FRISCO, Texas — Texas Tech football struggled to replace quarterback Patrick Mahomes last season. Now, the Red Raiders are in the midst of a bitter quarterback battle once again.
Junior McLane Carter is the only quarterback on the roster with starting experience, but he wasn’t impressive in limited appearances in 2017. Carter completed just 16 of 37 passes for 237 yards and 2 interceptions before being pulled in the second half against Texas.
Sophomore Jett Duffey has tremendous natural ability. He led Lake Ridge (Mansfield, Texas) to a state title game and won Mr. Texas Football from Dave Campbell’s Texas Football following a standout high school career.
Even early enrollee Alan Bowman has been impressive. He played all four years at Grapevine (Texas) and earned the District 8-5A MVP award twice.
“I think the competition is really fierce,” wide receiver Dalton Rigdon said after the first spring game. “We have three or four different guys that I trust completely.”
Carter played well in the two spring games, throwing for 289 yards and averaging 7.4 yards per pass attempt, thanks to a couple of breakaway touchdowns. However, he completed just 53.8 percent of his passes in the games.
“I think he’s matured a lot,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Last year, things were moving really fast for him. His operation is much improved.”
Duffey completed 64.1 percent of his passes, but only averaged 5.7 yards per attempt. Texas Tech seemed reluctant at times to unleash the playbook with Duffey behind center.
Bowman only completed 46.2 percent of his passes, but averaged 7.2 yards per attempt. He might have the most natural arm talent of the group. Even if he doesn’t play this year, he’s a starter down the line.
“I feel like they make each other better,” linebacker Dakota Allen said. “Jett has the ability to run. As soon as you think he’s about to run, he throws a pop pass. … All of them have skills and make each other better. They’re each getting reps with both the 1s and 2s.”
Struggling to separate
At this point, there really isn’t a leader for the job. Duffey and Carter have earned the lion’s share of first-team reps, and each has started scrimmages.
“We’re just looking for consistency,” Kingsbury said. “Day in, day out, knowing where to go with the football. And the leadership qualities.”
Kingsbury said he wants to see his starting quarterback exhibit strong leadership traits. He understands that it’s difficult with so many players competing for the job. It doesn’t help that Bowman and Duffey have zero combined games of collegiate starting experience. Almost every key player on the roster is older than they area.
Duffey also has ground to make up. He was arrested during the offseason and charged with criminal mischief.
“You’ve got to fake it until you make it,” Kingsbury said. “The team has to get behind you and have confidence in you. Everyone on the sideline has to believe you’re the guy.”
Regardless, Texas Tech’s competition is far healthier than this time last season. Senior Nic Shimonek won the starting job without much issue after Mahomes’ departure. However, the Red Raiders offense fell to 474.6 yards gained per game. That was the worst mark under Kingsbury and nearly 100 yards per game less than the year before.
Now, the Red Raiders take the field without leading rusher Justin Stockton and receivers Keke Coutee, Dylan Cantrell and Cameron Batson. The 2018 starting quarterback will face pressure to produce.
Texas Tech might not name a starting quarterback until the week of the first game this fall. Kingsbury promised to take the quarterback battle through the summer and fall.
However, whichever player starts will be better off after going through this bitter competition.