This time last year, quarterback Davis Webb was getting acclimated to life as an early enrollee at Texas Tech. Heading into 2014, the sophomore-to-be is the most invaluable player on the Red Raiders' roster.
Given the prominence of quarterbacks, there's also no question that he's also one of the most important players in the Big 12.
Now that Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer have left the program, Webb is all that remains from Tech's quarterback carousel of 2013. Mayfield, a walk-on who started the first five games of the season, left in December for Oklahoma. Brewer, who suffered a back injury last summer, has yet to announce where he'll transfer, but he is on track graduate this spring.
"I knew the nature of the game in this day and age, that kids, if they're not playing right away, usually want to make a move, especially that position," head coach Kliff Kingsbury told David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest earlier this month, "but to see them both go and not have a spring competition was pretty surprising to me."
It's going to be the Davis Webb show in Lubbock this spring, with no depth behind him. Patrick Mahomes is set to join the team in time for preseason camp, though he has MLB potential as well. If Mahomes chooses football over baseball—that's the direction he appears to be headed—he'll immediately slide into the No. 2 spot behind Webb.
In the event that Mahomes is called into duty, Kingsbury has shown he can plug in freshmen quarterbacks without a dropoff in production. Prior to Tech's Holiday Bowl win over Arizona State, true freshmen Webb and Mayfield had nearly identical passing stats. Mayfield completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,315 yards; Webb completed 62.1 percent of his passes—also for 2,315 yards.
Just because Kingsbury can toss Mahomes in at any time doesn't mean he wants to, though. Sure, Mahomes will probably see plenty of garbage time as a precaution, but Webb will have two full offseasons and 10 games of experience under his belt. Unless Mahomes is just that good, Webb gives the Red Raiders the best chance to win.
For Webb, it's a reward for staying the course in the face of competition. Here's what Kingsbury said about Webb this month, from Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News:
Kingsbury recalled that when he broke the news that Mayfield would start the opener against SMU, Webb told him, “I’m going to prove you wrong.”
The response was exactly what Kingsbury wanted to hear.
“He worked to that end. He never pouted. He never got down,” Kingsbury said. “He showed up every day and got after it.
It's a great success story for Webb. It also means Tech needs to keep him healthy next season. Mahomes needs to stay healthy too, for that matter. There's simply not as much room for error as there was a season ago.
Though Webb should be part of a quarterback resurgence in the Big 12, several other conference members are better stocked at the position than Tech. Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas State are among the teams heading into next season with plenty of depth at quarterback.
All starting quarterbacks are important, but Webb's status is approaching that of invaluable. With experience and depth at a premium, Webb has it all for the Red Raiders.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.