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.
FRANKLIN MITCHEM: After graduating five senior safeties off of their 2008 squad, Texas Tech entered spring practice with two scholarship safeties on the roster: redshirt freshman Cody Davis and junior Franklin Mitchem. While Mitchem is the most experienced player at safety, this is only true because he has been on campus longer. The Klien Oak product did not seen many defensive snaps last season, but did register a total of 12.5 tackles and two forced fumbles.
HE IS RANKED TOO LOW BECAUSE...: If Mitchem's performance next season is near either extreme - good or bad - then it will most assuredly make a big impact on the Red Raiders' season. It is likely that Big 12 offenses will be even more potent in 2009 than they were in 2008, so Texas Tech can't afford to have any liabilities in the defensive backfield.
HE IS RANKED TOO HIGH BECAUSE...: Mitchem had a solid but fairly quiet spring. Davis largely stole the show while Jared Flannel and Julius Howard, newcomers to the position, visibly improved by leaps and bounds. If this continues into the fall, it is not completely outside the realm of possibility that Mitchem could be passed on the depth chart.
2009 EXPECTATIONS: Mitchem will start at safety and give the Red Raiders a physical presence in the defensive backfield.
OFF THE CUFF PREDICTION: Mitchem will force five fumbles in 2009.
NOTE: This list was a collaborative effort by Aaron Dickens, Drew Dougherty, Robert Giovannetti and Chris Level.