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August 12, 2013

Webb's journey has been impressive

The idea that Davis Webb could be Texas Tech's starting quarterback against SMU on Aug. 30 does not sound nearly as unlikely as it did a month or even a week ago. Michael Brewer had effectively been penciled in as the team's starter for two years, but a back injury -- which Jakeem Grant acknowledged on Friday -- has apparently limited him so far in camp.

If Webb does end up starting for the Red Raiders, it would cap an 18-month journey that saw the Prosper product develop from lightly recruited prospect to Elite 11 finalist to Big 12 signal caller.

The recruitment

Webb's recruitment wasn't easy or quick. The Red Raiders' coaching staff -- then led by Tommy Tuberville and Neal Brown -- had several in-state 2013 quarterbacks ranked ahead of him on their board. Tyrone Swoopes (Texas), J.T. Barrett (Ohio State) and Cody Thomas (Oklahoma) were all offered ahead of Webb, and all three chose other programs.

That isn't to say that Webb was not known in Lubbock. Brown and Sonny Cumbie, now Tech's co-offensive coordinator, had been recruiting Webb since his sophomore year at Keller. So when the Red Raiders finally got around to offering Webb, it didn't take very long for him to commit.

"I'm a drop back, pocket passer," Webb told RRS shortly he committed. "I can rollout and give the ball to the guys that can run. But if you ask me to run it, I can run it. I run a 4.7, 4.6 (40-yard dash) and I like to throw it to the guys downfield. We'll win a lot of games at Tech, I think, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to learn from them and develop into the best quarterback I can be."

That goal of developing into a better quarterback led Webb on a deep run in last year's Elite 11; he advanced to the final round of the prestigious quarterback competition and caught the attention of former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer.

"I come across this tall, skinny kid and as I'm watching I was really intrigued," Dilfer said about Webb. "I grew up in the Bay Area, Tom Brady grew up in the Bay Area and there are so many similarities (between Webb and Brady). Lanky kid with not a ton of power in his body right now but will once he gets into a weight room and matures a little bit more. Throws the ball with anticipation, very accurate, subtle moves in the pocket to buy himself time, and the more I watched and the more I got into it I was really just intrigued with the kid.

"Then I went down to the (Elite 11) Dallas regional, the one we held at Cowboys Stadium, and got to see him live. There were 15 big time recruits there, big school commits, a lot of fanfare surrounding them and what I liked most about Davis was he didn't flinch."

Webb wasn't chosen as an official Elite 11 selection, but he did impress the Rivals.com analysts that were in attendance. Those analysts labeled Webb as "one of the biggest surprises" of the event and noted that he was a "great fit" for Tech

The uncertainty

Texas Tech's coaching transition following the 2012 season came as a surprise to everyone. Tuberville headed to Cincinnati, Brown and two assistants headed to Kentucky and suddenly there was some question about whether Webb would still end up on the South Plains. The issue was further complicated by Webb's plans to enroll in college in time to go through spring football practice.

With the uncertainty in Lubbock, Webb understandably began to look at fallback options -- namely TCU -- in case he wasn't a fit for Tech's next head coach. The Horned Frogs offered and Gary Patterson had an in-home visit with the Webb family.

"Exploratory would be the best way to put it, learning more about TCU and the campus," Matt Webb said at the time to Rivals.com.

Nothing ever came of TCU's interest, of course. Cumbie visited Webb right before Patterson and that solidified things.

"People don't understand, I don't think, as good as I think they should understand that I'm committed to Texas Tech because I love the university," Webb said. "I love Texas Tech for the fans, I love the stadium, I love the facilities, I love Texas Tech for Texas Tech. I didn't go there because Coach Tuberville was there. It had a little bit to do with Coach Brown and Coach Cumbie just because they recruited me since my sophomore year."

The hire of Kliff Kingsbury on Dec. 12, and the retention of Cumbie, shored things up even more, and Webb moved to Lubbock in January.

"I've watched countless numbers of videos," the quarterback said shortly before relocating to West Texas. "From Coach Kevin Sumlin, to Coach Dana Holgorsen to Coach Mike Leach, to Coach Kingsbury to Coach Brown. I've watched every game film of all of those coaches and I think our offense at Prosper is very similar to what Coach Kingsbury is bringing in so I feel like it's not going to be a hard transition especially for me being a coach's kid and being around playbooks. I know all kinds of offenses and reads and coverages.

"I don't think it's going to be a hard transition for me because I've been around it my whole life. At the same time, going through an early spring is going to be a big advantage for me and my college career. As Coach Kingsbury said, Johnny Manziel graduated early and by the time he played last year he was really a junior with the knowledge he's gained from the staff this year and the previous staff."

The spring

Prior to the program's coaching transition, the spring of 2013 was expected to serve as Brewer's coronation as the Red Raiders' starting quarterback. Instead, the spring featured a surprising and legitimate competition between Brewer and Webb.

Neither separated themselves during spring, so Brewer and Webb headed into the summer in a virtual dead heat.

"It's close, it's close," Kingsbury said in April, referring to the quarterback competition. "They've both come in and competed really well. I'm impressed with how quickly each has picked up the system."

Webb didn't exactly light up the scoreboard in the spring game -- he went 17-of-30 for 224 yards, a touchdown and an interception -- but he did provide the game's signature moment, an 83-yard touchdown pass to Derreck Edwards in the game's third quarter.

The fall

As Tech opened fall camp, Kingsbury's plan was to have a starter named shortly after the team's second scrimmage.

"We were really pleased with Michael Brewer's and Davis Webb's progress in the spring," Kingsbury said at Big 12 Media Days. "Those guys kind of separated themselves from the rest of the pack. We'll get them to fall camp and probably go about two weeks, it varies, before we name a starter and try to get the scrimmage in. We did that last year at Texas A&M and it worked out a little bit for us. Hopefully, we have that same success."

Both quarterbacks participated in the Red Raiders' first and only open practice of camp, but Brewer has since been sidelined with a back injury. The exact ailment and prognosis is unknown, but every day that passes brings Kingsbury that much closer to having to name a starting quarterback. The more practices that Brewer misses, the better Webb's chances are of starting.

Kingsbury said Friday that he was comfortable with the idea of Webb starting against SMU.

"No question," Kingsbury said. "I think he's proved to us in these practices and through the spring he can move the football and lead this ball team."

The Red Raiders are less than two weeks away from beginning game prep for the Mustangs. There's still time for Brewer to get back to 100 percent and make an impact on this quarterback competition, but that time is running out.


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