Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury acknowledged Friday that Michael Brewer has had a setback with his injured back, and the likelihood grew that the Red Raiders will open the season with a true freshman starting at quarterback.
And even that true freshman might not be the one who’s been campaigning for the job since spring.
Baker Mayfield, a walk-on despite an outstanding high school career at Austin Lake Travis, is now pushing to take the job from signee Davis Webb. Kingsbury alluded to redshirt freshman Clayton Nicholas being in the picture, but Webb and Mayfield have been splitting the snaps this week.
“Whoever it is, you know we’re going to have a freshman at quarterback,” running back DeAndre Washington said, “so we’re looking forward to taking some pressure off of him. Being able to help him out with his blocking, running, just anything we can to make the transition easier for him.
“I feel like we’ll be good to go with either guy.”
Brewer has been the presumptive 2013 starter since he backed up Seth Doege last season, but Kingsbury said he has not practiced in a week. Brewer said two weeks ago he hurt his back at the beginning of summer workouts, but downplayed its severity.
“He aggravated his back,” Kingsbury said Friday. “That’s an injury he’s been dealing with. It’s kind of day to day at this point.”
The developments have scrapped Kingsbury’s plan to name a starting quarterback after the second preseason scrimmage, which is scheduled for today, Aug. 17.
“It’ll be a game-time decision now,” he said. “We’ll let them play it out these next few weeks and go from there.”
Brewer was in the Red Raiders’ football facility during the team’s post-practice media session, but Tech officials declined an interview request for him. Kingsbury said he has not ruled out Brewer getting back on the field in time to start the season opener Aug. 30 at SMU.
“He was having a great couple of days,” Kingsbury said. “When he got going, he really looked good. We’re really excited about him, so if he can get back in the mix, who knows?”
Before the early training camp developments, Brewer was in a battle for the job with Webb. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Prosper product took advantage of being a midterm graduate and split time during spring practice.
Teammates dubbed Webb “the Alpha Male” and were struck by his vocal, take-charge attitude — willing to talk noise to defensive players and coaches and get on older receivers who run sloppy routes.
Now Webb is in a battle with the 6-1, 210-pound Mayfield, who two years ago led Austin Lake Travis to a 16-0 season and the Class 4A Division I state championship.
Kingsbury said both are making a good case.
“Couldn’t be more pleased,” he said. “They’ve both taken command of the huddle. Leadership skills have been great. They’ve done everything we’ve asked, so we’re really excited to work with two really good players.”
During the 2011 season, Mayfield passed for 3,788 yards and 45 touchdowns with five interceptions and ran for 754 yards and 10 touchdowns.
After the season, he was named Class 4A newcomer of the year by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine. In a similar twist, Mayfield was thrust into the picture at the beginning of the 2011 season when starter Colin Lagasse got hurt.
Mayfield and Lake Travis were derailed last season in their bid for a sixth consecutive state title. Brewer, who also went to Lake Travis, was the quarterback on two of those state championship teams.
Mayfield passed up scholarship offers to Rice, Florida International and Washington State while holding out hope for an offer from TCU. While Mayfield delayed his decision, the opportunities fell through, leaving him available as a walk-on.
Though Mayfield’s name might be unfamiliar to Tech fans, Kingsbury and co-offensive coordinator Eric Morris have followed him for a long time.
“We went after him hard,” Kingsbury said. “When I was at the University of Houston, I recruited him as a sophomore. Coach Morris offered him at Washington State. He kind of got left out there at the end, but we knew he was a scholarship-type player, so we’re excited that he’s here, obviously.”
Lake Travis, playing in Class 5A for the first time, was upset last year in bi-district, finishing 9-2. Mayfield completed 180 of 280 passes for 2,497 yards with 24 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
“He was a great player in high school,” Kingsbury said. “He can run around, make plays, real confident, strong arm. Like I said, he’s a scholarship-type athlete. We really lucked out on that deal.”
Kingsbury and the rest of the Red Raiders spoke to the media Friday for the first time in a week. On Monday, Kingsbury canceled scheduled post-practice media availability for four days.
During those four days, Mayfield continued to emerge as a legitimate threat.
“Baker’s done a great job of stepping in and making some plays,” defensive lineman Kerry Hyder said. “People didn’t expect much of him, but he came in and made some big throws and big plays. He’s doing real well right now.”
Tech hasn’t started a true freshman quarterback since Aaron Keesee in 1984.
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