Rusty Staats must control the middle of the O-line
This year, Tech is trying to fix 2022’s biggest problem by both reshuffling the cards along the offensive line and also by adding a pair of former Western Kentucky offensive linemen to the mix, each of whom played under current Texas Tech OC Zach Kittley when he was the Mountaintoppers’ OC in 2021.
One of those players is Rusty Staats, who will be this team’s starting center. Whether or not he can play at a high level in the middle of the line will be one of the keys to unlocking this offense’s full potential.
Because Tech has such faith in Staats, Wilburn has been bumped to right guard where the coaching staff believes his skill set is best deployed. But let’s not act like Staats has All-American honors on his resume.
In fact, he was just an honorable-mention All-Conference USA performer in each of the past two seasons. While that’s nothing to thumb one’s nose at, it does show that Staats is not a sure-fire upgrade over Wilburn at center given that Wilburn was an honorable-mention All-Big 12 center in 2022.
Can the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Staats make the jump from a mid-level conference to the Big 12? Will Kittley and offensive line coach Stephen Hamby (who coached Staats at WKU in 2021 as well) get more out of this critical new piece to the offensive line and turn him into an upper-end Big 12 offensive lineman? That will be a huge variable in what we hope will be a solution to the offensive line struggles that Tech has struggled through in recent seasons.