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LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury’s experience with freshman quarterbacks is going to come in handy this year.
At least the beginning of the season.
The first-year Red Raiders coach isn’t saying who will start the opener at SMU on Friday but it won’t be red-shirt sophomore Michael Brewer, who aggravated a back injury during fall workouts. The contest now is between two freshmen, Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield, a walk-on.
Kingsbury said both are ready physically.
“It’s just the mental aspect as far as the ups and downs, handling your composure, being poised, things of that nature,” he said. “The offenses both these kids come from are very similar to what we run, similar to what we had with Johnny (Manziel) last year. They feel comfortable in it because that’s what they played in through their high school careers.”
Kingsbury has turned to freshmen before. At Houston in 2010, it was freshman David Piland. Manziel, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy, was a redshirt freshman last year under Kingsbury, the Aggies’ offensive coordinator.
“I tell them all the time if I coach them like freshmen, they’ll play like freshmen,” Kingsbury said. “So I coach them like they’ve been in the system for three years and expect those results.”
Mayfield, who has the ability to extend plays, turned down scholarship offers from Washington State and Rice before deciding to join the Red Raiders. In high school at Lake Travis, the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder led his team to a 4A state championship with a 16-0 season in 2011. In two seasons he threw for 69 touchdowns and more than 6,200 yards.
Webb, the taller of the two at 6-foot-4 and a dual threat in high school, came to Texas Tech in January, so spent spring workouts up against Brewer. As a senior at Prosper he threw for 23 TDS and 2,658 yards, while also getting 12 rushing touchdowns. The year before he threw for 26 touchdowns and 2,682 yards.
Kingsbury prohibits freshmen players from doing media interviews and Brewer also was not available.
The Red Raiders have never had a true freshman start a season opener and the last time one started any game for Texas Tech was in 1984.
Kingsbury, who set numerous records as a Red Raiders quarterback under former coach Mike Leach, said he’s wants all of his quarterbacks to avoid “paralysis by analysis” in their first starts in college.
“You don’t want them to think too much,” he said. “It’s still football. “It’s going to move around a little faster, but we try to get all these guys a bunch of reps and I think they’ll be ready to go.”
Kingsbury says he won’t change his game plan because he’s got a freshman quarterback over center. He remembers what got him into the game.
“You’d like to get them hit,” he said. “That was the best thing when I was playing. You get hit a little bit and you get yourself going.”
Junior receiver Bradley Marquez isn’t concerned about having a true freshman lead the team. He thinks it “may be a little overwhelming at the beginning” for whoever starts but players will try to relax him.
“Most of these guys have played in pressure situations and in high school,” said Marquez, who played in just six games last season because of a knee injury. “They’ve come from great high schools, obviously. So just now at the college level, it’s just something that they’ve trained their bodies and minds for and the way they’ve been coached in the past to be able to come out on a stage like this.
Kingsbury said it’s also possibly both freshman will play.
“If it’s a situation where they both deserve the reps, we’re not afraid to do that,” he said. “They’ve both had great camps, and we’ll see.”
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