In the “Air Raid” era of Texas Tech football, the QB ground game has rarely been a huge component of the offense. But that will likely change in 2021.
New offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie has come home to help resurrect a Texas Tech offense that grew stale and predictable during the two years that David Yost was calling plays. And a critical component of Cumbie’s scheme is using the QB’s legs.
In fact, over the past two seasons at TCU, Cumbie’s QB, Max Duggan, made a living on the ground. Running a combined 246 times in 2019 and 2020, the Iowa native racked up 1,081 yards with his feet surpassing the 500-yard mark in both seasons.
But while Duggan is a surprisingly nimble runner, he hasn’t been the only QB that Cumbie has asked to carry the ball. In fact, playing for Cumbie seems to require the QB to be able to use his legs.
In 2018, TCU used three QBs and between them, they scampered for 412 yards on 122 attempts. The year prior, starting TCU QB Kenny Hill ran the ball 100 times for 325 yards and 5 scores. But that was nothing compared to the 609 yards and 10 TDs he ran for on 125 carries in 2016.
What’s more, in Cumbie’s first two years as OC in Fort Worth, his QB, Trevone Boykin was quite the threat when he ran the ball. In 2014 he put up 707 yards and 8 TDs while in 2015 he ran for 612 yards and 9 TDs.
On average, Cumbie’s No.1 QB at TCU was asked to run the ball 113.5 times per year while amassing just under 510 yards. That’s quite a change from how the Red Raiders have used the QB’s legs in recent years.
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Since the 2014 season, the most a Tech QB has run the ball was Pat Mahomes in 2015 when he ran for 456 yards and 10 scores on 131 carries. But outside of the two years that Mahomes was the starter in Lubbock, the QB run game has been nothing more than improvised scrambles when the offensive line brakes down.
In fact, even when the Red Raiders had a QB capable of breaking games open with his legs in Jett Duffey, they didn’t utilize him to his full potential in that aspect of the game. The most Duffy ever ran the ball in a season was 79 times for 369 yards in 2018, the last year of the Kliff Kingsbury era.
Of course, one reason that Duffey was never let free to run wild was fear of injury. Remember that when he had to step into the starting role in both 2018 and 2019, it was due to injuries to Alan Bowman. And in each of those seasons, Tech had woeful depth in the QB room meaning that an injury to Duffey would have been disastrous. Thus, he was never asked to run the ball as frequently as we all expected him to given how athletic of a QB he was.
But this year, depth at QB is far from a concern. Behind presumed starter Tyler Shough, you will find the surprisingly mobile Henry Colombi and the two freshmen, Donovan Smith and Behren Morton, both of whom have shown this fall that they are dangerous when running the football. And while Shough is known more for his arm talent than his running ability, expect his feet to factor into the offense this year.
Last year, in seven games with Oregon, Shough ran the ball 66 times for 271 yards and two TDs. When that is extrapolated out over the course of a normal 12-game season, it would work out to 113 carries for 464 yards. To put that in perspective, that’s similar production to Mahomes’ best season on the ground.
So this fall, don’t be surprised to see Shough keep the ball by design and not just when all hell breaks loose on the line. And that extra wrinkle to the offense could help make the Red Raider attack more potent than it has been in half a decade.