It is difficult to find photos of offensive linemen. I think this is Terry McDaniel. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
With the news that Texas A&M transfer Brian Thomas couldn't make it through a practice and had to be demoted from second to third team in the span of a week, it got me thinking about what we should expect in just a handful of days before the first game.
First, it's disappointing that Thomas apparently couldn't even bother to show up in shape, but the silver-lining is that he wasn't here the entire spring practice, which means that he didn't take away valuable snaps to some other offensive lineman that needed to get some reps. As you know, I'm all about silver-linings. Second, it was just a week. Had this been a situation where the staff waited for Thomas to eventually get it, then that's great, but essentially cutting him now after just a week makes me happy in the sense the staff isn't going to put up with players that are out of shape, and maybe a bit entitled. Third, I think this simply affirmed to the coaching staff what they've been pushing all spring, which is that they want redshirt freshmanto play somewhere on the line. The staff had Clark at right tackle all spring and he's been working at right guard for these fall practices.
So with all of that, I think the starters of the line are relatively set:
|Left Tackle||Left Guard||Center||Right Guard||Right Tackle|
|LaAdrian Waddle||Beau Carpenter||Deveric Gallington||LeRaven Clark||Terry McDaniel|
But it's the depth that's been the problem and there are always players mentioned as replacements, but then there are other players that aren't really even mentioned at all. One of the things that is I think a big deal for offensive line coaches is for the linemen to be relatively multiple. Players are more valuable to a coach if they can play multiple positions. So with that being said, I think the reason that you feel pretty good between the tackles is because I think that Alfredo Morales and Tony Morales could play at any of the guard positions and Tony can play center. They are big enough as they are to play inside, the question is if they have the strength. Thankfully, the Big 12 does not have a ton of 350 pound nose guards staring them in the face. So between the Morales Bros., Gallington, L. Clark and Carpenter, there are five players to fill those three spots with the Morales Bros. being able to fill multiple roles and L. Clark maybe being able to flip to both tackle spots (maybe).
At tackle, I think it's a different story. I don't know who the capable backups are other than maybe Clark. I don't think that the staff is grooming Carpenter to play the outside, but that may need to happen here pretty soon. Everything that we've read thus far says that Fortenberry isn't quite ready for prime time. He just physically isn't ready. He's athletic enough, but maybe lacks the strength to really hold down that left tackle spot. If Waddle goes down with an injury, Thomsen might flip McDaniel over there, but long-term, left tackle is L. Clark's spot. Maybe the staff gives it to him early. Either way, if Waddle goes down, the line won't be nearly as good and when I say, "not nearly as good," what I really mean is that it could be disastrous.
The two players that aren't really even mentioned in any sort of back-up capacity, and I wish someone would tell us why, are Kyle Clark and James Polk. This may be a case where these two guys can't play. I can honestly say that I haven't seen enough of them to know, but they've been in the system for two or three years, but it's odd that neither one of them seem to get a mention as back-ups to starters. I know that Polk was mentioned in an article as a guy that is improving, but both K. Clark and Polk's high school film was pretty good. Both K. Clark and Polk should be in the mix in some form or fashion, even if they're bodies, it would seem unthinkable to consider that true freshmen, who were undersized in Trey Keenan and Jared Kaster, are more ready than the two of them.