The time has come for use to have “The Talk” — the conversation about where college quarterbacks really come from.
They are not dropped on athletic department doorsteps by storks, nor do they appear because a college coach and said quarterback’s family really, really love each other.
College quarterbacks actually come from the great state of Texas, cultivated on the collegiate gridiron by Kliff Kingsbury himself.
Let me explain.
When Kingsbury first came to Texas Tech in 2013, Red Raider fans rejoiced as their prodigal son had returned to fill the shoes of Tommy Tuberville, who was never quite embraced by the Texas Tech community. The Red Raiders had hit a rough patch — in 2011, they dropped five straight games to close the season for the program’s first losing season since 1992, and in 2012, they lost four of their last five games.
But Kingsbury was one of their own, and his arrival helped heal the wound left when Mike Leach was fired in 2009. Kingsbury may have been young, but he had the references and the credentials. (Plus, he threw 95 touchdowns for Texas Tech between 1998-2002. And we all know actions speak louder than words.)
Thus began the offensive yardage-happy days in Lubbock, a time when quarterbacks grew on trees and there were more hands than Kingsbury knew what to do with.
It all started with Baker Mayfield.Source: Wreck M Red
As an under-recruited freshman walk-on, Mayfield led the Red Raiders to a 7-0 start in Kingsbury’s first year as head coach, effectively ousting highly touted fellow quarterback Davis Webb as the starter. But in eight games as a Red Raider, Mayfield threw 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Meanwhile, in 10 games that same season, fellow freshman Webb threw 20 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. Webb had a quarterback rating of 139.1 to Mayfield’s 127.7. So it was understood that Webb played better than Mayfield in 2013, and when it became clear that Webb was the guy, Mayfield jumped ship to Oklahoma.
Thus the “Baker Mayfield” transfer rule was born after a long, hard-fought battle with Texas Tech, Kingsbury and the NCAA. If you are unfamiliar, conference rules require that transfers sit out a season and lose a year of eligibility, regardless of scholarship status. So Mayfield sat out in 2014 but had a phenomenal 2015 season, finishing with 3,700 yards, 36 touchdowns and ending up fourth in the Heisman Trophy race with 34 first-place votes. But the loss of eligibility set up 2016 as his last year of Big 12 competition, all because Texas Tech refused to sign a one-year exemption for Mayfield, despite the fact that the team never offered him a scholarship. Luckily voters saw reason and amended the rule. But while Mayfield has thrown up some solid numbers this year, Oklahoma has had a rocky start with losses to Houston and Ohio State.
In the same 2014 season that saw Mayfield on the sidelines, Webb was replaced by another freshman, Patrick Mahomes, who finished the season with 1,547 passing yards and 16 touchdowns in just seven games. Mahomes earned the start for the 2015 season, causing Webb to look elsewhere for playing time in his quest to become an NFL quarterback. He found the perfect fit at Cal, where he is currently leading the Bears to a quietly impressive 3-2 season with big wins over two ranked teams, Texas and Utah. Webb has completed 160 of his 257 attempts for 2,143 yards and 22 touchdowns. Following in Jared Goff’s footsteps, Webb has fully embraced the Bear Raid offense.
Meanwhile, back in Lubbock, Mahomes continued to prove that Kingsbury is somewhat of a quarterback whisperer. He finished the 2015 season with monster numbers: 364-573 for 4,653 yards and 36 touchdowns. This year, he has earned early Heisman attention, leading Texas Tech to a 3-1 start with the Red Raiders' only loss coming in a 68-55 shootout with Arizona State.
Despite the Red Raiders’ clear defensive issues, Mahomes has the offense executing efficiently — they lead the nation in total offense (664.3 yards per game), passing offense (547.8 yards per game) and scoring offense (59.5 points per game). Mahomes leads the nation in passing yards per game with 442.5, followed closely by former teammate Webb (428.6) and in total offense with 483.8 yards per game. He ranks third in the nation in passing yards (1,170) and passing efficiency (194.6). Guess who tops the passing yards category? Mahomes’ former mentor Webb, of course.
Mahomes did sustain a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter of Texas Tech’s game against Kansas Thursday night, but the sprain is not expected to keep him out for very long. Just in case, Kingsbury will dip into his magical QB bag and possibly pull out another staunch slinger. Junior quarterback Nic Shimonek is the likely option as he saw time against Kansas, going 15-of-21 for 271 yards and four touchdowns.
While some of Kingsbury’s former quarterbacks have said the head coach struggles with off-field communication and not always making his intentions clear, it appears he is fluent in the offensive vernacular, using touchdowns and passing yards to punctuate his prose.
Sports writer. Avid fan, former player, once-upon-a-time coach, reluctant referee. I do digital media things with my friends. I also jinx kickers. Bay Area born & raised.