Who Is the Greatest Texas Tech QB of the Past Five Years?

Patrick ParsonsAnalyst IAugust 29, 2008

For the past five to six years, Texas Tech has drowned in their passing yards.  Thus, every time a new quarterback comes around, he MUST be a product of the system, right?

Perhaps a few are, but the current quarterback sitting in the Tech QB musical chair is much more than a product of the system.  He is the only Red Raider QB since Kliff Kingsbury to have a chance to get comfortable within the offense and start for more than a single season.

Here is a breakdown of the last five years of Texas Tech quarterbacks.


2002: Kliff Kingsbury (447-669, 4,642 Yards, 42 TD, 12 INT)

Kingsbury had started for two years before 2002, similar to what Harrell is doing as we speak.  He had an amazing season, leading people to believe his shoes would be hard to fill.  This was the first season that Tech passed for 4,000-plus yards in a season, and it started a trend.

Kingsbury was an excellent college quarterback.  He was drafted in the sixth round and bounced around for a while, but eventually he played in an NFL game with the NY Jets and completed a pass.


2003: B.J. Symons (470-719, 5,833 Yards, 52 TD, 22 INT)

B.J. Symons put up mind-boggling numbers, breaking the NCAA record for passing yards in a season.  His year included three consecutive 500-plus yard games, one of them being a victory over Eli Manning's Mississippi Rebels in which Symons threw for 661 yards and six touchdowns.  Symons threw and threw and threw.

It is also amazing to note that he played the second half of the season with a torn ACL after injuring it in a game against Iowa State.  Symons had the heart of a champion and good receivers around him, enabling him to throw for so many yards.

Symons was my favorite Tech QB of all time, even though he never won the big game, losing to UT and OU in 2003.  Against OU, Symons had only one touchdown coupled with five interceptions.


2004: Sonny Cumbie (421-642, 4,742 Yards, 32 TD, 18 INT)

Sonny Cumbie, a fifth-year senior, has the worst TD/INT ratio out of any of the quarterbacks in the Mike Leach era.  He lost to A&M, OU, and Texas in the same season, although he led Tech to a 9-4 record, including a victory in his best game against No. 4 California in the Holiday Bowl.

This season was a breakout year for running back Taurean Henderson, helping alleviate a lot of the pressure on the QB.

Statistically, Cumbie is the worst one-year Tech QB, but record-wise, he's better than Symons.  Cumbie is the only quarterback you could call a legitimate product of the "system."


2005: Cody Hodges (353-531, 4,238 Yards, 31 TD, 12 INT)

Hodges, a fifth-year senior, led Tech to their best season record-wise (9-2 regular season).  Heading into Texas 6-0, Tech lost 52-17, but they did beat Oklahoma this season.  However, that was only after choking against an Oklahoma State team that they should have beaten.

The best Tech QB at controlling the ball and limiting turnovers, Hodges' numbers were not as high in yardage and touchdowns.  He lost the bowl game to Alabama, thus ending Tech's chances of a top 10 final ranking.

Hodges' claim to fame is his 643-yard game facing Kansas State.  He was nothing special, but he was smart, had heart, and led the team well.  Hodges was a nobody and most likely wouldn't have found success in very many other places.


2006: Graham Harrell (412-617, 4,555 Yards, 38 TD, 11 INT)

Graham Harrell started the 2006 season as a sophomore, much different than his two predecessors, who were both fifth-year seniors.  Statistically, he had the best year for a Tech QB since Symons, but he still stumbled against TCU, Missouri, and an 0-6 Colorado team, to go along with losses to OU and UT.

Harrell matured a lot through the season and led Tech to the greatest comeback in bowl history, leading Tech over Minnesota despite trailing 38-7 late in the third quarter.  He showed signs of greatness, but remember, he was only a sophomore.


2007: Graham Harrell (512-713, 5,705 Yards, 48 TD, 14 INT)

Expectations were raised for Harrell heading into his junior campaign, while many still labeled him as a system quarterback, stating he was no different than any of the many passers that came before him.

Harrell was sensational to start the season, with the only slip-up coming against Oklahoma State.  The blame for that loss all rests on the defense, as Harrell had his best game of the season, passing for 646 yards, five TDs, and no interceptions.

With their record at 6-1 and looking like contenders, Tech headed into Missouri and were promptly sent home rudely, getting thrashed 41-10.  Harrell played badly, throwing four interceptions.  Right on cue, Tech lost again to Colorado the next week, ending their chances at contention in the South.  Harrell's only two bad games of the year came back-to-back.

Tech won their next game, heading to Texas with a 7-3 record.  Harrell played well, but Tech couldn't stop the run once again.  Falling to 7-4, it looked as if Tech would lose to No. 2 Oklahoma the next week and end a disappointing 7-5.

However, Harrell came out firing, and aided by Sam Bradford's injury, Tech took the game and ended the Sooners' BCS Championship hopes.  Another amazing comeback against Virginia in the Gator Bowl gave Tech a 9-4 record and a top 25 ranking to end the season.


400-Yard Games

Harrell: 11 (2007), Symons: nine (2003), Cumbie: five (2004), Hodges: four (2005).

Four-plus Touchdown Games

Harrell: seven (2007), Symons: seven (2003), Harrell: five (2006) Cumbie: four (2004), Hodges: four (2005)

Zero Interception Games

Harrell: six (2007), Harrell: five (2006), Symons: three (2003), Cumbie: three (2004), Hodges: three (2005)


Looking back at all of the Tech quarterbacks, none of them had the same skill set as Graham Harrell, besides perhaps Kingsbury, but he and Harrell were bred the same way.  Harrell is set to have his best year this season, easily surpassing Kingsbury's three-year totals.

Harrell finally won the big game last year against OU, and he is 2-0 in his bowl games.  He just needs to beat UT and OU in the same season and lead this spirited Tech team to a BCS bowl, and he will have made his case for not only the Heisman, but also as one of the best quarterbacks in recent Big 12 History.

Harrell is the first quarterback that has made the system better, not been made better by the system.


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