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First Year Quarterbacks at Texas Tech

For the first time in two seasons, Texas Tech has a brand quarterback and although we're accustomed and grateful for what Graham Harrell did, it's time to look a bit forward and wonder what Taylor Potts might bring to the Red Raiders as a first year starter under Mike Leach's system.

Going into Graham's second year, I asked how much he could improve from one year to the other, but this time I thought that it might be a good idea to take a look at Symons, Cumbie, Hodges and Harrell's first (and sometimes only) year. The nice part about this is that it's a nice mix of players. It's not just one type of quarterback, which means that perhaps there's actually something to gain from looking at what we can expect. I did not include Kingsbury's first year, although I thought about including his first year in the Air Raid system.  Ultimately I decided that it wasn't in the spirit of what I was trying to do, so I left him out. I don't think the numbers would have changed that much.

Join me after the jump for the numbers.

2003 Symons 5,336 429 666 8.01 48 13.88 21 31.71 64.4 8
2004 Cumbie 4,742 421 642 7.39 32 20.06 18 35.67 65.6 8
2005 Hodges 4,197 353 531 7.90 31 17.13 12 44.25 66.5 9
2006 Harrell 4,555 412 617 7.38 38 16.24 11 56.09 66.8 8
AVG ---- 4,707.50 403.8 614.00 7.67 37.25 16.48 15.50 41.93 65.83 8.25

The Anomaly

Which one of these doesn't belong? Which one of these is not like the others?

I say this every time I take a look at Symons numbers from 2003, but what a freak of a year. Just off the charts in terms of production. It would be easy to throw out Symons stats and say that it is an anomaly, but personally, I consider Symons' 2003 season to be the bar that Potts needs to shoot for. That's not me trying to say that I think that Potts needs over 650 attempts simply because the running game is going to be outstanding, but I like that high bar and I don't think that Leach will be afraid to let Potts go.

Run Percentage

In setting that high bar, you're thinking that there's probably a correlation between the number of rushing attempts and passing attempts, which allowed for Symons to have such incredible numbers.

Leach has just about always run, somewhere in the range of 25% to 35% of the time. We have the two seasons where Leach took it to both extremes in terms of running the ball and passing the ball:

2003 1015 288 727 28.4% 71.6%
2004 944 293 651 31.0% 69.0%
2005 896 308 588 34.4% 65.6%
2006 875 219 656 25.0% 75.0%

In Hodge's 2005 year, behind Taurean Henderson and Hodges' 109 rushing attempts, the offense was pretty balanced, at least more than it has been in recent memory, but it would make sense that the lowest run-to-pass ratio would in Symons 2003 season, but it was Harrell's 2006 season, where Leach not only didn't run the ball very much, but the offensive tempo wasn't there either. There were 185 fewer plays in 2006 and 2003. That's all about tempo and being comfortable, not about running the ball. If Potts could take one thing away from Symons' 2003 season, it's not necessarily the yards or the touchdowns, but rather it's the number of plays while sustaining a very high level of success.

Playing It Safe

What's the one thing that jumps out at Harrell's 2006 season? For me it's the fact that he had over 50 attempts for every interception. Contrast that with the touchdowns per attempt? Now, contrast that with Symons and what does that tell you? For me, it tells me that Symons was a guy that was going to take chances, while in Harrell's first year, he was dead set on playing it safe, evidenced by the lowest yards per attempt of any of the four, although he only beat out Cumbie in that category by one-one-hundredth of a point. There's got to be some middle ground here, and taking a look at Cumbie's 2004 season, his touchdown to attempt ration is far and away better than his partners in crime. Statistically, he's really not much better than his fellow quarterbacks and lost in all of this, sometimes is that Cumbie was just damned good at putting the ball in the endzone.

My Favorite QB Stat

I've probably beaten everyone over the head about yards per attempt and it's a really bad habit, but if you'll indulge me here, I'll try to make this quick. In the Air Raid offense, there may not be a more telling statistic about the success of a quarterback than yards per attempt. Every offense is better when the team is moving the ball vertically, rather than horizontally. That's probably one of the real misconceptions about Leach's offense, is that the intent may be to make it a dink-and-dump offense, but I think this is more than likely a product of the quarterback rather than the offense itself. Exhibits "A" and "B" are Symons and Hodges. Granted, the Air Raid is not as vertical as many other offenses, but taking last year as an example, Texas Tech ranked 20th in the nation at 8.11 yards per attempt. The offense bogs and becomes not as effective if the pass is going sideline to sideline.

Potts Predictions

This is where I hand it off to you. Considering Potts' arm strength, you'd like to think that he's going to be close to 8 yards per attempt, perhaps 40 touchdowns and 15 picks? How many yards?  What about the running game and how will that affect Potts statistics, especially considering this may be one of the most talented Texas Tech backfields with Batch and Jeffers?  What says you?