUFF PREDICTION: Sharpe will register 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
KEY RED RAIDERS COUNTDOWN:
NOTE: This list was a collaborative effort by Aaron Dickens, Drew Dougherty, Robert Giovannetti and Chris Level.