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Red Raiders QB set; team aims for fewer turnovers

Wednesday - 8/13/2014, 11:36pm  ET

FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2013 file photo, Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury yells form the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Baylor in Arlington, Texas. Strong told Longhorns fans Texas "will not be in the national championship game." (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

BETSY BLANEY
Associated Press

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- Coach Kliff Kingsbury and his quarterback are in similar territory entering their second seasons at Texas Tech.

Both say they've have put last year behind them, especially after the Red Raiders (8-5) had five straight losses to close the regular season and finished near the bottom in penalties and turnovers.

Progress is needed in several areas and mistakes lessened, Kingsbury said.

"That's going to happen with young quarterbacks," he said. "If we improve upon that, then things will be looking up."

For the first time in years Texas Tech's starting quarterback is already set. Davis Webb will be the one taking snaps for the Red Raiders after competing with Baker Mayfield, last season's Big 12 freshman offensive player of the year. Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma.

Kingsbury said Webb, the MVP in the Holiday Bowl with a record setting four touchdown passes in the Red Raiders' 37-23 win over then-No. 16 Arizona State, is looking sharp.

"He's got a chance to be really, really good this year," Kingsbury said. "He's not going to try to take off all of the time out of the pocket. That's not really his game. He plays to his strengths, which is smart."

Webb believes this team is far better already.

"It's not even close," the sophomore said. "Our team last year was good, but this team has a chance to be great."

The Red Raiders open their season at home Aug. 30 against Central Arkansas. Here are five things to watch this season at Texas Tech:

QUARTERBACK DEARTH:

Webb (2,718 yards and 20 TDs) is the starter but there's not much experience after that. Backup Patrick Mahomes threw for 4,619 yards with 50 touchdowns his senior year at Whitehouse in East Texas. He also ran for 15 TDs. He was last year's Texas Associated Press Sports Editors football player of the year. "If we can seal some games, which is our hope, we'll play him a bunch to get him ready," Kingsbury said. Mahomes also plays baseball. There are also three freshman walk-ons at QB.

SPEEDY RECEIVERS:

Jace Amaro and Eric Ward are gone but Kingsbury believes receivers this season are faster. "I feel like we have some guys that can really run, and we're going to make a more conscious effort to push the ball down the field this year," Kingsbury said. The speedsters include Jakeem Grant (796 yards, seven TDs), Bradley Marquez (633 yards and six TDs) and Devin Lauderdale, a transfer from Navarro College (669 yards and six TDs).

DEFENSE STABILITY:

For the first time since 2009, the defense has the same coordinator for longer than a year. Matt Wallerstedt will lead a squad that dealt with injury last season and finished 84th in the country in total defense, giving up 418.5 yards per game. The defense is deeper this season, DE Branden Jackson said. "Everything is falling into place," he said. "Chemistry is real good right now."

TAPERING THE TURNOVERS: Webb and Mayfield combined for 18 interceptions (113th in nation) and the team lost 15 fumbles (116th). "If you can do that and win eight games, imagine what you can do if you can just get to the 50s," Kingsbury said.

MORE RUSHING: The Red Raiders want to run the ball more this season. Last year, they passed the ball 714 times and ran it 422 times. Webb said last year the defenses counted on Texas Tech passing a lot. "Having a good run game will help me out and help the receivers get open," he said. Last year's leading rusher, Kenny Williams, has moved to linebacker, so the Red Raiders are looking to DeAndre Washington (485 yards, four TDs) to step up.

Predicted finish in Big 12: Sixth

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