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.
RICHARD JONES: Even with Brandon Williams' early departure to the NFL, and the questions surrounding seniors McKinner Dixon and Brandon Sesay, Texas Tech's defensive line will still be loaded with experienced players in 2009. And of that battle-tested group, La Marque-product Richard Jones has seen the most action. Since arriving on the South Plains in the fall of 2006, Jones has played in all but three games.
HE IS RANKED TOO LOW BECAUSE...: Jones had an impressive showing during the spring and established himself as a playmaker. His combination of size and athleticism, along with his experience, makes him a factor against the run and the pass. Plus, with senior Rajon Henley a likely starter at defensive end, Jones will be one of only two interior linemen with significant game experience.
HE IS RANKED TOO HIGH BECAUSE...: Defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill drew on his depth during games last season and constantly rotated players in and out on the defensive line. While the Red Raiders weren't nearly that deep in the spring, the arrival of heralded signees Myles Wade, Pearlie Graves and Romario Cathey should allow McNeill to send a number of lineman at opponents.
2009 EXPECTATIONS: Jones will go wire-to-wire as a starting defensive tackle in 2009. Because of the nature of his position, he won't burn up a stat sheet, but Jones will definitely make his presence felt throughout the season.
OFF THE CUFF PREDICTION: Jones will log 25 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2009.
KEY RED RAIDERS COUNTDOWN:
NOTE: This list was a collaborative effort by Aaron Dickens, Drew Dougherty, Robert Giovannetti and Chris Level.