There was once a time when the Texas Tech football program could count on stellar quarterback play on a yearly basis. Particularly, during the Mike Leach era, it seemed as if 4,000-yard passers would just fall out of the sky and into the starting lineup for the Red Raiders.
However, recently, quarterback play has been one of the factors that has been one of the toughest issues for this program to sort out. In fact, it’s been since Pat Mahomes topped the 5,000-yard mark in 2016 since the Red Raiders have had a player throw for 4,000 yards. What’s more, Tech hasn’t even had a 3,000-yard passer since Nic Shimonek accomplished that rather modest feat in 2017.
However, 2023 could be the year that standout QB play returns to the South Plains. That’s because super-senior Tyler Shough has all the tools needed to be the best signal-caller Tech has had since Mahomes. That is, of course, if Shough can finally put it all together for a full season.
Shough has all of the tools needed to be an elite QB. At 6-foot-5 and around 230 pounds, he has the prototypical size for the position. What’s more, he has an arm that can make every throw on the field, one that has gained the attention of NFL scouts.
Also, Shough is by no means a statue. In fact, he has run for over 500 yards in his career, which consists of just 22 games played. Remember that last season, upon his return from a week-one broken collarbone, he rushed for 264 yards in just four games including 111 yards in the bowl game win over Ole Miss.
Still, people around the country are waiting on Shough to take the next step and finally become a star as has been expected of him since his high school days. Coming out of Arizona in the class of 2018 when he signed with Oregon, he was the No. 94 player in the nation and the No. 7 pro-style QB in the class.
It was expected that he would be the heir apparent to former Oregon star QB, Justin Herbert, who is now one of the top young QBs in the NFL playing for the Los Angeles Chargers. However, that never materialized.
After redshirting in 2019, Shough did earn the starting job for all seven of Oregon’s games in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. However, he was forced to split time with Anthony Brown, a run-first QB who assumed a greater role in the offense as the season progressed to the point that in the 2021 Fiesta Bowl, he would replace Shough early in the game even attempting ten more passes than Shough on the day despite not starting.
That situation and the Duck’s signing of 5-star QB prospect Ty Thompson led Shough to hit the portal where he would wind up in Lubbock. Immediately, he was handed the reins of the offense but injuries have prevented him from being able to show what he can truly be as a quarterback.
In just his fourth game with the Red Raiders, he would break his collarbone by diving into the endzone on a TD run against the Longhorns in Austin. That injury would cost him the remainder of the season.
Then, last fall, he suffered the same injury on a rushing play in the season opener against Murray State. That injury would keep him out until the end of October and prevent him from returning to the role of QB1 until the November 11th win over Kansas in Lubbock.
Shough’s return to the starting job would coincide with the 4-game win streak that the Red Raiders would put together to close out the season. That’s no coincidence.
Though he wasn’t spectacular in all four of those games, he was steady and he made winning plays when it mattered. For example, he tossed a 4th-quarter TD to Baylor Cupp to put Tech up for good in a 14-10 win over Iowa State in Ames on a brutally cold night.
A week later, when Tech needed to win a shootout after falling into a huge first-half hole against Oklahoma, Shough was up to the task of being a gunslinger. Passing for 436 yards, he managed to lead his team to a signature home win, the first truly memorable home win of Shough’s time in Raiderland.
Now, it’s time to see what he can do for a full season. Thus far, Shough has not played more than seven games in a season and has yet to attempt 200 passes or throw for even 1,600 yards in a season.
If he stays healthy in 2023, that will change. Don’t forget that this will be the first time in his career that he’s played for the same offensive coordinator in consecutive seasons. Thus, he is going to be expected to be a difference-maker.
The reality is that this team is going to need Shough to give the Red Raiders an advantage at the QB position more weeks than not. With Tech set to face off with opposing QBs such as Oregon’s Bo Nix, Texas’ Quinn Ewers, Kansas’ Jaylon Daniels, Kansas State’s Will Howard, and Central Florida’s John Rhys Plumlee, the competition that Shough will be measured against is going to be fierce.
However, if Shough plays up to his potential, he could be better than all of the counterparts that he will square off against. Along the way, he will have an opportunity to secure a future on Sundays. But he has to stay on the field. If he does, he could be one of the breakout players in the nation and Texas Tech will finally have the type of QB play that the program has been missing since the Mahomes era.