Joey McGuire no closer to naming starting QB after Texas Tech’s defense impressed during spring game


LUBBOCK — A decision on a starting quarterback to begin the Joey McGuire era at Texas Tech is still on hold after 15 spring practices, including Saturday’s spring game.

No surprise really, even if McGuire seemed at times more open to naming a starter than most coaches.

One reason for the indecision is what McGuire described as a tight competition between senior Tyler Shough, sophomore Donovan Smith and redshirt freshmen Behren Morton. In golf terms, there’s no leader in the clubhouse.

“Man, I really don’t [have one],” McGuire said. “I was kind of hoping. I mean, [it] really has been even throughout. That’s not good or bad because you wish somebody would step forward and kind of take it and one of them will.

“We’ll evaluate this game and we’ll look at what they’ve done throughout spring to see if we’re ready to name one.”

Nobody made a particularly strong case Saturday with a team composed of the No. 1 defense beating the No. 1 offense.

Shough, the former Oregon transfer who won the job to begin last season before breaking his collarbone against Texas, was 22-of-38 for 162 yards passing with two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. Smith, who started the final four games of 2021 including the Liberty Bowl, was 3-of-7 for 49 yards and a touchdown. Morton, a former top recruit, was maybe the best quarterback Saturday, completing 8-of-13 for 95 yards and added a short touchdown run.

To be fair, McGuire said he didn’t want to show too much of the offensive playbook. In case anyone thought McGuire might be postponing a call to avoid a transfer portal exodus, he said that wasn’t the case.

“There’s a lot of people right now not naming quarterbacks because they’re worried about one of them would jump in the portal or something like that,” McGuire said. “Our guys are really competitive, and they love Texas Tech. And so I’m not worried about that if I named one tomorrow.”

There were several factors in play. McGuire acknowledged not wanting to show much offensively. And the defense full-on embraced the spring practice catchphrase of “Take Three.” At halftime, an enthusiastic McGuire appeared on ESPN+ and talked about TTU — Take Three University.

Starting linebacker Krishon Merriweather admitted the defense is ahead of schedule with the concept.

“Probably us taking the ball away this early. We really adapted to coach McGuire’s thing,” Merriweather said.

The idea is simple if a bit aspirational — to force three turnovers a game. As McGuire noted, dipping deep into metrics, three turnovers equate to a 93% chance of winning. Last season, Tech forced 15 turnovers in 13 games and ranked ninth in the Big 12 in turnover margin.

On Saturday, Tech’s defense had three by halftime and finished with four.

“Just having the mindset that no matter what we do we have to have three turnovers,” said cornerback Rayshad Williams, who jumped a route on the game’s second play and returned the pick for a touchdown. He drew praise from McGuire for simply wanting the ball more.

“To get to plus-3, you got to take 3,” McGuire said. “We talk about it every day. I thought the guys did a phenomenal job of attacking the ball.”

With spring practice concluded, McGuire will be meeting with players for one-on-ones early next week before heading on the road to address Tech fans in person. An event in Dallas is scheduled for Thursday.

At the same time, the former ultra-successful Cedar Hill coach and Baylor assistant was actually savoring his first kinda, sorta game action at Jones AT&T Stadium.

“It was a great moment for us to get on the field and be around the Red Raiders and show that,” McGuire said, pausing to find the right tone. “I’ve told everybody we’re a work in progress. We’re not what we’re going to be but I promise you we’re going in the right direction.”

Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith warms up before the Liberty Bowl NCAA college football...

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