July 31, 2007

Key Red Raiders: #10 Marlon Winn

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 be taking a reverse-order look at the 25 players who will be most crucial if the Texas Tech Red Raiders are to have a successful 2007 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 spirited discussion and debate.

MARLON WINN: For a man who stands six-foot-five inches tall and weighs 330 pounds, Marlon Winn has certainly flown under the radar. Only a sophomore, the Waxahachie native is already locked in as a Texas Tech starter at the all-important left tackle spot.

That is quite an accomplishment and attests, in no small measure, to his outsized talent. And it is an achievement that has rarely been commented upon.

Winn will certainly go under the microscope once the season commences, however. He played relatively sparingly last season behind senior Glenn January, and as such, has very little game experience. And although nobody in the program will acknowledge it, there will be anxious moments early on as we all see just how well Winn is able to protect quarterback Graham Harrell's vulnerable blind side as he drops back to pass.

The supreme importance of the left tackle position is magnified in the Tech system because of how frequently the Red Raiders throw the ball. Virtually every pass play is an opportunity for the opposition's best pass rusher to pad his statistics and light up the Tech quarterback. And that rusher will usually be lined up over the left tackle. To have such a young and inexperienced player at that position is surely a cause for some concern.

Red Raider fans surely remember January's junior season when he was beaten so badly for sacks that he was relegated to the bench for long stretches. The last thing the Tech offense can afford is a repeat of that situation. But opposing defenses will do everything in their power to test Winn's ability to pass protect and will continue to do so until he passes those tests repeatedly.

Fortunately, Winn's lack of experience is not mirrored by a lack of talent. He arrived in Lubbock as one of the more highly regarded offensive linemen in the Texas schoolboy ranks, and has shown numerous flashes of that talent since his arrival. Winn has quick feet and is able to drop, set and deliver a "punch" to the onrushing lineman. That initial stage of the play is the key to good protection, and Winn looks to be on pace to master it. He may be prone to occasional lapses in focus, however, which result in breakdowns. That is something that absolutely cannot happen with your left tackle.

Hopefully, new offensive line coach Matt Moore will successfully heighten Winn's focus and intensity. If that happens we will mention Winn's name infrequently in 2007 and he will slip back under the radar.


TOP 25 KEY PLAYERS:

10. Marlon Winn
11. Kellen Tillman
12. Richard Jones
13. Brandon Carter
14. Clint Stoffels
15. Jake Ratliff
16. Chad Hill
17. Marlon Williams
18. Stephen Hamby
19. David Neill
20. Chris Parker
21. Jonathan Lacour
22. Alex Trlica
23. Edward Britton
24. Kobey Lewis
25. L.A. Reed



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