Sheffield's stellar performance combined with lingering doubts about Potts' status has led to an old fashioned quarterback controversy, one that head coach Mike Leach doesn't plan on settling any time soon.
When questioned about whether Potts or Sheffield would be starting on Saturday against Nebraska, Coach Leach told the media, "I've been criticized for not doing what ‘big-time' programs do, so I've decided to accommodate the wishes of the media. And ‘big-time' programs like to have game-time decisions, so we've got us a game-time decision on our hands.
"Not to do anything to diminish the excitement and anticipation of a game-time decision… I think that the biggest thing is we're going to look at practice… and see how they plan in practice and perform in practice."
To add even more intrigue to the situation, Leach would not comment on whether Potts had been cleared to play.
"Well, unless you know that he's ever not been cleared to play because we've been 100% healthy. Doctors aren't allowed to [comment on the status of their patient's health], so why would they turn me loose with it. I think that in the interest of not exposing myself to any legal ramification, I think it'd be best to follow the law like the doctors do and not talk about injuries."
Potts, who was the projected starter before preseason practices even began back in the summer, was widely thought by most of the Red Raider nation to be head and shoulders above Sheffield and Potts, who battled it out in fall camp for the second-string position.
At the time, Leach explained his decision making process in these terms. "I've thought [Potts was ready] for some time now. Selecting the guy is easy. You just pick the best one you've got… he's ready."
Leach also praised Potts during Big 12 media days in July, saying, "He could have started for a lot of teams last year. So I feel really good about it. And I think, to me, everything is very impressive."
Some are now questioning whether Sheffield should have been more of a consideration for the starting job, but Leach has not commented publicly on his initial decision. He did give a bit more insight into his decision to name Steven Sheffield the backup over RS freshman Seth Doege, who also saw action in Saturday's blowout.
"I think [Sheffield's] done some good things, and I think that his own personal excitement to be out there really rubs off on everybody in a good fashion. I wouldn't put Sheffield in this quality, like a game day player o some levels is a bit of a fraud. That's a guy who basically is busting his ass during a game and then in practice holds back. I'm not interested in those kind of guys. If you're not a practice player, you're not going to be a game day player for me. But Sheffield is really good in practice and has been from the beginning. When we went into [fall] camp, it started out Sheffield and Doege, and then it went a long, long time before we were able to split them apart… Eventually [I] selected Sheffield over Doege.
"The other thing we did in camp was that we kept reps even for a longer period of time because we were getting good work, getting good performance, and besides developing Sheffield, we were getting good work with our players. It's a credit to him and his effort that he was able to perform at that level. Also, I think it's really helped him a lot because you've got a guy that has come off the bench and the drives that he has had, he's had more touchdowns than not touchdowns. So I think that's impressive, and I think that's a credit to him."
Leach did give the media one definitive answer about how the quarterback situation would play out- definitive, that is, for Mike, who is often fairly esoteric in his responses. He does not plan on switching between Potts and Sheffield- probably not, anyway.
"[Switching out quarterbacks is] probably not [an option.] The things that's difficult is just the reps in practice, and you get a guy on a roll and you uproot them and all that. I think there are some problems with that, and I think that's why most teams that do it, do it ineffectively. Most of the teams that I've seen do it, I feel like it's hurt them rather than helped them."