It’s audition time.
The quarterback position at Texas Tech is in flux. Big 12 offensive freshman of the year Baker Mayfield elected to transfer after the regular season, a back injury sidelined Michael Brewer for the majority of the year and Davis Webb has had an up and down freshman campaign.
When the Red Raiders kick off in Monday night’s National University Holiday Bowl against Arizona State (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN), Webb and Brewer are both likely to play. TTU coach Kliff Kingsbury declined to name a starter during bowl preparations but said he expects to see both quarterbacks against the Sun Devils.
“We'll let them trot out there and y'all will see when everybody else sees,” Kingsbury said. “We jumped back to the basics and did a re-install after the bowl announcement and they have looked good. I'm excited to see 'em both play on Monday.”
Many look at bowl games like this and think they are meaningless.
For Webb and Brewer, it’s far from meaningless. It’s a big opportunity. Their futures and college careers could be changed with a dynamic performance.
Brewer could be the most intriguing of the two. He was the favorite to start after last spring before a preseason back injury handcuffed his 2013 season. The sophomore returned late in the season and had a solid showing in mop-up duty during the season finale against Texas. The offseason favorite to start could re-establish himself as the favorite to start for the Red Raiders next fall with a big game against ASU.
Although Brewer has been in the program for three seasons, Webb holds the clear game experience advantage. He played in nine games, starting five, during his first collegiate season. Webb was 198 of 320 for 2,315 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His 77.6 adjusted QBR was third in the Big 12, behind Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf. The true freshman has impressed Kingsbury with the development of his leadership skills.
“It's been night and day, I think, just his leadership role,” Kingsbury said. “It’s hard coming in there at 18 years old and trying to take over that huddle with a bunch of 22-, 23-year-old seniors, but as he's played and shown what he's about. I think the team has bought in that he will do whatever it takes to try and help us win. That's been a great asset of his.”
It would seem that Webb is the easy choice as the quarterback of the future. He’s younger and has more game experience. But Brewer was the Red Raiders’ best quarterback last spring and will have two years of eligibility left heading into the 2014 season.
Even with the Red Raiders’ quarterback position manned by two true freshmen in Mayfield and Webb this season, TTU led the Big 12 and was second among FBS teams with 392 passing yards per game.
“It's been a unique year throughout with what happened with Brewer, who had a great spring and a lot of people expected him to be the starter, and you're playing two freshmen,” Kingsbury said. “It's been mentally tough on the quarterbacks, and I can understand that.”
Kingsbury just hopes Webb and Brewer take the learning lessons from this season, particularly during TTU’s five-game losing streak to end the year, and carry that knowledge into the Holiday Bowl. A big performance from either quarterback could give that signal-caller a leg up in the battle to lead the Red Raiders offense into 2014.
“I think they have both grown a lot and they will be better for it,” Kingsbury said. “I don't think it unsettled any of them, and I think they saw it as a challenge and continued to compete this past month.”
And the competition continues Monday night.