Quarterback- The quarterback is the "Master and Commander" of Coach Mike Leach's Air Raid Offense. The quarterback is the general on the field and responsible for making sure that the offense is functioning at peak efficiency. Without a poised and talented quarterback, the Air Raid can easily become grounded.
Graham Harrell- Graham Harrell is the unquestioned starter at the quarterback position. As a 6 foot 3 inch tall, 200 pound red shirt sophomore, Harrell completed 412 of 617 passes, 66.8 completion percentage, for 4555 with 38 touchdowns while throwing only 11 interceptions, a touchdown to interception ratio of 3.45 to 1. His efficiency was an astonishing 145.55 but perhaps the most important development for Harrell from last year was his growth into a leader.
Early in the 2006 season, Harrell would get a "deer in the headlights" look about him and suddenly he would throw an interception, take a sack, fumble the football, or just make a boneheaded play. Yet in the last two games of the season, Harrell lead the Red Raiders in two come from behind victories when the Red Raiders trailed by double digits without having scored until late in the first half.
Against Oklahoma State, Harrell completed an 8 yard strike to Robert Johnson to bring the Red Raiders within 7 points of OSU heading into half time. Tech went on to beat Oklahoma State 30-24 and seized momentum heading into the Insight Bowl.
Yet, it seemed like the entire Red Raider football team forgot to get off of the airplane when trailing 28-0 in the Insight Bowl. Harrell had already threw an interception and fumbled while being sacked, seemingly falling into his old "deer in the headlights" type of action. Yet Harrell drove the Red Raiders down to bring the score to 28-7, even though the defense would allow another score before half-time, sending the Raiders into the locker room 35-7. Harrell would return in the second half to play like he hadn't played all season, leading the Red Raiders to score 31 unanswered points in route to the largest comeback in NCAA bowl history.
His poise was unquestioned and even when Tech had only 58 seconds to drive down the field to kick the game-tying field goal, Harrell was accurate and poised. Look for Harrell to pick up where he left off in the 2007 season as a leader and poised field general. His play will be especially important as the Red Raiders will be breaking in 3 new starting receivers but the experiences from 2006 should serve Harrell well as he leads the Air Raid in 2007.
Taylor Potts - With the transfer of former Tech back-up Chris Todd, the heir apparent to the back-up quarterback spot is red shirt freshman Taylor Potts. Potts is simply massive at 6 feet 5 inches tall and while listed on the roster at 210 pounds, it is very likely that he is now a little heavier, having spent his red shirt year in the weight room. He has a powerful arm that can stretch the field and his ability to throw the deep pass will remind many Tech fans of former Red Raider quarterback Sonny Cumbie.
The only reason that there is a little apprehension about Taylor is that he has yet to throw a pass at the Division 1 level. He was an extremely talented and poised quarterback in high school who took his Abilene Eagles deep into the playoffs both as a junior and as a senior. And while he certainly seems to have all of the needed physical tools, he is going to need some experience before he is ready to step in and run the Air Raid should the unthinkable happen to Graham Harrell.
QB Ryan Rowland
Ryan Rowland- Ryan Rowland will fill out the depth chart at quarterback. Bringing 3 years of experience in the Tech system, he is a very good quarterback to have around as a role model for some of the younger players on the team. He does an excellent job working with some of the younger offensive players in practice to help get them the repetitions that are needed to succeed in the Air Raid offense.
While it is unlikely that Ryan would ever need to enter a game in which his performance would be needed, he has all of the needed tools to play well if he is ever needed to step in and pilot the Red Raiders offense.
Come back next time as Red Raider Football analyst Mitchell Fish breaks down the Running Backs as RaiderPower continues "Sprinting to Spring."
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