Ever since the final whistle blew on the Graham Harrell era, nothing but bad luck has surrounded the Texas Tech Red Raiders when it comes to the quarterback position.
Injuries plagued both Taylor Potts and backup Steven Sheffield for much of the 2009 season. This continued into the following spring, where in the midst of a competitive battle for the starting QB spot, both Sheffield and Potts suffered injuries that have limited their time on the playing field.
Sheffield broke one of his feet after stepping on the foot of a teammate. Soon after, Potts caught a defensive player’s helmet during the follow-through of his passing motion, slicing the webbing in his throwing hand.
This did give young players like Seth Doege and Jacob Karam much needed reps over the spring, and Head Coach Tommy Tuberville even joked that it would give him time to evaluate the running back position.
Still, the absence of the two senior leaders of what has become one of the most prolific offenses in the nation is a major setback, as the team adapts to Tuberville’s philosophies.
However, that luck may be turning around, especially for the often maligned Potts.
This past weekend, Potts went to the annual Manning Passing Academy, which he was invited to personally by Archie Manning. The Academy is a four-day camp run by brothers Peyton, Eli, and Cooper Manning, as well as father Archie.
Potts finished up the weekend winning the “Air it Out” competition – a competition involving throwing a football at moving targets on golf carts – by beating Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms in the finals.
Among the college quarterbacks competing at the camp were Alabama’s Greg McElroy, Texas A&M’s Jerrod Johnson, Boise State’s Kellen Moore, and Houston’s Case Keenum, among others.
While succeeding in throwing a football at golf carts doesn’t necessarily translate to on-field success, a victory over such stiff competition has to be a confidence builder for Potts, who spent parts of last season on the bench for both concussions and poor performance.
To top it off, Potts was recently one of 30 players placed on the preseason watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award. The award recognizes the top collegiate quarterback in the nation at the end of the season.
Despite these recent accolades, Potts still has a ton of work to do if he wants to win the starting job, which Tuberville has said won’t be decided until the season opener against SMU.
The statistics from last season favor Sheffield, who had a completion percentage of 74.3% to Potts’ 65.7%, a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 3.5 to Potts’ 1.7, and a QB of rating of 177.6 to Potts’ 137.1.
Sheffield also has the overwhelming majority of support among Tech fans, while Potts is usually subjected to a bombardment of boos when he steps on the field.
Still, that was months ago, and Potts seems to be making strides towards being a deserving leader of Texas Tech’s Air Raid offense.
With the coming of a new year and a new head coach, the slates have been wiped clean for both Potts and Sheffield. A year removed from being the successors to the most prolific QB in Tech history, Graham Harrell, both now have the opportunity to shape their own legacy within Red Raider lore.
While Steven Sheffield may be in the lead for the position for now, Taylor Potts is slowly building some momentum and making gains.
This battle won’t be over until minutes before the season kicks off.