Q&A: Texas Tech QB Pat Mahomes, on taking his game to the next level

Pat Mahomes passed for 4,653 yards with 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last season with Texas Tech. Tim Sharp/AP

This week, Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes took time to speak with ESPN.com over the phone, covering an array of topics, including the best moment so far of his college career, his relationship with coach Kliff Kingsbury and who he thinks is the most impressive opposing player in the Big 12.

After leading the Big 12 in passing as a sophomore, how do you take your game to the next level, and what is the one area you're focused on improving the most?

Mahomes: I've got to keep working to be a quarterback. I'm good at a lot of the risky, running around plays. But I have to make the easy ones easier. I miss those sometimes. One thing else I've got to work on is my interceptions. I threw 15 last year. That's more than I'd ever thrown in my life. It's something I've got to cut in half at least.

You've given up baseball to focus on football this spring. How is that going to help you as a QB?

Mahomes: It's definitely going to help with my arm slot. Going from baseball to football it was hard to keep the same slot, because it's a different throw. When I do throw the football longer and longer, my spiral becomes better. So having the full spring and the full year is going to really help that accuracy, I feel.

There's been a lot of talk from your teammates and coaches about you being the leader of the team now. What's an example of something you're doing now as a leader you might not have before?

Mahomes: Being more vocal, and getting guys up (to the football facility) to get extra work in, especially with the offense and receivers. (In the past) I'd usually just come up here and work by myself. Now this last semester, I've been getting everybody up here, every Saturday and throwing routes, doing some 7-on-7, doing some one-on-ones, making sure everybody is staying on top of their game and no one is being lazy and not getting better.

With Jakeem Grant graduating, who is going to be your next go-to receiver?

Mahomes: I haven't really gotten one just yet, that I know for sure will be the go-to guy. But we have a lot of great receivers, a lot of competition, and I think we'll be better across the board. We've got a lot of height now with (Dylan) Cantrell coming back (from a back injury). Reginald Davis had a good season last year. And then Derrick Willies, who came from juco, he's a taller guy who can also make plays. On the inside to replace Jakeem, Cameron Batson has taken many steps and De'Quan Bowman has also looked good.

Who is the one young player maybe off the radar who has impressed you most this spring?

Mahomes: One young guy that's really impressed me with how hard he's working is Terence Steele, an offensive tackle we have. He's a redshirt freshman, but I truly believe he can be a guy on the starting line that can make an impact.

What have been your first impressions of true freshman QB Jett Duffey?

Mahomes: He's picking up the offense fast, and he has a really strong arm. He can make a lot of throws you don't expect an incoming freshman to be making. The confidence he has in himself to make those throws, that's something that has impressed me.

The best moment so far of your college career?

Mahomes: Winning at Texas. The Red Raiders, we hadn't won at Texas in a long, long time (since 1997). It was a great feeling.

You've developed a reputation from throwing down some pancake blocks. Where does that come from?

Mahomes: I get so competitive, so into the moment, I'll throw my body out there to try to make the play bigger. But (Kingsbury) told me to knock that off. He said I could still cut, but to try to stay away from lowering the shoulder.

What is your relationship with Kingsbury like?

Mahomes: It's a great one. He's so smart, he's really taken my game to the next level. He's a real cool guy, at the same time he'll get on you if you're messing up. He's the best quarterback coach in the country, in my opinion.

What is something that outsiders might not know about him?

Mahomes: The biggest thing to me, he gets here at 4:30 in the morning, and goes to sleep at 8. He's all about being better.

Who in your opinion is the most impressive returning player in the Big 12 from another team?

Mahomes: I would have to say (Oklahoma running back) Samaje Perine. That guy is a monster. So is (OU running back) Joe Mixon, too.

What is your favorite Texas Tech uniform combo?

Mahomes: Gotta be the throwback ones we wore against Texas and Arkansas. We're 2-0 in them.

Last question: your favorite local place to eat in Lubbock?

Mahomes: It would have to be Spanky's. I can't eat the fried food a lot, but it's definitely good. The cheese sticks they have are pretty legendary.