Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Taylor Potts has always dreamed of riding bulls in rodeos.
“Heck if somebody had a bull and the space to do it, I’d like to give it a shot,” Potts said earlier this summer. “I might end up being a little too tall to do it, but I’d love to try.”
Potts’ first love was baseball and he dreamed of being a relief pitcher with the Texas Rangers. It’s part of his mentality not to shy away from new challenges.
“I like doing things I’ve never done before,” Potts said. “Things that take me out of my comfort zone and kind of push the envelope in good way. I see things and want to be challenged by them.”
The junior Texas Tech quarterback will be facing another of those tests Saturday night in Austin -- perhaps the ultimate football trial. He will be making his first road start at No. 2 Texas, where the largest football crowd in Texas history is expected to attend. Most of them are still angry that the Red Raiders cost the Longhorns a shot at playing for the BCS title.
And Potts can’t wait.
After only two games as a starter, the 6-foot-5, 218-pound Potts has made a remarkably fast start as the Red Raiders’ new starter in the long line of prolific quarterbacks coached by Mike Leach. Potts has piloted the Red Raiders to two easy victories, leading the nation in passing yards and touchdown passes.
In the process, he has bounced back from adversity. In his first career start against North Dakota, he was intercepted three times after coaches thought he fell into a pattern of throwing off his back foot.
“I was just a little nerve wracked,” Potts said.
After a week of adjustments, he rebounded to throw for 456 yards and seven touchdown passes -- within one of the school record set by B.J. Symons -- to lead the Red Raiders to a 55-10 triumph over Rice last week.
“Last week, I think I dropped back there and thought I had to get the ball out there (soon) and get out of there,” Potts said. “I took a few hits. It never hurt. And it kept confidence to stay in there and throw the ball. “
Potts has become the next in a long line of fine Texas Tech quarterbacks with Mike Leach. In eight of the past nine seasons, a Texas Tech quarterback has led the nation in passing. And in 2006, Graham Harrell was second.
Texas coach Mack Brown said he sees similarities between Potts and the rest.
“He's the same guy. They just change the numbers," Brown said. "They all have confidence. Mike (Leach) does a really smart thing. Most of those guys have been in the system for a really long time, so it doesn't drop off much. He's done a good job of convincing quarterbacks to come and wait their time and be patient and play when they're ready to play. That's why I think you really see no drop-off at all in their offense."
Texas safety Blake Gideon hasn’t seen much of a change with Potts at quarterback, compared to Harrell or any of the others.
“Obviously, they’ve been fortunate with a good strain of quarterbacks and Potts just seems to be the next in line,” Gideon said. “They haven’t experienced any falloff between Harrell and him. They run a very simple scheme and are very good at it. They have mastered it and put up some ungodly numbers running the same basic five plays.”
Potts provides a little panache as a leader that sets him apart -- at least in a visual way. He has cultivated a long mustache that makes him look like a 1970s baseball reliever.
Leach has compared him to John Wayne because of his stoicism as a leader. But teammates are reminded of real-life Western characters when they see Potts and his facial adornment.
“He looks like Wyatt Earp to me,” Texas Tech running back Baron Batch said, chuckling. “Taylor looks like one of those Wild West guys who will shoot somebody in a heartbeat on the street.”