LUBBOCK, Texas -- When Davis Webb found out he’d lost Texas Tech’s quarterback derby last preseason, he got sicker.
However, neither the setback of coach Kliff Kingsbury picking walk-on freshman Baker Mayfield to be the starter, nor an undetermined illness that caused him to rapidly drop 40 pounds over a few days last August could shake Webb’s resolve.
And by the end of the 2013 season, not only had Webb firmly cemented his status as the Red Raiders’ quarterback of the future -- he had sent a message that he is primed to become the next in a long line of prolific Texas Tech passing quarterbacks that began with his own head coach.
“The entire season, the ups and downs of it, Davis continued to work, continued to strive to get better,” said Kingsbury, who in 2002 became the first of six Texas Tech quarterbacks to pass for more than 4,000 yards in a season. “He never got shook and always thought that his time was going to come back around.”
That would have been easy to doubt.
But thanks to his persistence, Webb entered this spring as the last quarterback standing -- or, as his teammates have dubbed him, “The Lone Survivor.”
Mayfield is now at Oklahoma. Michael Brewer is on his way to Virginia Tech. And after a superb performance in the Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona State, Webb is the unequivocal cornerstone of Kingsbury’s high-flying offense.
“My first reaction [to losing the job] was, ‘I’m going to prove [everyone] wrong,’” Webb said. “Baker came in and did good. But I also felt like something had gotten taken away, and I was going to get it back.”
That didn’t come overnight. In fact, Webb spent as much of his freshman season on the sidelines as he did on the field. But whenever an opportunity came, he capitalized.
“Davis handled everything so well,” said running back Kenny Williams, who is also trying his hand at linebacker this spring. “You never know what will happen with guys who are in that situation. He took that as motivation and fed off it.”
When Mayfield got banged up on Sept. 12, Webb stepped in cold and tossed a gorgeous game-winning touchdown to Bradley Marquez in the back of the end zone to beat TCU. When Mayfield got hurt on Oct. 19, Webb again rose to the occasion and led the Red Raiders to a come-from-behind victory at West Virginia that catapulted them into the top 10 of the polls.
And after Mayfield left the program in December, Webb opened the National University Holiday Bowl with four touchdown passes on Texas Tech’s first four possessions, and Kingsbury scrapped any plans of rotating Brewer in at quarterback.
“My goal that game was to show the Texas Tech fan base, my coaches and most importantly my teammates that I was the quarterback for his team,” said Webb, who passed for 403 yards in the 37-23 victory over the Sun Devils on the way to earning offensive MVP honors. “I wanted to show everybody I was the guy.”
Now the guy, Kingsbury said Webb has been even better this spring.
On top of regaining most of the weight he lost, Webb has added 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, which has allowed him to place more zip on his throws. That was on full display in Texas Tech’s open scrimmage in Midland, Texas, last weekend, as Webb threw four touchdowns to four different receivers with no interceptions in a near flawless outing.
“He showed a ton of improvement in the one month leading up to the bowl game,” Kingsbury said. “He’s picked right back up in spring drills, and the confidence he’s showing is incredible. He’s been checking us into the right plays, he’s been accurate -- he’s just been a different player, top to bottom.”
Webb might be more accurate. More confident. And a better player, top to bottom. But one aspect of his game, he says, remains unchanged -- the chip that was placed on his shoulder last August.
“It’s a big relief I guess [to be the starter], but I still have that same motivation,” said Webb, who is planning to go to California to work out with renowned quarterback guru George Whitfield in May. “I want to be the best quarterback at Texas Tech, the best quarterback in the Big 12. I have pretty high aspirations for myself. ... And no matter what the situation, I’m going to stay driven.”