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Everybody seems to have an opinion on the quarterback situation at Texas Tech.
Though it's probably the fifth or sixth biggest concern for the Red Raiders, who just completed a 7-5 regular season with five consecutive defeats, it continues to capture the public's attention. So, with a full season of work to analyze, here's my two cents on the matter.
First off, as coach Kliff Kingsbury continues to point out, the mere fact there is a debate at this point of the season means there is a problem. In Kingsbury's eyes, based on what he has stated publicly, neither Baker Mayfield, Davis Webb nor Michael Brewer have been able to grab and hold onto the starting gig.
It is clear that Kingsbury would like Mayfield to win the job. He has given the walk-on freshman every opportunity to claim the starting spot this season. It's also clear that the first-year head coach desperately wants a dual-threat quarterback to run his system.
Mayfield has rushed for 190 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 2,315 yards, 12 scores and nine interceptions passing.
Mayfield though, has shown a lack of speed, especially in the open field against quality competition where he has habitually come up two to three yards short of the first down marker on scrambles where even defensive linemen have run him down.
The Lake Travis product is 5-2 as a starter this season with wins over SMU, Stephen F. Austin, TCU, Texas State and Kansas. The troubling part is Mayfield only finished the SMU game. He was replaced by Webb against both TCU and Texas State after struggling and then was injured in the midst of his best performance against Kansas. After reclaiming the starting job for clashes with Baylor and Texas, he was once again pulled after sub-par performances, in favor of Brewer.
Final word: In one respect it is amazing what Mayfield was able to do as a walk-on, but then again, he also struggled mightily at times. Out of the three, he intrigues me the least as far as his ceiling goes. He has average arm strength and speed, which doesn't translate well in the Big 12. He has shown a grit that is commendable, but I can't see him being more than a serviceable backup.
When comparing arm strength there is no contesting that Webb and Brewer have a serious advantage over Mayfield. In fact, Webb has an absolute cannon for an arm, and at 6-foot-4 he is the prototypical pocket passer.
The Prosper product always seems to have his eyes down field, looking for the big play and never appears scared to throw one up. Often times this tactic has led to big plays for the Red Raiders, but it has also led to some costly turnovers.
Webb has thrown for 2,315 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season and is 2-3 as a starter.
Indeed, the freshman seemed good for a handful of head-scratching decisions per outing.
On the other hand, Webb also came up clutch in some of Texas Tech's most dire moments of the season.
His 19-yard, perfectly lobbed fade pass to Bradley Marquez in the end zone, sealed a 20-10 win over a TCU squad ranked in the top 25 at the time. Webb also led a dramatic second half comeback from a double-digit deficit at West Virginia, Tech's last victory.
Midway through the season it looked as if Webb had established himself as the starter, but then he was yanked in the Kansas State game and hasn't seen the field since. Following the loss to Texas, Kingsbury did say Webb is still was the mix to start the bowl game along with Mayfield and Brewer.
Final word: It's hard to tell what the future holds for Webb. He has an NFL frame and arm but is almost no threat as a rusher. For that reason, he may fight an uphill battle finding playing time for Kingsbury. Then again, if he polishes his game and becomes a leader in the locker room, Kingsbury may have no choice but to play him.
The Fan Favorite
Michael Brewer is sort of an enigma. Or at least his situation with the new coaching staff is.
Brewer was part of the much-ballyhooed 2011 class who signed to play for Tommy Tuberville. He's not one of Kingsbury's guys.
After red-shirting and then sitting for a year, this was supposed to be his year to take over the program. But then Brewer went down with a back injury just weeks prior to the season opener.
Despite returning to practice months ago, Brewer has seen sparse playing time and Kingsbury's only explanation has been to say it would be "unfair to him due to a lack of snaps in practice and familiarity with the offense."
Well, there should be plenty of time between now and the bowl game for him to get enough snaps.
Maybe Kingsbury has him rated below both of the freshmen. Maybe he didn't want to throw Brewer to the wolves during the five-game stretch against the top teams in the Big 12.
No matter the reason, it's difficult to evaluate Brewer to this point, because he's seen few meaningful snaps so far in his career. He did, however, look pretty sharp leading Tech's lone offensive touchdown drive against Texas after replacing an ineffective Mayfield.
Final word: Brewer would appear to be the perfect solution to Tech's quarterback woes. He may not have quite the gun Webb has but it's much better than Mayfield's. He may not look to run quite as much as Mayfield, but it's clear that he's faster than both freshmen and has shown an ability to scramble when prompted. The only way we are ever going to find out about Brewer is if he gets a shot to start. If Kingsbury decides he is not worthy of consideration then I trust his opinion. But he better be right.
Many have speculated that the playing time both freshmen have received this season will pay off down the road when one, if not both, will see significant playing time over the next three seasons.
That is a big assumption considering some of the talent Kingsbury may be bringing in.
First, there's 2014 commitment Patrick Mahomes, a special athlete from Whitehouse, who is also an All-East Texas guard on the hardwood (averaged 19.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.2 steals, and 3.6 assists per game last season) and one of the top baseball prospects in Texas. Mahomes, a center fielder, shortstop and pitcher who batted .380 with 30 RBIs, 12 doubles, two triples, 28 steals and 48 runs last season, also plans to play baseball at Texas Tech.
Mahomes told me awhile back he's not looking to ease into the program, he expects to get a look as the starter next season and that one of the main reasons the 6-foot-3, 215-pound dual-threat signal caller chose Texas Tech was he believes Kingsbury will play whomever gives the Red Raiders the best chance to win.
That may very well be Mahomes in 2014. Scoff if you like, but who would have thought this time a year ago a walk-on freshman would start seven games and Brewer would get none in 2013.
Besides, Mahomes has been one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the state. His most recent performance; 605 yards, five touchdowns passing plus another 48 yards, two scores on the ground against Mesquite Poteet, ended up being the last of his high school career as Whitehouse lost the instant classic 65-60.
Final word: Mahomes finished the season with a ridiculous stat line of 4,605 yards, 50 touchdowns, six interceptions passing and 943 yards, 15 scores rushing. In two years as the starter at Whitehouse, Mahomes threw for 8,444 yards, 96 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions. Unfortunately, I have never seen him in person, but after watching tape and one look at his gaudy stats tells me he'll be in the mix next season.
Allen junior quarterback Kyler Murray is one of the most coveted players in the country and Texas Tech appears to be in the mix for his services.
Murray, a four-star prospect, is in the midst of helping the Eagles defend their Class 5A Division I state title.
His father, Kevin, is a former Texas A&M quarterback, who was recently inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame. He said Tuesday that he doesn't speak for his son, he let's him speak for himself but did say that some decision will have to be made in the next eight months. He also added that Kingsbury made it clear to them he wants to build the program around Murray's talents. Apparently so did Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and Clemson's Dabo Swinney. Murray also currently holds offers from the likes of Ohio State, Notre Dame and Texas.
Despite the stiff competition, there is reason for optimism in landing Murray.
Murray attended a Texas Tech satellite camp last summer in Lancaster, Kingsbury went to one of Murray's games in September and the staff is recruiting him hard. Murray also raised eyebrows by tweeting simply "#GunsUp" in October.
Murray is 5-11, 180 pounds. If he were three inches taller, he'd be one of the top five rated prospects in the nation. As it is, he's top 100.
Final word: Murray may be the single most important recruit of Kingsbury's first three classes. I've covered him a handful of times. He is the prototypical dual-threat. He can cut your heart out with either his arm in the pocket or with his legs. He lets opponents decide how to play and picks them apart. I watched him win offensive MVP honors of the state championship last season as a sophomore after rushing for 143 yards and a pair of scores. Then in the season opener earlier this year I saw him torch Southlake Carroll for 466 yards, three touchdowns passing and another 78 yards, two scores on the ground. If Murray commits to Tech it could have a ripple effect, where several other high-profile prospects join him.