A New Potts

Texas Tech senior quarterback Taylor Potts is ready to start a fresh season and put all of his doubters to rest. Because in his mind and the minds of the Tech coaches - he is the one who can lead this team to a successful season.

LUBBOCK — Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts is a spiritual person.

So it's no surprise that when he was asked on Monday about all the controversy from last season, he simply replied that he would go out and do his best and "leave it in the big man's hands."

He's always had his faith to stick close by his side in hard times, to help carry him through.

But Potts also has a "fun" approach to this season and hopes it will keep him more relaxed in the pocket and lead to more success as Tech opens the season at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday against SMU.

"I've played a season and you can learn a lot from it," Potts said. "I feel like I have. It's just another year of experience and it's really helped me, as well as this whole team. I think playing together last year has helped us coming back this year. We all understand each other a little bit better this season and I think that will just help not just me, but everyone."

The 6-foot-5 senior won the starting position outright after a two-week battle with fellow senior quarterback Steven Sheffield. He's also getting some reassurance from his coaches, head coach Tommy Tuberville and offensive coordinator Neal Brown. Tuberville and Brown said there is no short leash on Potts this season in order to help him keep his confidence in games and play more aggressive. Brown also takes over the responsibilities in reading the offense and calling in audibles — a responsibility held by the starting quarterback in former head coach Mike Leach's system.

"It's nice," Potts said of the longer leash. "You can kind of play, not carefree, but you have a little more room to kind of get in the zone, so to speak. If you make a mistake, it's not the end of the world like it kind of felt in the past. Everybody makes mistakes at some point and it's just something that happens. There's things you have to play through and there's things you have to be allowed to play through. I think if you are allowed to play through those things, it's what makes great players great. Brett Favre has played through a lot of mistakes and he had his best season ever last year. It's nice knowing that one mistake is not going to cost you everything."

Both started games last season for Tech in helping the Red Raiders to a 9-4 record. Included in that was their combined effort to beat Michigan State in the 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl.

Potts earned MVP honors throwing for 372 yards and two touchdowns while Sheffield led Tech to their final two scores to win the game after Potts left with a mild concussion and inability to see clearly out of one eye.

But some wondered not how Potts would recover from his injuries to his body last season and in the spring — but the injuries to his psyche.

Potts was booed off the field after suffering a concussion and throwing two first-half interceptions against New Mexico in Tech's fifth game of the season. Sheffield came in and ignited the offense and crowd for the next three games — all wins — before sitting out the majority of the season with a broken ankle.

Fans often chanted "We want Sticks," from the stands at Jones AT&T Stadium, asking for former head coach Mike Leach to put Sheffield back in the game, even with an injured ankle.

Then there was the debacle of the name on the back of Potts' No. 15 jersey during the last three games of the season.

‘POTTS' was replaced with ‘NICK' on the back of his jersey, in a move Leach said was to help make Potts play tougher like former Kansas linebacker Nick Reed — a player Leach admired.

Some sources said that was just Leach's way of justifying the "NICK-name." They said Leach was notorious for challenging players mentally and that "Potts" was maybe not enough of a "masculine" name for the quarterback to have on the back of his jersey.

When Leach was fired prior to the Alamo Bowl, leaving former defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill in charge, POTTS was placed back on the No. 15 jersey, giving the QB some vindication.

Now there is a whole new era at Texas Tech and a new, fresh start for Potts, who went back to his old high school number (12).

"I love number 12," Potts said with a smile on Monday. "I wore it in high school. I wear it because Roger Staubach wore it. I love him and I enjoy wearing it. I didn't get to choose it when I came here. They just kind of threw 15 at me, which was fine by me. Numbers have never really been a huge deal. I just like No. 12 and Baron (Batch) said it looks good so I'll stick with it."

If Potts can resurrect the flair and poise he possessed in high school wearing No. 12, Tech will have plenty of success in 2010.

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