Dallas Colleges: Davis Webb
Last spring, he was a bright-eyed true freshman experiencing spring football for the first time. This spring, the Red Raiders’ offensive future rests upon his shoulders.
“I might not have guys breathing down my neck competing for a job, but I’m treating it like that,” Webb told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
The Red Raiders better hope so.
Webb is coming off a stellar first season in which he ranked among the Big 12’s best in Adjusted QBR (82.6, third in Big 12), passing yards (2,718, second in Big 12) and completion percentage (62.6, second in Big 12). He started six games, including his Holiday Bowl MVP performance in Tech’s 37-23 win over Arizona State so he has plenty of game experience and should handle everything as a veteran.
Even though Webb appears to have the starting spot in hand, he still needs to continue to develop if TTU hopes to make a Big 12 title run in 2014. His strong individual performance as a true freshman resulted in only a .500 record as a starter, with wins over ASU, Iowa State, West Virginia and losses to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State.
Webb’s development this spring is critical to the Red Raiders’ future success, and it won’t happen unless the sophomore pushes himself to excellence. Davis’ 403 passing yards and four touchdowns against the Sun Devils was a glimpse of his potential, and his goal is to consistently mimic that performance in the future.
“I don’t want that to be the highlight of my Texas Tech career,” Webb told the LAJ. “The Holiday Bowl championship is awesome, but I want more than that.”
Those words should be music to the Red Raiders' ears.
Offensive returner ready to take next step: Reginald Davis flashed what he’s capable of while taking a kick to the house in the bowl game. Davis, a former smaller class quarterback, has been picking up the nuances of playing wideout the last two years and seems primed for a breakout campaign. With Eric Ward gone, the Red Raiders will be looking for another playmaker on the outside. Davis has the speed and explosiveness to be just that.
Redshirt freshman to watch: Offensive guard Josh Outlaw was the highest-rated signee in last year’s class. The Georgia native signed with the Red Raiders, despite reporting offers from several SEC powers. Even though Tech returns Alfredo Morales and Baylen Brown at guard, Outlaw is talented enough to break into the rotation after redshirting last season, especially with Beau Carpenter off the team now.
Most significant position battle: The Red Raiders need to figure out how they’re going to replace Terrance Bullitt at the pivotal Raider outside linebacker spot. Despite playing injured, Bullitt led all Big 12 linebackers in pass breakups last season. The Red Raiders have a host of possibilities to fill his role, including seniors Dorian Crawford and Austin Stewart and redshirt freshmen Collin Bowen and Jacarthy Mack. If Tech can find the right answer here, the entire linebacker corps could be very solid, with Micah Awe, Sam Eguavoen and Pete Robertson all back after productive seasons.
Key midterm enrollee: After ranking ninth in the Big 12 in rush defense and losing top inside D-linemen Dartwan Bush and Kerry Hyder, the Red Raiders desperately need a newcomer to emerge at defensive tackle. They have one option already on campus in juco transfer Keland McElrath, who chose Tech over West Virginia and Kentucky. McElrath has reportedly been dealing with a stress fracture, but if he can get healthy, he can give the Red Raiders some much needed beef up front.
Question that could be answered: The Red Raiders will be counting on several inexperienced players on the defensive side next season. Nose guard, defensive tackle, Raider linebacker, cornerback and safety are all positions of contention. Tech needs to build depth on this side of the ball, and with reps going out to numerous players, the competition for time should be intense across the board. Coming out of spring, the Red Raiders should have a decent idea of who they’ll be able to rely on in the fall.
Question that won’t be answered until fall: The Red Raiders really won’t know whether sophomore quarterback Davis Webb will be ready to take the next step until he’s out on the playing field. After an up-and-down true freshman season, Webb was fabulous in the National University Holiday Bowl, giving him plenty of momentum going into the offseason. He has plenty to work on this spring, notably eliminating the big mistakes that plagued him at times as a freshman. But his progress won’t be easily measured until he’s playing in a game again.
- It will be an offense-by-committee approach at Texas.
- "I don't want that to be the highlight of my Texas Tech career." Red Raiders quarterback Davis Webb remains hungry after his Holiday Bowl MVP performance at the end of his freshman season.
- Baylor's defensive line could be the strength of the Bears' defense this season.
- It's been a while since Kansas coach Charlie Weis didn't have the offensive coordinator title next to his name.
- Oklahoma State has landed a local quarterback for its 2015 recruiting class.
- Here's a position-by-position look at Oklahoma with spring football getting under way this weekend.
- If you haven't been watching the OSU coaches Chalk Talk series, you should check it out.
- One redshirt freshman defender is impressing at TCU.
- An experienced defensive staff could be key for West Virginia.
- Texas Tech has several options at the running back position.
Can freshman impact OSU's QB race?
Junior quarterback J.W. Walsh has made eight starts for the Cowboys over the last two seasons. But even with Clint Chelf now gone, Walsh still will have to fight for a job with freshman Mason Rudolph already on campus. Rudolph, who enrolled early to participate in spring ball, threw for more than 4,300 yards and 64 touchdowns his final year of high school and is one of the most highly-touted quarterback recruits ever to sign with the Cowboys. In high school, Rudolph played in an offensive scheme similar to Oklahoma State’s, which is what first interested him in the Cowboys. That should ease his transition to the college level. Of course for now, the job is Walsh’s to lose. But Rudolph has the talent and the skill set to begin applying pressure on Walsh as soon as this spring.
How will TCU adapt to the offensive overhaul?
TCU conducted its first spring practice over the weekend, and the exit polls suggested the Horned Frogs went through offensive drills fast. Like really fast. Tired of ranking near the bottom of the Big 12 in offense, Gary Patterson shook up his coaching staff and brought in Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham to install an up-tempo offensive system that resembled those of Texas Tech (Cumbie) and Oklahoma State (Meacham). As Patterson admitted after the first practice, there will be a learning curve for his players to picking up this new offensive style. But the quicker quarterback Trevone Boykin can adapt, the better off TCU will be going into 2014.
How will Texas look different under Strong?
The last time Texas had a coach other than Mack Brown running a spring practice, Bill Clinton was still president. The Charlie Strong era will begin in earnest with the start of spring practice in Austin. How will the players adjust to the new schemes of assistants Shawn Watson, Joe Wickline and Vance Bedford? How will the veterans react to their new position coaches? Who will thrive with the new staff? Who will falter? Those pivotal questions will begin to be answered this spring.
Can Texas Tech get by with only one scholarship QB?
With starting right tackle Rashad Fortenberry getting an extra year of eligibility over the weekend, the Red Raiders seem to be in good shape across the board offensively. Of course, that could change real quick should QB Davis Webb incur any kind of injury this spring. With Baker Mayfield at Oklahoma and Michael Brewer headed to Virginia Tech, the Red Raiders will be down to just one scholarship quarterback until Patrick Mahomes arrives in the summer. Though coach Kliff Kingsbury has said that Tech has a couple of capable walk-ons, an injury to Webb would hamper the spring development of an offense that will have big goals in the fall. Coming off a breakout performance in the bowl game, Webb also needs to continue developing this spring. But he also needs to remain healthy for the betterment of himself and the team.
Who will get carries for West Virginia?
Even with Charles Sims gone, the Mountaineers still enjoy a stable of capable of running backs. But where will Sims’ carries go? After rushing for 494 yards last season, Dreamius Smith is starting out the spring atop the depth chart. But he’ll have to fend off several comers to remain there. Wendell Smallwood came on strong late during his freshman season and finished the year averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Rushel Shell also joins the fray this spring after transferring over from Pittsburgh. Shell, who set a Pennsylvania high school rushing record, was formerly the No. 26 overall recruit in the 2012 recruiting class. There are still others. Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie are still around after leading the Mountaineers’ in rushing in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Oh yeah, West Virginia will also add four-star signee Donte Thomas-Williams in the summer. Good luck to the running back who dares to take a play off in this crammed competition.
Former Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer announced Sunday that he's transferring to play for Virginia Tech. Because he'll graduate this spring, Brewer will be eligible immediately with two seasons left to play.
Brewer was projected to start for the Red Raiders last season, but a summer back injury kept him from the playing the first month of the season. When he finally returned from the injury, freshmen Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield had solidified their places on the depth chart ahead of him.
Brewer originally had sought a transfer to TCU or Texas, but Texas Tech denied him a release to transfer within the Big 12.
He will join a wide-open competition at Virginia Tech to replace Logan Thomas. The Hokies have several quarterbacks on scholarship, including fifth-year senior Mark Leal, though none with much experience.
As for the Red Raiders, they will go into the spring with just one scholarship quarterback in Webb. Incoming freshman Patrick Mahomes will immediately become the backup when he arrives on campus in the summer.
Nobody is focusing on the losing streak anymore, though. Not after the Red Raiders hammered Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl in one of the biggest upsets of the bowl season.
As he prepares for the opening of spring practice, Kingsbury took time to speak with ESPN.com about his recruiting class, the impact of the bowl win and the unexpected departure of quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer:
What was the biggest need you wanted to fill in this class?
How did you get Nigel Bethel II (ESPN 300 cornerback) all the way from Miami?
Kingsbury: It was huge. That was a relationship (cornerbacks coach) Kevin Curtis had worked on. He stayed with it even after Nigel committed to Miami. He was a Miami kid, but when he came out to a game, he loved the atmosphere and enjoyed the visit. We played up the fact that we play in a conference that throws more than anyone in the Big 12. We play a lot of man coverage, where you can do your thing. He was excited about getting to do it in the Big 12.
What drew you to your quarterback in this class, Patrick Mahomes?
Kingsbury: He has that playmaking ability. He’s a winner. When you watch his games, he refuses to lose. If it’s fourth-and-8, he’ll run for a first down. He’s still raw at the position, having played three sports his whole life. He hasn’t just focused on football. But we feel like in our system, his mechanics will improve. He’s just scratching the surface of the quarterback he can be. You can’t teach his playmaking ability and ability to extend the play. He’s a fun player to watch.
Mahomes is also a pretty big baseball prospect. What is the plan if he gets drafted high?
Kingsbury: If he’s that type of prospect, and the money is such, we want him to do what’s best for his family and his career. But I know he wants to play college quarterback, and that’s his intention right now. We’ve brought in some walk-on kids, and we’ve had success with that in the past. I feel like even if we don’t have a bunch of scholarship guys, we have depth at the position.
How was pursuing this recruiting class different from your first one at Tech?
Kingsbury: When we came in late last year, everything was more on blind faith. We had to tell kids what we were going to be, what was coming. At least we had a product this year they could see. They could watch our games, see our coaches, see our stands, see our uniforms. We actually had a product to sell. The reception has been good. They see we’re here with a purpose, that this university is something special to us.
How critical was the bowl win to changing the tenor of the offseason?
Kingsbury: It was huge. We knew during that stretch we didn’t play good football. We had minuses in turnover margin and all the penalties. We didn’t play our game. But for an entire month, we focused on what got us to 7-0. Really got back to the basics. We didn’t let (the players) go home. And they bought into it and worked hard and wanted to win the bowl game. And they did. There’s a different vibe around this facility, and everyone is excited about starting spring ball.
What did you think of Davis Webb's bowl-game performance?
Where can he improve the most?
Kingsbury: The biggest thing with Davis was just the big mistake throughout the game. The three-four plays he made that you just can’t make. You can throw for a bunch of yards, but it’s those three-four catastrophic plays you’ve got to avoid. But he’ll get there. That comes with growing up and being a true freshman.
You’ve had two quarterbacks (Mayfield and Brewer) leave since the end of the regular season. Is there anything you would have done differently with them?
Kingsbury: No, I wouldn’t. I feel like I’ve always had great relationships with all the quarterbacks I’ve coached. Unfortunately those situations didn’t work out. I had great relationships with them. I think if you asked them, they’d say they enjoyed playing for me. For some reason, it didn’t work out. I’ll be pulling for them the rest of their careers. But as far as doing something different -- the season was what it was.
It seemed to me like both times you were surprised by their decisions. Is that accurate?
Kingsbury: In both cases, I didn’t see it coming. It was news to me when it did come. In talking to them both wanted a fresh start. I’m not going to hold it against them if they want to go somewhere else to play. We want kids that want to be here and want to be at Texas Tech.
It seems like Texas Tech fans want to know how you’re going to replace Jace Amaro. Obviously you can’t replace a player like that. But how do you plan to replace his production?
Kingsbury: We’ll just have a different look on offense. He was such a big target, a tough matchup on defense. If you got the ball close to his frame, he’d pull it in. He was great in run-game blocking. You just don’t replace a first-team All-American tight end who broke the (FBS tight end) receiving record. So we’ll be a little smaller, but with more speed. We’ve got a lot of guys coming back who have made a lot of catches here.
Even though he hasn't played much, do you think Reginald Davis be a difference maker for you next season?
Kingsbury: I do. He’s a kid that came from a smaller class in high school. He played quarterback there, so he’s still learning the nuances of playing wide receiver. But his skill set is tremendous. He’s a great athlete; has great football knowledge. He showed flashes all last year. We’re going to find ways to get him the ball. He’s had a great offseason so far, and we’re expecting big things from him next year.
I know you guys have applied for a medical redshirt to get one last season for (starting right tackle) Rashad Fortenberry (who only played in three games in 2012 when he had back issues). Have you heard anything yet?
Kingsbury: Think the date is the beginning of March. That’s when we’ll know.
What about your other tackle, Le'Raven Clark (All-Big 12 as a sophomore) -- can he be an NFL starter down the line?
Kingsbury: He definitely has the potential. He’s a guy that continues to get better. He’s beginning to understand how good he can be. We’re excited about the offensive line we have coming back. We’ve got guys that have played in big games. We’re bringing in some junior college tackles that can play right away. I think we’ll see a big improvement up front. We didn’t run the ball as much as we should have. We didn’t protect the quarterbacks very well, either.
What were your thoughts on the proposed rule changes to slow down the game?
Kingsbury: I hated it, obviously. I’ve been confused why it was even brought up. To throw it on players’ safety is ridiculous. There’s no data that says anything about high-tempo offenses causing more injuries. I’m baffled by it a bit, but I don’t think it’s going to pass.
Why didn’t you participate in the slam-dunk contest with some of your players last week?
Kingsbury: I didn’t want to end up on SportsCenter’s Not Top Ten.
Here's a team-by-team look at what to watch in the Big 12 this spring:
Spring start: Feb. 28
Spring game: April 5
What to watch: Who will replace Lache Seastrunk? The Bears' running back was the engine that helped keep the Baylor offense balanced and defenses honest. Shock Linwood will step in, but is he ready to handle the burden of keeping the offense balanced? . . . Baylor, the 2013 regular-season champion, has to find key replacements on a defense that is losing half of its starters. But several second-teamers -- including Jamal Palmer, Shawn Oakman, Andrew Billings and Orion Stewart -- are poised to fill the void . . . The Bears need to replace guard Cyril Richardson along the offensive line. Several candidates, including junior college transfer Jarell Broxton, will battle for the job. Baylor has arguably the league's best group of skill position players, but that will mean nothing if its offensive line takes a step backward.
Spring start: March 10
Spring game: April 12
What to watch: New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino arrives in Ames to bring more points and creativity to the Cyclones’ offense. The spring is the first opportunity for Mangino to get a feel for the playmakers and the players to get a feel for Mangino’s expectations . . . The quarterback competition is another thing to keep an eye on. Grant Rohach ended the season as the starter, but Sam B. Richardson could take his job back with a strong spring. And there are other young quarterbacks on campus who could insert themselves into the mix . . . Defensively, the Cyclones need to replace linebacker Jeremiah George and safety Jacques Washington, who finished 1-2 in tackles in the Big 12 in 2013 and finished their careers with 59 career starts combined. Iowa State seems to always have quality linebackers, so finding a replacement for Washington could be the defense’s top priority in the spring.
Spring start: March 4
Spring game: April 12
What to watch: Shuffling the offensive coaching staff has been the theme of the offseason. New offensive coordinator John Reagan, who was a KU assistant from 2005 to 2009, returns to the Jayhawks after running Rice’s offense last season. The spring is Reagan’s first chance to identify the playmakers who will be the foundation of his offense this fall. Expect wide-open competition across the board after KU finished 115th in the FBS in points scored ... The quarterback position will grab the headlines, with T.J. Millweard joining the competition with Jake Heaps and Montell Cozart, who each started games in 2013. Millweard transferred to KU from UCLA before the 2013 season.
Spring start: April 2
Spring game: April 26
What to watch: Finding John Hubert’s replacement sits high on the Wildcats’ priority list. The former running back carried the ground attack for the past three seasons, and there’s no clear favorite to step into his shoes. Will someone step up during spring football? . . . What will happen with quarterback Daniel Sams? The Wildcats have a proven Big 12 playmaker in Sams, a junior, and another proven quarterback in Jake Waters. Sams is an exceptional open-field runner who started two games in 2013, but look for Kansas State to start exploring ways to have both on the field together this spring . . . Replacing Ty Zimmerman’s playmaking and leadership on defense is another key this spring. The defense has to replace several starters in the secondary and at linebacker. Keep an eye on junior college defensive back Danzel McDaniel, who has the versatility to step in at several different spots.
Spring start: March 8
Spring game: April 12
What to watch: With Trevor Knight poised to start at quarterback in 2014, Blake Bell moves to tight end after starting eight games under center in 2013. Bell’s transition to tight end will be the talk of the spring, with the senior’s commitment to the program and OU's need for help at the position . . . The battle to be the starting running back is another storyline, with sophomores Keith Ford and Alex Ross hoping to make a statement this spring before ESPN 300 running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine arrive in the summer. Ford forced his way into the lineup as a freshman before an injury slowed him . . . The Sooners will be looking to shore up the secondary after the departure of All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin and starting safety Gabe Lynn. Sophomore Stanvon Taylor could be set to replace Colvin, while sophomores Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas will battle to replace Lynn.
Spring start: March 10
Final spring practice: April 5
What to watch: Incoming freshman Mason Rudolph enrolled early to participate in spring football with the hope of replacing quarterback Clint Chelf. J.W. Walsh has won a lot of games in a Cowboys uniform, but will have to hold off stern competition to earn the starting spot as a junior . . . The Cowboys lose seven seniors off one of their best defenses in recent memory. The overall quality might be upgraded, but spring football will be the first chance to see if those talented yet inexperienced defenders are ready to step into the fire. Defensive end Jimmy Bean, linebacker Ryan Simmons and cornerback Kevin Peterson could emerge as the foundation of the defense . . . Who will step up at receiver? The Cowboys lose three of their top four receivers, with Jhajuan Seales as the lone returnee. But several youngsters appear poised to step in, including sophomore Marcell Ateman and redshirt freshman Ra'Shaad Samples.
Spring start: March 1
Final spring practice: April 5
What to watch: Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie have arrived to take over as co-offensive coordinators at TCU. The Horned Frogs need a jump start and could get it from the “Air Raid”-style offense the duo will bring to the table. This spring will be an important first step in improving the offense . . . Who will be the quarterback? Trevone Boykin started several games in 2013 but might actually be TCU’s top receiver. Tyler Matthews, a redshirt freshman, also saw time under center, but he faces stiff competition. Don’t expect the battle to end until fall camp . . . TCU needs someone to step up in the secondary, with Jason Verrett NFL-bound after spending the past two seasons as one of the Big 12’s top coverage cornerbacks. Ranthony Texada and Travoskey Garrett are among several young defensive backs who could try to fill the void.
Spring start: March 18
Spring game: April 19
What to watch: David Ash's health will be one of the main storylines of Texas’ first spring under coach Charlie Strong. Ash has the talent to be a key piece of the puzzle, but head injuries are always tough to overcome. If Ash is 100 percent healthy, the Longhorns will feel better about the overall status at quarterback . . . Strong has talked of instilling a tough mindset in Austin since he arrived in January, and spring football will be the first real taste of what the Longhorns’ new coach is trying to bring to the program . . . Where are the playmakers? Texas has a talent-laden roster, but didn’t have the exceptional talent who could consistently change games. This spring gives several returning skill players, including receiver Jaxon Shipley and all-purpose standout Daje Johnson, the chance to become the foundation of the offense in 2014.
Spring start: March 5
Spring game: April 12
What to watch: Davis Webb's health is the No. 1 priority for the Red Raiders, who have seen three quarterbacks leave the program since the beginning of the 2013 season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury could have the toughest job of the spring as he tries to manage the lack of quarterbacks with the desire to have a productive spring for the roster as a whole . . . The Red Raiders have some consistency among the defensive coaching staff, meaning they could improve in 2014 despite losing multiple starters, including defensive tackle Kerry Hyder, linebacker Will Smith and safety Tre' Porter. Tech could start seeing dividends of that continuity . . . The Red Raiders have to replace Jace Amaro and Eric Ward, who combined to catch 189 passes for 2,299 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Jakeem Grant and Bradley Marquez made a bunch of plays in 2013 and Devin Lauderdale, a junior college transfer and early enrollee, will get the chance to show why he had Texas Tech fans buzzing when he initially signed in February 2013.
Spring start: March 2
Spring game: April 12
What to watch: Finding a quarterback is critical for the Mountaineers, who have talent at the skill positions but won’t transform into an explosive offense without efficient quarterback play. Clint Trickett is recovering from shoulder surgery, meaning Paul Millard, junior college transfer Skyler Howard and former receiver Logan Moore will run the offense this spring . . . Tony Gibson takes over as WVU’s defensive coordinator after coaching the safeties in 2013. His promotion allows some continuity on the defense after former DC Keith Patterson left for Arizona State after the season . . . Replacing defensive tackle Shaq Rowell and defensive end Will Clarke, who started 56 combined career games for WVU, won’t be easy. The Mountaineers will lean heavily on veteran juniors Isaiah Bruce and Karl Joseph, who have started since their freshman seasons.
Last season, however, that identity all but vanished.
But thanks to breakout performances during the bowl season, coupled with the imminent arrival of numerous blue-chip freshmen, the conference appears on the way back to restoring its quarterbacking reputation heading into spring practice.
Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech have their starters cemented. Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU and West Virginia will welcome true freshmen with the pedigrees and opportunities to compete for jobs right away. And Kansas (Montell Cozart) and Iowa State (Grant Rohach) enjoyed promising moments from a pair of freshmen.
After totaling 46 touchdowns to just three interceptions in his first season as the starter, Petty headlines the position in the league again.
But if the bowl season was any indication, he won’t be the lone headliner.
Oklahoma freshman Trevor Knight torched Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl to the level backup Blake Bell asked to change his position to tight end.
In the National University Holiday Bowl, Texas Tech freshman Davis Webb lit up Arizona State, too, driving Michael Brewer to ask for a transfer.
And Kansas State’s Jake Waters capped a red-hot second half of his season by throwing for three touchdowns in a rout of Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Knight, Webb and Waters delivered three of college football’s 10 best bowl performances according to the Adjusted QBR metric. All three rapidly improved in their first seasons. And that rapid improvement figures only to continue in their second.
“Traditionally, Year 2 in the offense is when you see the most growth in a quarterback,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
Of the three, Knight was the only full-time starter to begin the season. Spearheaded by a dazzling preseason, he beat out Bell, who was the favorite to replace four-year starter Landry Jones. But Knight completed just 21 of his first 48 pass attempts, and after a knee injury, lost the job to Bell not even two games in.
Knight, however, emerged late in the season, and displaying improvement with his accuracy, led the Sooners to a late November win at Kansas State. Then in the Sugar Bowl, he finally showed why he won the job originally in August. Against one of the nation’s most dominant defenses, Knight completed 32 of 44 passes as the Sooners toppled the Crimson Tide in one of the biggest upsets in BCS bowl history.
“If you’re going to win a championship, your quarterback is going to have to make plays,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “We all saw Trevor [struggle] as a young freshman, first start, first game. To see him grow throughout the entire year and play extremely well down the stretch and played really well in the Sugar Bowl, obviously -- he’s obviously got a great future.”
Despite being the only healthy scholarship quarterback on the roster in August, Webb was beaten out by walk-on true freshman Baker Mayfield. But like Knight, Webb settled in behind the scenes. After Mayfield injured his knee, Webb led Tech to a come-from-behind win at West Virginia. Then, after Mayfield transferred, Webb was almost flawless against the Sun Devils. He passed for 403 yards and four touchdowns as Texas Tech controlled the game the entire night.
“The success he had in that bowl game against one of the top defenses showed what he can be,” Kingsbury said.
Waters’ bowl success showed the same.
Out of junior college, Waters beat out Daniel Sams for the starting job to begin the season. But with Waters taking the majority of the snaps, K-State fell in its season opener to FCS opponent North Dakota State. The next two months weren’t much better for Waters or the Wildcats, as the defending Big 12 champs stumbled to a 2-4 start.
But after losing snaps to Sams, Waters reestablished control of the position and quarterbacked K-State to wins in six of its final seven games, including a 31-14 rout of Michigan in the bowl. Waters had his best outing yet, too, completing 78 percent of his passes for three touchdowns.
While Waters, Webb and Knight will be looking to build off their bowl performances this spring, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph will be looking to win a job. Perhaps the most highly acclaimed quarterback the Cowboys have ever signed, Rudolph had a monster senior season in Rock Hill, S.C., throwing for 64 touchdowns while leading his team to a state championship. Enrolled for spring ball, the ESPN 300 recruit will challenge J.W. Walsh.
“Mason really brings all of the characteristics you want to see in a quarterback,” Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “All of the intangibles.”
Plenty more quarterback talent is on its way, too.
Texas’ Jerrod Heard, West Virginia’s William Crest and TCU’s Foster Sawyer were also four-star recruits in the 2014 class, and they will be joining their schools in the summer with chances to play right away.
Such opportunities exist because the Big 12 quarterback play was down last season. But heading to spring, the league’s most identifiable position is on its way back up.
“I was diagnosed in June -- misdiagnosed, actually -- which set me back even further. They let me start to practice the beginning of two-a-days when I wasn’t supposed to, which set me back again. It was just small things like that which continually set me back.” Brewer told the LAJ.
Texas Tech disputed Brewer’s statements.
“The well-being of our student-athletes is something we take very seriously, and we would never jeopardize the health of any student-athlete. Within a month of Michael’s injury, Texas Tech sent him to a specialist, and he was under the care of that specialist from that point forward until his release,” Texas Tech spokesperson Blaine Beal told the LAJ.
Regardless, Brewer joins Baker Mayfield as departed Tech quarterbacks who were unhappy with how the quarterback competition was handled and leaves the Red Raiders quarterback position in flux. Recent signee Patrick Mahomes will have to be ready to play immediately with Davis Webb as the lone scholarship quarterback on the roster.
“We told him to get ready to come in,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “It's a unique situation. We only have one scholarship quarterback on the roster, get ready to come in and compete and play right away.”
And the worst-case scenario could emerge and leave the quarterback position in shambles this summer. Mahomes, the son of former major league baseball player Pat Mahomes, could have his name called early enough in the 2014 MLB Draft to make him consider signing to play professional baseball instead of playing football in Lubbock.
“He wants to come to college, but you never know how the money is going to be,” Kingsbury said.
Midway through the 2013 season, it seemed like quarterback concerns would be the last thing at the forefront of Kingsbury’s mind with two quality true freshmen in Webb and Mayfield alongside Brewer in the quarterback competition. Now, with spring football on the horizon, the Red Raiders are one Webb injury and one Mahomes decision away from complete disaster.
On Monday, we focus on Texas Tech.
Best loss: 38-30 to Oklahoma on Oct. 26. The Sooners snapped the Red Raiders’ seven-game win streak to start the season.
Instead, Webb led the Red Raiders to 17 unanswered points to take a 24-21 lead late in the third quarter. The true freshman was 8 of 9 for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter, as he responded to the toughest adversity of his early career. But the Sooners outscored TTU 17-6 in the final 18 minutes of the game because the Red Raiders simply couldn't come up with the key plays they needed down the stretch.
Why it was helpful: It provided invaluable experience for Webb in a hostile environment against a defense that was fast, physical and aggressive. The Sooners blitzed Webb 12 times, the highest total he faced in the regular season. Yet, Webb held up well, as his 84.3 Adjusted QBR against the Sooners was his best performance in a loss.
That experience paid off in the National University Holiday Bowl as Webb saw a blitz 23 times, throwing for 163 yards and three touchdowns on those plays in TTU’s 37-23 win over Arizona State. The loss in Norman, Okla., should continue paying off in 2014, as Webb is slated to be the main man under center for the Red Raiders.
Its loss in Norman was the most important of 2013 because it planted seeds that bloomed against ASU, a critical win that changed the perception of Kingsbury’s first season in Lubbock. And those seeds should continue to bloom during his sophomore season when Tech looks to insert itself into the Big 12 title race.
Revealing stat: 66.7 percent. Webb completed 8 of 12 passes for 82 yards and one touchdown against the blitz versus OU, a sign he wasn’t rattled by the atmosphere or the OU defense. That was his top completion percentage against the blitz in 2013.
Quote of note: “I was really proud of the way [Webb] played. He hung in there the whole game and made some big time throws. He had a rough start, but he got it rolling there after the first quarter.” -- Kingsbury
With Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer electing to transfer, the Red Raiders hopes will be placed squarely on Webb’s shoulders next fall. Let’s take a closer look at Webb’s first season, thanks to ESPN Stats and Information, and how those numbers could impact 2014.
- Webb handled the blitz extremely well for a true freshman. He was 38-of-68 for 521 yards with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions against the blitz. While his 55.9 completion percentage wasn’t outstanding, Webb’s ability to take care of the ball when pressured should make Kingsbury feel good about building an offense around him in 2014. Impact in 2014: One of Webb’s strengths is his ability to remain focused in the pocket. It’s a trait that’s hard to teach yet he already possesses it. Kingsbury should have confidence that Webb can handle lots of different situations as a sophomore.
- Arizona State clearly felt like it could disrupt the Red Raiders offense with pressure. But Webb handled it well in his best game of the season. He was 14-of-23 for 163 yards and three touchdowns when the Sun Devils blitzed. He was 14-of-18 for 240 yards and one touchdown against no blitz. Impact in 2014: The Red Raiders should be encouraged that Webb excelled against a defense that repeatedly brought pressure. Defenses often turn to pressure and blitzing when they realize it’s difficult to stop a passing offense. That was the Sun Devils’ approach and the Red Raiders should expect other teams to take a similar approach in 2014, even though Webb handled it well in the Holiday Bowl.
- Most of Webb’s success came on throws from the pocket. He was 209-of-319 for 2,454 yards with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions on pocket passes. Outside of the pocket he was 17-of-42 for 257 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Impact in 2014: Expect teams to try to flush Webb out of the pocket and force him to throw on the run until he proves he can excel and make defenses pay when he’s throwing outside of the pocket.
- Against Oklahoma, who finished No. 1 in the Big 12 in passing yards per game, Webb was better against the blitz than the Sooners base defense. He was 8-of-12 for 82 yards and one touchdown when the Sooners blitzed. He was 25-of-41 for 295 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions when OU did not blitz. Impact in 2014: Webb needs to improve when teams just drop back into coverage. He had some success in those scenarios but he didn’t force defenses to leave their comfort level as a true freshman. That could be the next progression for Webb as a sophomore, although it’s easier said than done.
No. 9: Oct. 26 -- Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 30
Despite a run of trick plays, No. 15 Oklahoma survived 10th-ranked Texas Tech in one of the league's most entertaining games.
What happened: After a disappointing loss to Texas, the Sooners rediscovered their ground game while quarterback Blake Bell regained his confidence during a pair of pivotal second quarter series.
After three inept weeks of offense, the Sooners went on the longest drive of the season to that point in plays, yards and time. The Sooners grounded out a 16-play, 97-yard touchdown drive covering almost eight minutes to tie the game, 7-7.
On the first play of OU's following possession with Tech’s safeties creeping up to stop the run, Bell faked a handoff then threw a pass over the top to Jalen Saunders for a 76-yard touchdown.
The Red Raiders, however, wouldn’t go down easily.
Utilizing a reverse, a halfback touchdown pass, a decoy punt returner play and an onside kick, Texas Tech stormed back to take a 24-21 lead.
But Oklahoma countered with some trickery of its own. Wideout Lacoltan Bester took a reverse and was supposed to pass it. When nobody was open, Bester tucked the ball and weaved through the Texas Tech defense for a 35-yard touchdown. The Sooners never trailed again.
Player of the game: Bell, who completed 14 of 22 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns after struggling the previous two weeks. Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb was good, too, throwing for 385 yards and a pair of scores. His second interception, however, led to a touchdown that put the Sooners up 35-24 in the fourth quarter.
Stat of the game: The Red Raiders committed three turnovers, which was a sign of things to come. Texas Tech finished No. 121 nationally in turnovers lost, which fueled Tech’s five-game losing streak to end the regular season.
Quotable: “I love our team and their attitude. Are we in great shape? No. Am I excited about our team and our opportunity and our willingness to fight and all of that? Yeah, I am.” -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, noting the season-ending injury to his All-Big 12 fullback, Trey Millard
No. 10: Sept. 12 -- Texas Tech 20, TCU 10
It was one of the weirdest and sloppiest games of the entire Big 12 season, with several questionable officials calls affecting the fourth quarter. But Texas Tech’s 20-10 win over then-No. 24 TCU was wildly entertaining as well.
What happened: TCU had every opportunity to pull off the road win.
In the second half, TCU had two long Brandon Carter punt returns wiped out by penalties, including a 69-yard apparent touchdown that was called back after officials ruled he had signaled for a fair catch. The Horned Frogs had another chance for points when Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield was picked off for a third time in Red Raider territory. But the TCU offense couldn’t capitalize and Jaden Oberkrom’s 55-yard field goal try missed right.
Thanks to TCU’s miscues, the game was still tied 10-10 going into the final five minutes. That’s when the Red Raiders took control, despite a major miscue of their own.
Backup Tech quarterback Davis Webb found DeAndre Washington on a short pass, and Washington raced 49 yards down the sideline for an apparent touchdown. Washington, however, dropped the ball at the half-yard line. Because of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on top of the fumble, the ball was placed all the way back at the TCU 14. But Webb came right back with a gorgeous pass to Bradley Marquez at the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Tech forced TCU to punt on the ensuing possession and then drove down the field for a game-clinching field goal.
Player of the game: Webb, who had been beaten out by Mayfield for the starting quarterback spot during the preseason, replaced an injured Mayfield in the fourth quarter and was 3-of-4 passing for 77 yards, including the game-winning TD pass. The performance was a sign of things to come. Webb took over again when Mayfield stunningly announced he was transferring and was tremendous in Tech’s 37-23 upset of Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl.
Stat of the game: The two teams combined for 23 penalties and 204 penalty yards.
Quotable: "That's about as ugly as you can win, but we'll take it.” -- Kliff Kingsbury, after his first Big 12 victory as Texas Tech's head coach
Here’s a look at the Big 12’s top five Heisman candidates heading into 2014.
Petty’s 85.5 adjusted QBR was fifth nationally this season, and he should be even better with a full season under his belt. Top target Antwan Goodley returns as well, so the Big 12’s top quarterback-receiver duo remains intact, and there’s no reason to think Big 12 teams will have any answers for the Bears’ pair in 2014. If Baylor has another impressive run to the top of the conference standings, Petty could find himself making a similar run toward the top of Heisman ballots.
2. Receiver Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: Simply put, Lockett is K-State’s passing offense. He accounted for 43.2 percent of the Wildcats’ receiving yards and 50 percent of their receiving touchdowns while finishing with 81 receptions for 1,262 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013.
Lockett could easily be considered the Big 12’s most valuable offensive player, as his quickness, route running and consistency make him tough to contain. His progression from accomplished return threat to polished receiver has been remarkable. If he continues that progression, and the Wildcats win a bunch of games, he could insert himself into the Heisman conversation.
3. Receiver Antwan Goodley, Baylor: At Oklahoma State in 2011, Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon's combined brilliance tended to dull the shine on their individual accomplishments as the natural question emerged: Would they be as productive without each other? We could see a similar situation developing at Baylor with Petty and Goodley.
Goodley is the Big 12’s toughest cover, as his size, speed and strength combine to manhandle even the best defensive backs. Goodley had 71 receptions for 1,339 yards and 13 touchdowns, with 100-yard games in eight of 13 contests. If Baylor makes a run at its second straight Big 12 title, Goodley could be in the middle of it. And if he has a Heisman moment or two in the Bears’ biggest games, he could earn some Heisman love.
4. Running back Johnathan Gray, Texas: If the Longhorns’ best running back returns to good health, he could become the breakout star in the Big 12 during Charlie Strong’s first season. Strong keeps speaking of toughness as a priority for his program, which means running the football will be a focus, particularly with Joe Wickline calling plays. And Gray could be the beneficiary of that focus with his quick feet and playmaking skills.
If Gray has a setback during his recovery from his Achilles injury, Malcolm Brown could find himself in the Heisman mix as Gray’s replacement since he’s very talented in his own right and someone will have to tote the rock for Wickline’s offense.
5. Quarterback Davis Webb, Texas Texas: When you actually step back and take a closer look at Webb’s numbers, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Red Raiders quarterback meeting room has resembled a Baltimore corner when someone yells, "Omar comin'" during an episode of HBO’s “The Wire.”
Webb ranked No. 12 nationally with a 82.6 adjusted QBR this season, ahead of Braxton Miller, Teddy Bridgewater and Tajh Boyd, among others. And he did it as a true freshman. Now, with the departures of Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer, Webb is poised to be the main man throwing darts in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, which should be among the Big 12’s top passing units again after ending the 2013 season second among FBS teams (392.89 passing yards per game). The clear dark horse on this list, it wouldn't be shocking to watch Webb rise to the top if the Red Raiders end up in the middle of the Big 12 title race.
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