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August 4, 2011

2011 Fall Preview: On the spot

The Texas Tech Red Raiders open fall camp on Saturday with several players facing a now-or-never situation, either because they are entering their final season(s) of eligibility, being pushed by younger players or both. Nothing is set in stone, and there's still several weeks before the team's season-opener against Texas State, but the clock is ticking.

Here are five Red Raiders that find themselves on the spot as Tech heads into preseason practice.

RB Aaron Crawford - Unfortunately, Crawford has an all-too-familiar story -- he has a lot of ability, but has just been plagued with injuries over the course of his career. He got off to a great start as a true freshman; Crawford starting the last four games of the 2007 season and seemed poised to be a fixture in Tech's backfield for the next four years. It didn't happen that way, though. After logging 35 carries in the second half of 2007, various injuries limited Crawford to just 27 over the next three seasons. Crawford was granted a redshirt for the 2008 campaign, giving him one final chance to build on the promise he displayed as a true freshman.

IR Cornelius Douglas - With the addition of freshmen like Jakeem Grant and Javares McRoy to the roster, Douglas suddenly has more competition at inside receiver than he did in the spring. Obviously McRoy won't be eligible to play this season after transferring in from Florida, but he'll be someone that Douglas will have to deal with in 2012. Grant could post a more immediate threat, as he is one of Tech's fastest receivers and has impressed during summer workouts. Douglas definitely has the ability necessary to fend off these challenges, but he'll have to prove that he can be a reliable, consistent option in order to successfully do so.

LB Sam Fehoko - Few players have been more negatively affected by the Red Raiders' defensive coordinator carousel over the last three years than Fehoko. The former Hawaii Gatorade Player of the Year has gone from middle linebacker under Ruffin McNeill in 2009, to rush linebacker/defensive end during James Willis' one-year tenure and is now back at linebacker under Chad Glasgow. Fehoko is one of the defense's vocal leaders and did see extensive action in 2010, playing in all 13 games and logging seven starts, but will have a chance to cement an even more prominent role once camp opens.

PK Bradley Hicks - Place kicker, like quarterback and punter and so on, is one of the few positions in football where the players involved aren't typically involved in some kind of rotation. Barring an injury or an unforeseen performance drop, Tech will likely play just utilize one place kicker this season. Donnie Carona is the favorite to win that job -- he has the most experience and ended the spring listed first on the depth chart -- meaning former JUCO All-American Hicks will have an uphill battle on his hands once the team begins the preseason.

DL Chris Perry - When Perry first arrived at Tech after transferring from Miami (Fla.) in 2008, the expectation was that the one-time blue chip recruit would be a key component of future Red Raider defensive lines. Things didn't play out that way. Perry has consistently been one of the last scholarship defensive linemen to leave the bench over the last three seasons, mainly seeing extended action only in blowouts. With the graduation of Colby Whitlock, the summer departure of Lawrence Rumph and concerns about Pearlie Graves lingering leg issues, the opportunity is there for Perry to earn a bigger role this fall.

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