Steven Sheffield's Stellar Play for Texas Tech Creates a QB Controversy

Stephen JohnsonContributor IOctober 14, 2009

HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 26:  Quarterback Taylor Potts #15 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders drops back in the pocket against the Houston Cougars at Robertson Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)

I don’t think anyone would have guessed a QB controversy would arise after the third game of the season for Texas Tech.

Even in defeat against Texas, QB Taylor Potts played extremely well and calmed the Red Raider fans' fears—or so it seemed.

Potts failed to lead Tech to a score in the fourth quarter against Houston, resulting in the Raiders' second consecutive loss. Then Potts had the worst game of his career against New Mexico before leaving the game due to injury.

In steps walk-on QB Steven Sheffield, who leads the Air Raid offense to score seven TDs against the Lobo defense, six of those in the second half. Then Sheffield was able to step in for Potts, who still wasn’t medically cleared to play, for Kansas State this past Saturday.

All Sheffield was able to do was throw for 490 yards and seven TDs against the Wildcat defense.

The combination of Potts struggling for the last four quarters he played and Sheffield making the Air Raid run smoothly has put head coach Mike Leach in an unenviable situation.

Leach has to decide who will start against Nebraska this Saturday, assuming Potts is cleared to play against the Cornhuskers.

How does one mess with the chemistry that Sheffield has displayed over the last two games with the WRs? At the same time, how does one let the clear front runner coming out of both spring and fall practice sit on the bench because of a few bad quarters?

Leach made comments earlier this week stating that it would be a game-time decision on who would start against the Cornhuskers.

He’ll need to pick Sheffield, though, if he wants to walk out of Lincoln with a win.

Although Potts should be No. 1 on the depth chart, Sheffield just has this offense inspired to play for him. It probably has to do with actions regardless of the outcome of the play.

Take, for example, a long pass play in the second quarter of the Kansas State game. WR Lyle Leong ran down the left side of the field on a "Go" route, and Sheffield found him with one on one coverage.

Sheffield threw the ball for Leong to go get it, but it was just a tad bit overthrown, and despite Leong diving for the ball, he was unable to catch it. As he lay on the ground, obviously upset he wasn’t able to rein in the catch, Sheffield sprinted down the field to give him a high five for the effort before sprinting back to the huddle to call the next play.

Now, anybody can be enthusiastic, and that doesn’t necessarily make you a great QB, but what does is scoring consistently without turning the ball over and having the 10 other guys in the huddle want to play harder for you.

Sheffield has thrown 11 TDs in the last two games to two interceptions. In the four-and-a-half games Potts has played in, he has thrown 13 TDs to six interceptions.

Granted, Sheffield faced a pretty anemic defense from Kansas State, but Potts saw the same defense as Sheffield did against New Mexico and was only able to get one score on the board.

It may be cliché to say, but Sheffield seems to have "it," and this offense thrives off his emotions and production. Potts has more tools, skills, and size to be the better QB for the Air Raid, but Sheffield is a winner.

When your coach is getting paid $2 million a year, wins are all that matter for the Raider nation in Lubbock.