Same Places, New Faces

With the College Football Season officially at an end, the off-season is in full swing. Come inside as football analyst Mitchell Fish takes a position-by-position look at the Texas Tech Red Raiders offense and defense, breaking down returning players, likely starters, depth, and possible surprises to watch for during Spring Practice 2009. Up first, the always important quarterbacks.

While the bitterness of the Cotton Bowl still looms, Texas Tech fans now look forward to what was once an annual guessing-game.

Graham Harrell, a 5th year senior and record-breaking quarterback, has completed his eligibility and left Tech as one of the best quarterbacks to ever wear Scarlet and Black.

Yet, for the last several Spring Practices, there has been no quarterback-race, whether Head Coach Mike Leach said so or not.

Harrell was firmly entrenched as the starter, and rightfully so.

As Tech heads into the off-season and Spring Practice '09, that race has returned.

Projected Starter

Taylor Potts is, without a doubt, the leading candidate for the open starting job. A 6 foot 5 inch tall, 215 pound Abilene product, Potts has all the tools, including a cannon for an arm, NFL size, and a demeanor which suggests he can bear the burden that Tech quarterbacks face.

Potts didn't look particularly good during Fall Camp before the 2008 season, but did look sharp in relief duty for Harrell during the season, and showed off his powerful arm.

Perhaps the biggest unknown with Potts his accuracy, at least what has been seen in practice. While he can undoubtedly throw the ball 50+ yards down the field, the Air Raid Offense also requires many tight, touch throws on slants, outs, whip routes, and things of that nature.

If Potts can be ever relatively close to his predecessor's accuracy, he will be the type of quarterback that keeps defensive coordinators awake at night.

The Back-up

Stefan Loucks is a relative unknown to most Tech fans, even some of the most die-hard. He did not take a snap during the 2008 season, and was rarely mentioned at any point during the season.

Loucks, however, started to turn the corner from confused high school quarterback to talented college passer as Spring 2008 came to an end.. He struggled mightily throughout practice, but then had a strong showing during the Red and Black game.

Couple that progress with a strong Fall camp, and Loucks might be one of the most improved players on Tech's roster.

The issue for Loucks is one that every young quarterback under Leach faces, a lack of game experience. While Loucks is unlikely to challenge Potts for the starting spot, he could very well be the next star quarterback, waiting in the wings.

The Wildcard

It is not unusual for a Tech quarterback to ride the pine for two years before seeing the field, but it is highly unusual for that time to have come during his junior and senior seasons in high school.

That is the case for Seth Doege, who had knee injuries which kept him off of the football field until he enrolled at Tech in the Spring of 2008.

A fan favorite, Doege is a true wildcard. No one has seen him play competitively since he was a sophomore in high school, but the Tech coaching staff thought highly enough of that play to not rescind a scholarship offer after the aforementioned knee injuries.

Doege seems to possess that mythical quality that certain athletes have, a kind of "awe-shucks" type expression that belies the competitive fire that resides just below the surface.

While Doege redshirted this season, he could end up anywhere from the 2nd string quarterback to even possibly finding himself in serious contention for the starting job.

What Should Happen

If all goes according to the Mike Leach script, he will talk up his two young signal callers in Loucks and Doege while saying he hasn't seen enough from Potts to make a decision. This charade will most-likely continue to the beginning of Fall camp when Leach announces a week or two in that Potts is the starting quarterback.

However, Leach has shown more willingness to play younger players at key times as of late, Tramain Swindall and Adam James are examples at receiver, but he has yet to show that same willingness with his signal callers.

While many think this is because Leach is unwilling to let an older quarterback ride the pine, it is more because the older quarterback typically has a better grasp of Leach's offense that relies on endless repetition until the reads and throws are as second nature as tying a shoe.

Potts is the obvious choice, and that is where I will hang my hat. He has more practice time and is the only quarterback on the roster to have taken a snap during a game, it should be interesting to see if he can progress during the Spring to take the reins of a team that needs leadership after a disappointing end to a phenomenal 2008 season.

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