It all started in the summer of 2013.
Kliff Kingsbury was heading into his first season at the helm of his alma mater, Texas Tech, with no quarterback controversy to worry about.
But then Michael Brewer, now at Virginia Tech, experienced a back injury and was sidelined. This forced the first-year head coach to make some tough decisions, which really ended up being a week-to-week, quarterback by committee situation, throughout the 2013 season.
Last season Kingsbury had his choosing between walk-on Baker Mayfield or Davis Webb, both true freshmen. In the end Kingsbury went with Mayfield, who became the first true freshman to start a season opener for Tech. Also, he was the first ever walk-on true freshman to ever start a season opener at quarterback for any BCS program.
Mayfield passed for 413 yards with four touchdowns against SMU in the Red Raiders opening win.
It looked as though the Red Raiders had their guy.
Mayfield would be “the guy” for the first five games of the season before going down against Kansas with a knee injury. At the time, Kingsbury didn’t consider it to be a “season-ending type injury”.
And with that… step in Davis Webb.
At this point Webb had some playing time under his belt. He went 19-for-43 for 310 yards and two touchdowns in a win against Texas State earlier in the season, and a few other mop up roles on his resume.
In his first start Webb had a career day against Iowa State going 35-for-56 for 415 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Now, there was confusion and debate over who should be the Tech starter. Mayfield was working his way back from an injury, while Webb was lighting up the stat sheet and the scoreboard. – 462 yards against West Virginia, 385 against Oklahoma and 425 against Oklahoma State.
The Red Raiders went 2-2 while Webb was a starter and also nearly beat Oklahoma in Norman, falling 38-30.
It was always a back and forth thing with the quarterbacks during the first season for Kingsbury. Mayfield starting the first five, Webb the next four, then splitting time against Kansas State then Mayfield against Baylor and Texas to close out the season.
But entering the Bowl season, Kingsbury’s decision of who to start against Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl was simplified.
Brewer decided to leave the program to transfer, while Mayfield was disgruntled and decided to leave as well.
Webb was the man and he put on a show – passing for 403 yards and four touchdowns in the 37-23 beating of then-No.14 Arizona State.
Problem solved, Texas Tech had their quarterback of the future in Webb and the QB controversy was solved. Brewer was off to Virginia Tech and Mayfield to Oklahoma.
Fast forward to August.
There was Webb, freshman Patrick Mahomes out of Whitehouse, Texas and freshman walk-on Vincent Testaverde. But it was Webb’s show to run.
And run it he did, leading the Red Raiders to a 2-1 start, wins against Central Arkansas and UTEP before falling to Arkansas.
Tech was on the right track, Webb was healthy and running the offense competently. But, Webb would go down in the fourth quarter of the very next game against Oklahoma State. He was out with a shoulder injury and, right on cue, another game of musical chairs started up again in Lubbock.
Mahomes came in in relief but the Red Raiders would fall short against the Cowboys, starting their downward spiral. Webb started the next four games, going 1-3, including an embarrassing 82-27 loss to TCU, in which Webb injured his ankle, once again firing up the quarterback rotation.
The next week, Mahomes got the start against rival Texas before getting knocked out by Quandre Diggs, forcing Kingsbury to go deeper on the depth chart and throwing Testeverde out on the field. Testeverde went 15-for-26 for 116 yards and an interception, while Mahomes went 13-for-21 for 109 yards before leaving the game.
With Webb out, Kingsbury went with Mahomes against Oklahoma, the freshman looked good but still the Red Raiders fell short and dropped to 3-7 on the season.
As for who will start against Iowa State this week, Kingsbury said in Monday’s press conference that that would be a decision made at kickoff on Saturday. As far as the quarterback position moving into the spring, Kingsbury called it wide open.
This has been an issue and will continue to be an issue for Texas Tech.
Under Kingsbury, the Red Raiders are a combined 11-12, with one bowl win and no trip to a bowl this year already guaranteed.
During his tenure there have been now five different quarterbacks to take snaps for the Red Raiders and three different ones have started games. If Testeverde gets the start on Saturday that would make four different starters in less than two seasons.
Texas Tech will always have quarterbacks at their disposal. Jarrett Stidham will arrive in the spring, Nic Shimonek, the transfer from Iowa, will be available as well along with Webb, Mahomes and Testeverde as options.
Don’t get me wrong, considering injury scenarios, it’s never bad to have options, or depth at the quarterback position. But if Tech wants to be successful and win Big 12 Championships they need a solid starting quarterback that can lead this team for a couple of seasons.
Look at Baylor. Bryce Petty led the Bears to their first Big 12 title last season, and has the team in the Top 10 again this season with an outside shot at making the College Football Playoff.
Then look at Florida State with Heisman winning QB Jameis Winston. Despite his off the field problems he is a heck of a player and a quarterback that knows how to win. On Saturday he led the Seminoles back from down 23-10 against Miami to a 30-26 win, keeping their hopes of a second-straight National Championship alive.
The list could go on and on in college football; Treyvon Boykin at TCU, Marcus Mariota at Oregon, Bo Wallace at Ole Miss. All quarterbacks that have experience and know how to win and get programs to the top. If you didn’t notice, two of those teams are in the Top 5 and have a legitimate shot at a National Championship.
Texas Tech needs to fix the quarterback carousel.
When the Red Raiders have had a consistent starter things go well. Graham Harrell (2005-2008) led Tech to three-straight winning seasons, three-straight bowl appearances and also an historic 11-2 season in 2008, which included an upset of then-No.1 Texas.
The Red Raiders need to find another Harrell, not a player like him but a quarterback that can be a “franchise” college quarterback for a few seasons. If they don’t, Tech will continue to be on the outside looking in at a Big 12 Championship and continue to always be middle of the road, at best, in the Conference.