Chasing The Red Baron: Part 1

Texas Tech senior running back Baron Batch has his eyes set on more than just a great season or bowl win. He'd like to do something that has not been done in more than a decade at Tech.

LUBBOCK, Texas — Baron Batch doesn't really have a preference on who his starting quarterback is next season at Texas Tech.

The senior running back from Midland sees a lot of solid qualities in both seniors Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield, as the two continue to square off for the starting job under center.

Batch says both show leadership on and off the field, have a calm demeanor with an intensity to win and can hurl a ball downfield without much effort.

He is looking for just one thing.

"I want the one who hands the ball off really well," Batch said with a laugh. "That's important to me."

No matter who comes out on top of the QB battle before Tech's Sept. 5 kickoff against SMU, many now realize that the handoff will be a key trait of the offense this season, allowing Batch the chance to run wild and add more intensity to the new "Air Raid" offense under first-year head coach Tommy Tuberville and offensive coordinator Neal Brown.

Both Tuberville and Brown have sworn since day one that the offense will be the same at Tech.

"Who wants to change it?" Tuberville said shortly after being hired. "We just want to add a few more things to it. But the concept is still the same. Score a lot of points."

The Red Raiders were actually beginning to move toward more running near the end of last season anyways. Batch become more than just a safety route or fourth option out of the backfield on passing plays. He was now beginning to break open some runs and score. If anything, the added attention Batch gained helped Sheffield and Potts find more receivers open. Suddenly, Tech was a 56-44 pass-run team under former pass-happy head coach Mike Leach.

Leach used to shutter at a stat sheet that showed running as the majority leader of the play calling — following a win or a loss. And after last season's success in the backfield with newcomers Harrison Jeffers and Eric Stephens, plus a now healthy Aaron Crawford, Batch said the running backs really have a chance to do more and be more effective.

"If anything, it just means having more depth," Batch said. "You never know what's going to happen in a practice or a game. But with this many guys who all have experience, you have that ability to sub in someone if I go down or Aaron goes down — whoever."

Nobody knows more about coming off the field and bouncing back than Batch, who suffered two injuries in his first two years at Tech. He recently underwent surgery two months ago on a hernia in his groin; something he admits had been causing him pain for quite some time — possibly all of last season.

"It just felt like this sharp pain every now and then," he said. "It would go away and then come back and go away again. I think it may have been like that all of last year, at least the last 10 games.

"Finally, it got to a point where I just didn't feel that extra gear kick in when I wanted to take it to the house on a run or a screen. So I finally went and had it looked at and now I feel better than I did two years ago."

That's saying something if the Batch we saw last season was not a completely healthy player.

Batch led all Tech running backs with 168 carries for 903 yards and 14 touchdowns — all career highs. He had three 100-yard and multiple touchdown games for the first time in his career at Tech, including games of four and two touchdowns against Kansas and Oklahoma, respectively, where he had 340 yards of total offense.

But last season was a little bitter for Batch. He's trying to help Tech get to its first BCS game before he leaves West Texas and he wouldn't mind being the first Red Raider running back to rush for 1,000 yards since Ricky Williams (1,582 yards) did it in 1998. Batch and former Tech running back Shannon Woods (926 yards in 2006) are the only two Red Raiders to rush for more than 900 yards in a season in the last 10 years.

Again, it's why that handoff is so important to him.

"I think we have a chance to do a lot this year," Batch said. "We just have to keep working, keep believing and take advantage of those opportunities when they come to us."

More on Baron Batch next week.

Travis Cram is the Managing Editor for Follow his daily updates and news on Twitter. Join the Official fan page on Facebook.

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