Texas Tech FB Must Develop Inexperienced Quarterbacks This Spring

Sep 29, 2016; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Nic Shimonek (16) drops back to pass against the Kansas Jayhawks in the second half at Jones AT&T Stadium. Texas Tech defeated Kansas 55-19. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2016; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Nic Shimonek (16) drops back to pass against the Kansas Jayhawks in the second half at Jones AT&T Stadium. Texas Tech defeated Kansas 55-19. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Spring practice is underway for the Texas Tech football team and all eyes are one the players looking to fill the shoes of 2016 quarterback Path Mahomes.

If there is one thing that Texas Tech football has been known for over the past two decades it is quarterbacks that put up eye-popping numbers.  However, 2017 finds the Red Raiders in a new position, trying to replace a quarterback that left early for the NFL Draft.

The departure of Pat Mahomes (with his 11,252 passing yards and 93 career passing touchdowns) leaves Kliff Kingsbury with a frighteningly inexperienced group of quarterbacks.  In fact, only one player on the spring football roster, Nic Shimonek, has ever completed a collegiate pass.

It has become so common for Texas Tech to have strong quarterback play that most assume Shimonek will be able to make a smooth transition to the role of starter.  However, the former star at Mildred High School in Corsicana, TX must prove himself worthy of leading the Air Raid offense.

In two years with Texas Tech, the senior has appeared in only five games and thrown a mere 60 passes.  What’s more, he has been called upon in only one meaningful situation.

Shimonek had to come into the 2016 Big 12 opener versus Kansas after Mahomes left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter.  In his one Big 12 appearance (other than garbage time at the end of the 2016 blowout loss at Iowa State), the transfer from Iowa put up 271 yards and four touchdown passes.

But trashing the worst team in the conference (in a game he entered with his team leading by 15 points) is a far cry from leading the team into hostile road environments like Norman, Oklahoma or Morgantown, West Virginia as he will be asked to do this season.

Though he lacks experience, Nic Shimonek exudes confidence.

"“I’m definitely excited about the chance,” Shimonek told his hometown newspaper “The Corsicana Daily Sun” . “It’s something I’ve been working for as long as I can remember. I’m ready to see all the hard work in the weight room and over the years pay off. I’m excited for myself and the team.”"

It is this confidence and his penchant for making the big play from the pocket that draw comparisons to a previous Texas Tech quarterback that also replaced a legend.

In 2003, senior B.J. Symons had one of the most prolific passing seasons in NCAA history.  He threw for a NCAA record 5,833 yards as he took over for Kliff Kingsbury.

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Shimonek has a Symons-like flair and swagger to his game.  His charisma and work ethic have made him one of the most popular players in the locker room.

And similar to Symons, Shimonek is not afraid to take risks on the field and he has the arm strength to challenge defenses with the deep passing game.

Fans are hoping that the similarities between the two players continue to be as accurate on the field as they seem to be off it.  So while the starting job is virtually guaranteed to go to Nic Shimonek, the real battle in spring football will be for the backup job.

Behind Shimonek is a group of players that have attempted a total of one pass in college football.  One of them must emerge this spring to give the Red Raiders a safety net in case Shimonek goes down.

Junior Payne Sullins has played in two games and is 0-1 passing in his career.  Sophomore McLane Carter is a 2017 signee already on campus this semester after a year at Tyler Community College.  Freshman 2017 signee Xavier Martin is also going through spring workouts after leading Cibolo (TX) Steele High School to the 6-A state title game.

To say that this group is green would be an understatement.  So, the spring practice repetitions are going to be crucial for all three players.

The safe bet is on Carter to win the backup job.  The Gilmer, TX native passed for 3,226 yards and 30 touchdowns last season.  Those numbers earned him conference MVP recognition.  But like Shimonek, the southpaw must prove capable of stepping up and filling a crucial role for the Red Raiders.

Do not underestimate the importance of the backup quarterback.  Only once in four seasons has Kliff Kingsbury not had to call upon his No. 2 QB to take meaningful snaps in a conference game.

Kingsbury has earned a reputation as a quarterback guru.  He has coached all-Americans and a Heisman Trophy winner (Johnny Manziel).

2017 will be his most challenging season since 2013 in regard to developing quarterbacks.  In his first season as a head coach, he started true freshmen (Baker Mayfield and David Webb) in every game of an 8-5 season.

Next: Texas Tech FB: Why Players Must Earn The Double T

Four years later, with his job on the line, Kingsbury must once again work his magic with a new crop of unproven quarterbacks.  That work begins in earnest this spring and it will be the most important work Kingsbury and his offensive staff do over the next few weeks.