Texas Tech coach Matt Wells has said he won’t be keeping the identity of his starting quarterback a secret any longer, not until the Red Raiders’ season opens.
Oregon transfer Tyler Shough started the opening streak with the first team on Saturday in the final full-scale scrum of Tech’s preseason training and is the favorite for the job, but Henry Colombi and Shough have each throws a touchdown pass.
Erik Ezukanma caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Colombi in the second set, and Myles Price turned a short pass from Shough into a 45-yard touchdown, highlighting the two-hour affair at Jones AT&T Stadium.
Tech opens the season Sept. 4 against Houston at NRG Stadium, but it seems unlikely that Wells will wait until game week to name the starter. Asked after the melee about the timeline, he said: “Soon. Probably in the next few days.”
Based on their use on Saturday, there appears to be a clear line between Shough and Colombi as 1-2 ahead of young quarterbacks Donovan Smith and Behren Morton. This is the order in which they appeared, but Shough and Colombi alternated the first four series with the starters and the best substitutes in attack and defense.
Smith and Morton have worked with and against primarily third string players and below on the depth board. Linebacker Trent Low caught a pass and sent it back 30 yards for a touchdown against Smith, who was often under heavy pressure.
Morton is doing better. The real Eastland freshman led a 12-game, 70-yard campaign and topped it off by diving to the pylon for an 8-yard touchdown.
Quarterbacks almost always wear different colored jerseys and are off-contact during practice and scrum situations to avoid injury, and that was the case with Shough and Colombi.
But Smith and Morton wore the same white jerseys as the rest of the offense. Smith suffered, being affected in four of his first six shots. On back-to-back plays, nose tackle Troy Te’o tackled Smith for 1 and zero yard wins, sandwiched around the Tre’jon Lewis end getting a knockdown on Smith after an incomplete pass.
But in the scoring campaign he led, Morton twice ran for 6-yard gains, blocking a defenseman on one. He also converted the third and 8th with a 28-yard pass to first-year receiver Cole Kirkpatrick and the fourth and 10th with a 20-yard pass to freshman Cam’Ron Valdez.
Asked about the oddity of exposing Smith and Morton to non-game contact, Wells said he had done it before with young quarterbacks and had done it with QB’s freshman QBs. Tech in a live scrum Wednesday night.
“They’re fighting for position 2, position 3 – they’re all between these two guys and Henry,” Wells said. “Henry has a bit of a proven track record, and we all know what we’ve got there.
“Donovan hasn’t been touched for a year and a half, Behren (since) the end of the Eastland playoffs. They weren’t live in the spring. We feel good with the depth of the quarterback. I’m glad we got out without them being hurt.
“It’s a little different game when a guy has the mobility like they both do and the ability to get out of the pressure. I think it’s a little more revealing of what quarterbacks can do.”
Ezukanma, the Big 12’s first team last year, played for the first time since breaking his forearm during spring training and undergoing surgery.
“It’s been a long offseason after I broke my arm,” he said. “I feel like I’m fully recovered. It was good judging the ball and grabbing it.”
Ezukanma caught his touchdown pass on a vertical route on UCLA transfer Rayshad Williams, a 6-foot-3 receiver against a 6-3 cornerback. Later that day, on a third and 6 off the 16-yard line, Williams broke Shough’s pass to Ezukanma in the end zone.
“Rayshad is long, long. It’s a good corner,” said Ezukanma. “It’s always good to face a guy who is about my height so that I can have that feeling, so when I run up against a guy as tall as me, I can adjust and play well against him. “
Ezukanma then made another catch for 31 yards.
A safety and three baskets completed the score. Safety came during the scenario work with the offensive leaning against his own goal line. Matthew Young, a linebacker who transferred from New Mexico state, blocked running back Xavier White in the end zone.
Field goals came in situational red zone infringement streaks. After Williams interrupted the third pass for Ezukanma, kickers Jonathan Garibay and Trey Wolff each got a shot from 34 yards and each converted the basket.
After another red zone streak ended at the 13-yard line, Wolff converted 31 yards and Garibay hooked his left 31-yard wide.
Offensive tackle TJ Storment, running back SaRodorick Thompson, wide receivers JJ Sparkman and Cameron Cantrell and defensive backs Seth Collins and Joe Shaw were on hand but did not interfere.
When asked specifically about Storment and Sparkman, a top starter and replacement, Wells said the two were going “fine” and “day to day.” He said the two have had enough live snaps so far that there was no pressing need for them to mingle.
Thompson has yet to be medically cleared for contact as he continues rehab after shoulder surgery in April.
Ethan Carde, who started seven games last year as a left tackle, has joined the first team in place of Storment. Tahj Brooks opened to the running back in Thompson’s place. …
First team defensive players Riko Jeffers, Colin Schooler, Krishon Merriweather and DaMarcus Fields have only played two series. …
Reggie Pearson is a good bet to be the team’s free starting safety. The Wisconsin transfer showed in the first set why he had a reputation as a heavy hitter, pushing RB Tahj Brooks behind the line after Brooks caught a swing pass. He later showed his range, coming back to break Tyler Shough’s deep throw for Erik Ezukanma, which was open in the middle.
“Reggie is a good player,” Wells said. “He had a good scrum last Saturday. Good tackle on open ground, solid player, very good teammate. He came here this summer and played well with our guys, and he’s going to be a big factor in high school. …
LB substitute Bryce Ramirez made two big plays on the third down. Richmond sophomore George Ranch took down RB Chadarius Townsend for a 2-yard loss on the third and 8 over-39. On a third and 3 of the plus-13, Behren Morton had opened Townsend for a potential touchdown, but Ramirez pulled the gap B and forced a rushed pitch that fell incomplete. …
TE Mason Tharp reached out to catch a 21-yard pass from Shough. Then, with the offense leaning against his goal line, Shough threw a pass to Tharp for 24 yards. Travis Koontz is the returning starter and caught four passes for 25 yards, all from Shough. But Tharp, a 6-9 and 256-pound freshman from Klein, is fighting for
“He’s got really good hands, the ability to stretch the pitch vertically,” Wells said of Tharp. “He runs well. He has a bright future.” …
LB Colin Schooler passed QB Tyler Shought, which S Marquis Waters almost intercepted. … CB Rayshad Williams and Nate Floyd were each flagged for pass interference in a series QB Henry Colombi led for a touchdown… Nelson Mbanasor interrupted a pass from Shough at the line of scrimmage. Mbanasor has been a first team TD throughout camp. …. DT Devin Drew had a bag on QB Donovan Smith.