Little concern over Texas Tech quarterback situation

By John Hillman  |   Monday, March 23, 2009  |  Comments( 2 )

Texas Tech Red Raiders
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College football teams normally panic when a Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback graduates. But that situation never applies at Texas Tech.

Two reasons create this unusual situation. A talented backup always waits in the wings for the Red Raiders, and head coach Mike Leach knows how to develop quality quarterbacks.

As Texas Tech heads into spring practice, replacing three-year starter Graham Harrell takes top priority. That item surprises no one; after all, Harrell left Lubbock with an NCAA-record 134 career touchdown passes and threw for over 5,000 yards in both 2007 and '08.

Second-string signal-caller Taylor Potts most likely takes over for the winner of the Sammy Baugh and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Awards. Harrell’s heir apparent arrived in the Hub City as one of the state’s most highly recruited quarterbacks.

In his senior season at Abilene High School, he threw for 3,162 yards and 53 touchdowns. Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma all sought his services before he inked a letter of intent with the Red Raiders.

Potts enters the 2009 seasons with three years' collegiate experience. He redshirted in 2006 and spent the last two campaigns as Harrell’s backup. Seeing only spot duty, Potts has thrown for 669 yards and five touchdowns, completing 55 of 85 pass attempts.

The former Abilene Eagle also brings an impressive physical presence to the field. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 218 pounds, observers claim his arm strength exceeds Harrell’s. If Potts can master the Red Raider offense, the team should experience little decline in performance.

Although Potts’ potential alone provides Texas Tech breathing room, Leach’s ability to plug in new quarterbacks rivals Britney Spears’ propensity to generate headlines. From 2003 to 2005, the director of the Red Raider offense inserted seniors B. J. Symons, Sonny Combie and Cody Hodges into his system without a hitch. All three led their teams to bowls, and Symons captured the Sammy Baugh Trophy as well.

Armed with a new five-year contract extension, Leach should remain on the High Plains for the immediate future and maintain his string of winning seasons and bowl appearances. Although pundits expect a drop-off from Texas Tech’s 11 wins in 2008, most believe the Red Raiders will present a stiff challenge to every Big XII team except Texas and Oklahoma.

However, a major bump exists on Texas Tech’s 2009 schedule. The Red Raiders and Longhorns agreed to move their game in Austin from early November to mid-September for a national television appearance. With the switch, Potts gets only two games as a starter before facing next season’s Big XII favorite.

But Leach and company may simply employ the upcoming campaign as extended practice. In 2009, quarterbacks Colt McCoy (Texas) and Zac Robinson (Oklahoma State) complete their eligibility. Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford most likely opts for the NFL and won’t return in 2010.

Those changes would leave Potts, Baylor’s Robert Griffin, Texas A&M’s Jerrod Johnson as the conference’s three most battle-tested signal-callers. As judged from the past, a senior quarterbacking for Leach garners great respect from every opponent.
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About John Hillman

John Hillman graduated from Baylor University in 1974 with a BBA in accounting and earned an MBA from Baylor in 1987. He worked for accounting firms until 1982 when he became the chief financial officer for an independent insurance claims adjusting service, a position he still holds today....
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