The Choice Is Potts

After two weeks of battling with Steven Sheffield for the starting quarterback position, Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville selected Taylor Potts as his starting quarterback.

LUBBOCK, Texas — Taylor Potts will lead Texas Tech as the starting quarterback when the Red Raiders take on SMU Sept. 5 at Jones AT&T Stadium to begin the 2010 season.

Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville made the announcement on Sunday after meeting with both Potts and Steven Sheffield, reviewing the last two weeks of practice and everything that went into the decision.

"We have a very talented group of quarterbacks and are excited about every one of them," Tuberville said in a release from Tech athletic communications. "The competition during camp between Taylor (Potts) and Steven (Sheffield) has been outstanding but at the end of the day we can only have one starter.

"Taylor has done a tremendous job and we feel like he has gotten better each and every day. There is no doubt that Steven has also improved during camp and will still be fighting to take over that starting job every day at practice. That kind of competition will only make us stronger as the season goes along."

Potts showed the same type of improvement throughout fall camp that he did near the end of the 2009 season, leading the Red Raiders to a win in the Alamo Bowl against Michigan State. He threw for 372 yards and two touchdowns against the Spartans while earning offensive MVP honors.

Sheffield equally had a good showing in the bowl game, replacing Potts in the final quarter after he went out with a head injury. Sheffield led Tech to its final two scores to beat MSU, 41-31. Sheffield ended the game by completing 9-of-11 passes for 88 yards and the go ahead TD to Detron Lewis.

It was the first time Tech had seen a true quarterback competition since Graham Harrell and Chris Todd competed for the starting job in 2006. Harrell won the spot and went on to be one of the best Tech quarterbacks in history. Todd, ironically, transferred to a JUCO before ending up at Auburn as Tuberville's starting quarterback in 2007-08.

Many would have probably had Sheffield as the pick for the starter heading into camp because of what Sheffield did on the field while he was healthy before going down with an ankle suffered during the win over Nebraska.

From the end of the second quarter against New Mexico through the game against Nebraska (about 10 quarters of play), Sheffield completed 72 of 96 passes (75 percent) for 962 yards and 11 touchdowns while throwing only two interceptions.

Potts now has the chance to put all of his doubters to rest and that he can be a better quarterback than the person many saw on the field last season during a four-and-a-half-game stretch to start the season.

It's a new staff, a new start, a new number (No. 12 this season), a new chance to make a name for himself and not some fake "NICK" name on the back of his jersey.

He threw for seven touchdowns against Rice and had 13 in the first four-and-a-half games. But he also six interceptions, mostly attributed to throwing off his back foot and slight concussions he suffered during the Texas and New Mexico games.

He finished strong in the final four games of the regular season and bowl game, completing 125 of 199 passes (63 percent) for 1,313 yards and seven interceptions.

Now his completion percentage in the final five games (63 percent) is actually lower than his number during the first four games (68 percent). But that's where the intangibles lie that Tuberville has talked about all throughout fall practices in how he would make the decision on the starting QB.

"As I told them, it wasn't about running the offense or completing passes, Tuberville said earlier this week. "It was about having poise. … Both of them threw touchdown passes. When we go back (to look at film), I don't worry about the completions. I worry about making the right decisions in terms of are we checking out on a play or going through the progressions or are they taking the easy way out — that and being a team leader. So that's all going to go into it as much as somebody throwing a 50-yard touchdown pass."

Checking down and reading through progressions is what Potts did best during the final part of the 2009 season, finishing 4-1. He threw 25 percent less passes per game and was more efficient in reading defenses. Potts admitted after the win over Oklahoma last season that he was seeing things better at the line of scrimmage and utilizing Baron Batch and the running game to create more opportunities for the offense.

Sound familiar?

Because that is exactly what this offense is based around. Creating opportunities for the passing game because of a stronger running game and more even mix of pass-run plays.

The other piece fell when Potts came to fall camp fresh off winning the Air It Out competition at the Manning Passing Academy this summer. On Saturday, he talked about the little things he has improved on throughout camp while working with offensive coordinator Neal Brown.

"I feel like I've made a lot of progress on mechanics, the way I play and just throwing the ball and everything," Potts said. "I've made some progress and it feels better. I just appreciate coach (Tuberville) and I'm really glad they came in. We're really blessed to have all these new coaches. I'm glad we have coach Brown and we're able to work on those details because I feel like I've developed more as a quarterback and as a person under these new coaches."

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


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