As the regular season ends and we look at next year, one question seems to be burning in every Red Raider fan's mind: Who will lead this offense on the field next season?
We have more options than in recent years, and I think it's worth taking a look at each one.
Maligned by many and loved by some, this kid has been as divisive a topic in Lubbock as we have seen, with the possible exception of selling alcohol in the city limits. The straight of it is: He has cost us some games, but realistically, he isn't quite bad enough to be called a bad quarterback. ESPN has his rating at 135.76 and his completion percentage was 65.6 percent, which is impressive. Coming into this offseason, he is at least one of the front-runners. He has some bad habits though, and how, or if, he overcomes them will determine whether he is the starter for next year. One issue he had is that he has struggled all season to set his feet before throwing. This can partially be attributed to the offensive line not providing enough protection, but he has had issues with it even when no one was close to him. After his first start against North Dakota, Mike Leach pointed out that Potts had been throwing off of his back foot the whole time. This hasn't changed all season. He was still doing it against Baylor in their final regular season game. Mechanics and injuries have plagued his first season as a starter, but he still has a chance to make a statement this spring.
Steven Sheffield: Sticks has had an amazing, breakout season that has raised more questions than it has answered. Statistically, he has been better than Taylor Potts, but critics have raised the point that he hasn't faced the opponents that Potts has. He threw for 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions according to rivals.com, and Coach Leach has repeatedly said that his leadership skills both on and off the field have been a huge boost to the team. The big question mark with Sheffield is if can he play through an entire season without any major injuries. During his second start, he sustained what became a season ending injury when his foot was fractured. He played briefly a few weeks later against Oklahoma State, but was taken out of the game when it became obvious that he wasn't in playing condition. With his small frame, Sheffield will have to be content with a question mark beside his name on any future rosters.
Seth Doege: The freshman from Wolfforth got a few chances to play this season, which was earlier than any of us expected. Overall, he finished with a respectable 62.3 completion percentage, two touchdowns, and no interceptions in three games. His start against Kansas proved he wasn't ready for the limelight just yet, but for a freshman, his play wasn't bad at all. He has the potential to be "the man" for this team in the future, but he will have some stiff competition even after Potts and Sheffield have graduated.
Jacob Karam: Next year's redshirt freshman has the potential to be the biggest thing to hit Texas Tech since Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, but it remains to be seen if his high school talent will translate to the college level. He is known as a balanced running/passing quarterback and is built to take some punishment at 6'1" and 205 lbs. He may seem light, but I would expect that weight to go up a little as he ages. Scouts raved about Karam coming out of high school, and I've heard Ruffin McNeill, the defensive coordinator, say that he is no fun to go against in practice. His passing percentages in high school weren't incredibly impressive (59.8 percent) during his senior year, but he has a big arm and can make things happen with his legs. With quarterback coach Sonny Cumbie to mentor him, his passing issues may be behind him.
It will be a wide-open competition to become the leader of one of college football's most prolific offenses this spring. Predicting Mike Leach has always been difficult, and given this year's many changes and set backs, it will be interesting to see if he picks one of the younger guys to gain experience starting for the future or if he starts one of the yet to be proven seniors. With the improvement of the defense and the excellent field of receivers and running backs, and the healing of the offensive line over the offseason, the quarterback position seems to be the last big question mark for next year's success.
Statistics courtesy of ESPN.COM and RIVALS.COM