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Texas Tech 2013 season preview

Dave Einsel / Associated Press
Eric Ward could be the latest in a long line of Texas Tech receivers to go on to prominence in the NFL.

The history of Texas Tech football will almost certainly be divided into two eras: That which preceded the arrival of Mike Leach and his Air Raid spread passing offense in 2000 and everything that followed it. Leach's prolific approach made the Red Raiders nationally relevant and turned wide receivers Wes Welker, Danny Amendola and Michael Crabtree into top-flight NFL contributors. Draft success, however, has been much more elusive (all but three of Texas Tech's 19 draft picks since Leach's hiring have been taken in the fourth round or later).

With Leach disciple Kliff Kingsbury (selected in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots) taking over as head coach after his impressive work with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel as offensive coordinator, expect Texas Tech to continue to pile up points with NFL returns harder to come by.

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Top senior prospects


WR Eric Ward: The latest wildly productive Red Raiders receiver, Ward thrives on underneath and intermediate routes and is effective in the red zone. Ward never gives up on plays and understands the importance of downfield blocking in a system that values yards after the catch. Because he runs a limited route tree in Texas Tech's four- and five-wide passing attack, he could face a learning curve adjusting to certain NFL passing game concepts.

DL Kerry Hyder: Hyder earned first-team All-Big 12 recognition after posting 14 tackles for loss, nearly tripling his output from 2011. He previously played defensive tackle, but will now move to end as Texas Tech transitions to a 3-4 alignment. How he handles two-gap assignments in the new scheme could determine whether the 281-pounder will be cast purely as a 4-3 defensive end at the next level.

Top underclassmen


TE Jace Amaro: Used as a slot/inside receiver in the Air Raid, Amaro can easily outrun linebackers on seam and crossing routes. Lack of experience as an inline blocker might not matter if used in the NFL as a movement tight end or H-back. He needs to keep his nose clean after the 2012 season began with an arrest for credit card fraud and ended by being ejected for throwing a punch in the Red Raiders' win over Minnesota in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

OL Le'Raven Clark: Clark was named to several Freshman All-America teams after starting all 13 games at right guard last season. Moving to left tackle in 2013, Clark benefits from wide splits and a system that emphasizes the quick passing game but has the athleticism and footwork to become an intriguing prospect down the road.

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Three must-see games of 2013


Sept. 12 vs. TCU: Two of the premier sophomores in the nation clash as Le'Raven Clark tries to keep Horned Frogs defensive end Devonte Fields out of the backfield. It will be Fields' first game of the season, as he is suspended for the high-profile opener against LSU and the subsequent contest for a violation of team rules, which could give Clark a slight advantage.

Oct. 26 at Oklahoma: Eric Ward was smothered by Sooners corner Aaron Colvin and managed just three receptions for 20 yards, both season lows. Fare better this time against one of the top senior defensive backs in the 2014 draft and Ward's stock will certainly rise.

Nov. 28 at Texas: The combination of the size and speed Jace Amaro possesses gives him an advantage over nearly any defender assigned to cover him. Quandre Diggs, set to replace first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro as the Longhorns' nickelback, is fearless and aggressive, but even that might not be enough to make up the six inches and 60 pounds Amaro holds over him.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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