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Summer gridiron report: Potts next in line for Tech

Factory, (noun): Any place producing a uniform product, without concern for individuality. Origin: 1550.

Used in a sentence: Lubbock, Texas, is a factory for producing quarterbacks who post astronomical numbers on the football field.

The mastermind behind the brilliance of the Texas Tech passing attack, which has been No. 1 in the nation six of the past seven years, is coach Mike Leach.

Take your pick: Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons, Sonny Cumbie, Cody Hodges or Graham Harrell. Any of these quarterbacks could have single-handedly destroyed my fantasy football NFL team last year with the asinine numbers they put up at Tech.

Harrell took it a step further last season. Of course, he had the stats (442-626, 5,111 yards, 45 TD's, 9 INT), but he also led Tech in becoming a national power. Had it not been for a bad loss at Oklahoma, and the Red Raiders could have been playing for the BCS Championship.

Harrell led Tech to what's been considered the most successful season in school history. The Red Raiders went 11-2 and were ranked as high as No. 2 in the BCS. But now, Harrell and his All-America target, Michael Crabtree, are gone.

Taylor Potts is next in line to replace Harrell in the factory. There's little doubt that the junior will put up the numbers. He possesses the physical tools: The rocket arm that reportedly launches a better deep ball than Harrell; at 6-foot-5 (215 pounds), Potts is taller than any quarterback in the history of the Leach era.

But can Tech have anywhere near the success it enjoyed last year?

Welcome to the latest blog entry of Conference Chatter's summer gridiron report. Here's a schedule of when each Big 12 team was/will be featured:

Big 12 North

Big 12 South

We'll keep it going with Texas Tech, which finished last season at 11-2 overall (7-1 conference) with a loss to Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl.

Biggest question mark: Secondary.

Senior cornerback Jamar Wall returns, but the rest of the secondary is gone, including starting safeties Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet, who combined for 12 interceptions last season. Much of the reason Tech shared the Big 12 South title was because of Ruffin McNeill's improved defense, which ranked third in the conference with 27.85 points per game given up last year. That may sound like a lot, but when you average 43.77, you'll more than likely win some games. Tech won 11.

Freshman safety Cody Davis established himself as a hard hitter in the spring, while junior Franklin Mitchem should occupy the other safety spot. It's an open competition for the spot opposite of Wall. If Tech is to make another run at the South title, the defense cannot revert to its old ways of getting picked apart for points.

Biggest strength: Wide receiver.

I know Crabtree and Eric Morris are history. But let's get real. The Red Raiders are still going to throw the ball and they're probably going to look good doing it, as always. Enter Detron Lewis, who should be the Raiders' go-to receiver in the fall. Sure, the guy has Shaquille O'Neal-sized shoes to fill, but he's coming off a season of 76 catches, 913 yards and seeing first-hand from Crabtree what it takes to be a star.

Tech also returns Tramain Swindall, who could develop into a serious red zone threat, and Ed Britton (pictured below), who caught 35 passes for 577 yards and six scores last year.

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Nick Krug/Journal-World file photo

Breakthrough player: Junior QB Potts.

He's only attempted 36 passes in a Tech uniform. Potts should have a solid group of receivers, along with a balanced running attack of junior Baron Batch and freshman Harrison Jeffers to take the pressure off him. Jeffers grabbed the attention of coaches this spring with his breakaway speed. Establishing the Batch/Shannon Woods combo on the ground was vital to Harrell's success last year, and it should be no different this year with Batch, Jeffers and perhaps sophomore Aaron Crawford.

Coaching stability: Leach is safe in Lubbock on a $12.7 million contract that runs to 2013.

Tech's schedule

  • Sept. 5: vs. North Dakota
  • Sept 12: vs. Rice
  • Sept. 19: at Texas
  • Sept. 26: at Houston
  • Oct. 3: vs. New Mexico
  • Oct. 10: vs. Kansas State
  • Oct. 17: at Nebraska
  • Oct. 24: vs. Texas A&M
  • Oct. 31: vs. Kansas
  • Nov. 14: at Oklahoma State
  • Nov. 21: vs. Oklahoma
  • Nov. 28: vs. Baylor in Arlington, Texas

Fearless forecast: 4th in South.

At Texas in week 3 is a heck of an early draw. Tech should be good this season, but there's just too many established pieces at Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State that I can't justify picking the Red Raiders higher than fourth.

As always, discuss.

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