June 7, 2007

Leach's Best: 5 through 1

As hard as it is to believe, Mike Leach is now entering his eighth season as Texas Tech's head football coach. For most of us, the Rich Rodriguez/Mike Leach saga and eventual appointment of Leach to head up the program seem almost like yesterday's headlines. Instead, the Leach era approaches the decade milestone.

Needless to say, Mike Leach has now been in Lubbock long enough to have left his impress on the program, and has certainly done that with his flying carpet ride offense, idiosyncratic personality and droll sense of humor. But without the recruitment of a considerable body of talented players, Leach's schemes and intriguing personality would have counted for little and he would have been vanquished long ago.

Which brings us to the discussion at hand: who were the 25 most talented players Leach recruited, and in what did their talent consist? In putting the individual articles in this series together, we consider not only on-field production, but also, in some cases, unrealized potential and professional playing status, all the while bearing in mind how this reflects on Leach's ability to isolate and recruit talent.

So let's tee it up, shall we?

5B. LOUIS VASQUEZ: The time is now for guard Louis Vasquez to explode and he's only a junior. The Corsicana product's improvement over the course of his first two seasons has been steady and it's been impressive. He was a very talented player upon his arrival, and has, in workmanlike fashion, cultivated that talent and matured as a player. Now entering his third season in Mike Leach's program, Vasquez is clearly the offensive line's bellwether.

In spring workouts he made it all look easy, stonewalling defensive linemen and linebackers apparently without effort, freezing them in their tracks the moment they came in contact with the man-mountain. Assuming he continues to develop over the course of the season, he should be a consensus All Big 12 player despite what pre-season publications might say. And if he returns for his senior year, there is no reason he shouldn't be a strong favorite for All American honors.

5A DYLAN GANDY: Although a less decorated high school player than Louis Vasquez and a relatively underappreciated performer even in his years with the Red Raiders, Gandy has proved his mettle in the NFL, and with the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts no less.

An unheralded recruit out of Pflugerville, Gandy emerged as a starter for Tech as an upperclassman, was a rock-solid presence on the offensive line, and surprised many by being selected by the Colts in the fourth round of the draft. He has since proved worthy of that high honor by establishing himself as a major contributor to the best pass-protecting line in football and starting eleven games during Indianapolis's world championship season. All Pro honors somewhere down the line are not out of the question for Gandy.

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