Could Harrell pass for 6,000 yards this season?

August, 22, 2008
8/22/08
1:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

 
 Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
 Graham Harrell racked up the second-most passing yards in history last season with 5,705.

Mike Leach made an interesting comment at a luncheon Thursday in Lubbock honoring his team, mentioning something I'm sure he probably thinks about more than he ever would readily admit.

In a throwaway line during the proceedings, Leach talked about how he'd like to see quarterback Graham Harrell have the opportunity to pass for "a few more yards, perhaps."

And when Leach said that, it could mean that Harrell might have a shot at a milestone that has more sizzle than any modern-day passing record: 6,000 passing yards in a season.

That number is so round and so magical that I'm sure it has a lot of appeal to Leach, particularly considering his passers already have notched the two top passing numbers in NCAA history and four of the top 10. It's particularly amazing that four different Texas Tech passers have accounted for those four big seasons.

But 6,000 passing yards would have the kind of permanence like Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game or a .400 batting average in baseball that would make it truly special in the modern-day world of athletics.

B.J. Symons passed for a record 5,833 yards in 2003. Harrell missed that by only 128 yards last season, notching the second-most passing yards in history with 5,705.

To get to 6,000 yards, Harrell would have to average 461.5 yards in a 13-game season. His chances to reach the milestone would be even better if Tech ended up with a 14-game season that would be necessitated by playing in the Big 12 championship game and a bowl game. That would drop his number to 428.6 yards per game. Harrell averaged 438.8 yards per game last season.

With the return of Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree and the development of young receivers like Edward Britton, Eric Morris and Detron Lewis, Harrell will have one of the best receiving groups in college football. He needs to stay healthy and thrive early against a weak nonconference schedule that will feature SMU, Nevada and Division I-AA schools Eastern Washington and Massachusetts.

Top passers in NCAA history
PlayerSchoolYardsYear
1. B.J. SymonsTexas Tech5,8332003
2. Graham HarrellTexas Tech5,7052007
3. Colt BrennanHawaii5,5492006
4. Ty DetmerBYU5,1881990
5. David KlinglerHouston5,1401990
6. Paul SmithTulsa5,0652007
7. Kliff KingsburyTexas Tech5,0172002
8. Tim RattayLouisiana Tech4,9431998
9. Steve McNair*Alcorn State4,8631994
10. Sonny CumbieTexas Tech4,7422004
* Division I-AA school

And if he gets close, I'm sure a "numbers guy" like Leach would give him a few more snaps for "a few more yards, perhaps."

The Texas Tech program under Leach has obviously produced the biggest passing numbers in college football history. And that's why I'm thinking that having the first passer to toss for 6,000 yards would be kind of Leach's "man on the moon" moment that would truly provide his program with some kind of historical permanence.

And that's why I think "a few more yards," at least for Leach, certainly means 6,000.

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