State of the Offense: Backfield

While many questions during the offseason have revolved around the evolution of the Texas Tech defense, the offense has received less flack than in years past and it even seems that the "gimmick" label may be on the way out. Come inside as football analyst Mitchell Fish breaks down the Red Raiders offensive backfield.

Running Back:

Shannon Woods led the Big XII in all-purpose yards in 2006 and looked poised to have an even greater 2007 season. Long story short, Woods found himself on the bench as true freshman Aaron Crawford scored some of the biggest touchdowns in Texas Tech history.

And so another season, same question; who is the starting running back for the Red Raiders?

Woods looks to have the inside track to the job, those his problems have always been inside his own head and never on the field. A blindingly fast runner who is, without a doubt, the best blitz pick-up running back on the roster he is also a very dangerous threat coming out of the backfield.

Aaron Crawford doesn't have the speed that Woods does, but he is without a doubt the hardest runner on the field. Crawford started his first game against Colorado but didn't really have the chance to show what he could do until the following week against Baylor. Crawford did have issues with holding onto the football at times during the '07 season, but those seem to have been rectified from the end of the season to the conclusion of open fall practice.

Baron Batch is the wildcard here. A player who has a nearly fanatical following without having actually done anything on the field, Batch saw limited playing time during the 2006 season before being injured during practice in October.

After a red-shirt season in '07, Batch is once again in the mix to be the starting running back though he is most-likely standing on the outside looking in. Batch is a hybrid of Crawford and Woods. Neither explosively fast nor a punishing runner, he does a good job of both. Batch's biggest issue has been holding onto the football. Batch doesn't secure the ball well coming out of the backfield and fumbled one more than one occasion in the spring and fall.

Add in the fact that it will have been 22 months since he's taken a snap during a game and you have an intriguing, though still very inexperienced, third running back.

Quarterback:

Graham Harrell is the starting quarterback, with no question at all. He's accurate, smart, has a deceptively strong arm, and more mobile than people give him credit for. While certainly not a dual threat quarterback, Harrell has the ability to move in and out of the pocket and avoid the rush with a well timed side-step.

Harrell, in addition to being a talented quarterback is poised to re-write the Tech, Big XII, and NCAA passing record books.

The second string quarterback, Taylor Potts, is an enigma wrapped in a puzzle tied up in a riddle with his up and down performance in practice and Mike Leach's constant correction.

Potts has one of the strongest arms that can be found anywhere in the Big XII if not the country. He can throw the ball a mile and could probably break a receivers hand if he felt so inclined. But he also makes poor reads, holds onto the football to long, and has a tendency to lock onto one receiver and not distribute the ball to the other positions while also showing questionable accuracy throughout practice.

While Potts is the undoubted back-up to Harrell for the 2008 season, Stefan Loucks and Seth Doege could make it a very interesting spring. Loucks had the light-bulb turn on during the Spring game while Doege has shown not only a strong arm but toughness in his time with the scout team.

Grades

Quarterbacks: A

Running backs: A-

At quarterback, Graham Harrell is the by far the best field general that Mike Leach has recruited and if he shows the same improvement from his junior year to his senior year that he did from his sophomore to his junior, he could be the best quarterback in the country.

Taylor Potts is a concern but with the Great Wall of Lubbock protecting Harrell he should be well cared for.

The combination of Shannon Woods and Aaron Crawford gives the Red Raiders a terrific 1-2 punch with Woods as the lightning and Crawford as the thunder. Throw in the fact that Baron Batch may yet prove himself to be a capable running back and there is strong depth behind whomever is named the starter.


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