LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury announced his starting quarterback early and has been impressed with the maturation and confidence of sophomore Davis Webb.
So much so that Webb has started overruling the second-year coach, whose team hosts Central Arkansas of the Football Championship Subdivision on Saturday night.
"Davis will wave me off on play calls now if he sees stuff," Kingsbury said. "He has a better grasp of the offense" than last year.
Webb earned the starting role after his MVP performance in the Red Raiders' Holiday Bowl win that followed five straight losses to close the regular season. Also, two quarterbacks who were battling with Webb last year have moved on — Baker Mayfield, the Big 12's offensive freshman of the year, went to Oklahoma and Michael Brewer to Virginia Tech.
"Just have fun and play my best, because I think my best is pretty good," Webb said of his goals for the opener.
Bears coach Steve Campbell makes his debut against Texas Tech. He left Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College following a 10-year stint that included sharing a national junior college title with Butler Community College in 2007. He's never had a losing season. The Red Raiders finished 8-5 last season, while the Bears went 7-5.
Central Arkansas' experience is led by three All-Southland Conference players: WR Dezmin Lewis, OL Cole Caruthers and DE Jonathan Woodard.
"Each possession is key whenever you're playing a high-powered offense like theirs," Campbell said. "We have to limit our mistakes and make them make some."
Here are some things to watch Saturday night:
TURNOVER TURNAROUND: Kingsbury wondered how good the Red Raiders could have been last season without all their turnovers. Webb and Mayfield combined for 18 interceptions and the team lost 15 fumbles. They also averaged 75.2 penalty yards per game. This year "we've stepped back a little bit and put the onus on the team," Kingsbury said. Campbell's well aware of the stats: "Turnovers will be huge," he said.
YOUTHFUL SECONDARY: Campbell sees his receivers as one of the team's strength and believes they will be able to find success Saturday. (Lewis is their biggest weapon, catching 50 passes for 721 yards last season). Texas Tech defensive backs are short on experience with three sophomores and a freshman starting. "With our experienced corps of wide receivers, we hope to take advantage of some of their youth," Campbell said.
WEBB PROTECTION: Webb weighs 209 pounds, up about 15 pounds from last season, which he says makes him more durable. But with a freshman backup — Patrick Mahomes was last year's Texas Associated Press Sports Editors football player of the year— who is still getting used to the Red Raiders offense, it'll be important to keep Webb healthy. Big threat this week? Kingsbury said it's Central Arkansas DE Jonathan Woodard.
RUSHING RED RAIDERS?: The Red Raiders' prolific pass offense wants to run the ball more this season and they're counting on DeAndre Washington (485 yards, four TDs last season). Kingsbury wasn't showing his hand on what the run-pass split might be Saturday. "I don't have a number or percentage, but just be more confident in our run game leaving this game," he said. "So hopefully we can get that rolling a little bit."
GOING FOR FIRST FBS WIN: Central Arkansas, a Division I member since 2006, hasn't beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision team in seven tries. The Bears hope to change that Saturday. Since 2009, they've lost by a combined 25 points to FBS teams Colorado, Louisiana Tech and Hawaii.