May 14, 2008

Key Red Raiders: #25 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 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.

Marlon Winn: There's really no two ways about it. Right tackle Marlon Winn was the weakest link in a very stout Texas Tech offensive line last season. In pass protection situations Winn was sometimes overpowered by physical defensive ends and tackles, and had the odd busted assignment as well. He was hardly a bad offensive lineman, but by Red Raider standards he was a borderline liability at times.

Now bear in mind that with the 2008 Red Raiders will be gunning in all seriousness for a Big 12 championship-anything less will likely be regarded as a failure of sorts-the stakes have risen and the margin for error has diminished. If Tech is to reach its lofty goal, there can be no weak link at any position. And that is why Marlon Winn will be such a key in 2008. He simply must improve considerably over his effort from a year ago.

The good news is that Winn's spring performance suggests a dramatically improved football player. He appears to have increased his upper-body strength a great deal, and his on-field demeanor has changed as a result. Winn now plays with a great deal of confidence and he's got a nasty streak that is as pronounced as any player on the team.

Where He Fits In: Winn is the current starter at right tackle and if he continues to play as well as he did in the spring, there's nobody at his position who can touch him.

The current second-teamer is Chris Olson who looks more and more like a Bryan Kegans-type all the time. By that we mean that he could be a quality utility man who helps out at numerous positions but may never emerge as a regular starter.
Behind Olson is freshman Dominique Delpeche who shows promise, but must overcome a late-spring injury, and in any event is not yet polished enough to play meaningful snaps.

The wild card at this position is massive Jake Johnson who actually started several games ahead of Winn last season. He sat out the spring with an injury but should be ready to go in the summer. Assuming Johnson can knock off the rust and get back into playing shape quickly, he will provide ace relief for Winn.

2008 Expectation: It's unreasonable to expect Winn to suddenly vault to the level of play seen from Rylan Reed and Louis Vasquez. It is quite reasonable, however, to expect Winn to take giant steps in 2008 and further solidify an already excellent offensive line. We expect him to do just that. The benefits will be increased pocket security for quarterback Graham Harrell, more running room for Tech's stable of backs, and a line that is more cohesive because guard Brandon Carter will not have to help Winn out as much.

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