PLAYERS TO WATCH: Da'Leon Ward, Dakota Allen lead the way

Red Raiders linebacker Dakota Allen (40) during the game with the Iowa State Cyclones at Jones AT&T Stadium.Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Whoever plays QB will lean on RB depth, T.J. Vasher to make plays

Part of our weekly coverage this season will be a midweek heads up on players we think can really stand out on Saturday. This being the first week of the season, it's a little bit more of a guessing game (notice we didn't include a QB). But based on last season, spring ball and training camp, here are four players we have our eyes on:

PLAYERS TO WATCH

RB DA'LEON WARD redshirted last season and Kingsbury made it clear that it was needed for him to mature off the field. The Texas Tech coach has praised Ward during training camp and he is slotted as the No. 1 running back. Ward rushed for 428 yards as a freshman two seasons ago as he became the go-to back late in the campaign. He's always impressed the Texas Tech coaches with his hunger for the game. Now we'll see if he can translate that into being a play-maker on a consistent basis.

WR T.J. VASHER had a breakout season in 2017 as he caught 29 passes for 545 yards and 6 TDs, including some dazzling receptions late in the season. He had the most receptions of any returning receiver and the Red Raiders need him to be productive from the start of this season.

LB DAKOTA ALLEN made his presence felt by leading the Red Raiders with 102 tackles in 2017. He’ll be trying to prove he’s one of the best linebackers in college football and continue Texas Tech’s overall improvement on defense.

DE LONZELL GILMORE played in 7 games last season, making 10 tackles and 2 TFLs. He was a disruptive member of the defensive line rotation before a knee injury knocked him out of the last half of the season. The Red Raiders hope he can pick up where he left off a year ago. They need him to show up versus Mississippi to help disrupt the rhythm of the Rebels passing game.

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