With Shough Sidelined, Donovan Smith Is Now the Guy in Lubbock
In 2021, Tyler Shough injured his collarbone in Week 4 against Texas. Backup quarterback Henry Colombi took over, but eventually yielded the job to Donovan Smith, who got his first extended action against Oklahoma and his first start against Iowa State.
In those two appearances, Smith looked like the best quarterback on the team and the future of the position at Texas Tech. Then, against Oklahoma State, his credibility took a hit. Smith would finish the season with a record of 2-2 in his starts, with wins over Iowa State and Mississippi State in the bowl game. The two losses were a rough appearance at home against Big 12 runner-up Oklahoma State, and his highest-rated game of the year against eventual Big 12 champion Baylor on the road.
In the offseason, there was an offensive coordinator change from Sonny Cumbie to Zach Kittley, and Tyler Shough returned for another season after his injury. Not a surprise, but also not a guarantee after last year. Shough won the starting quarterback job with the new staff, but went down with another injury in Week 1 against Murray State. It's likely the same one he suffered last year.
Head Coach Joey McGuire updated Shough's status in his weekly presser saying he would get another check on Wednesday, but would miss at least two games, probably three. McGuire also said that the bye week after Oklahoma State was in a good spot because it potentially gives Shough six weeks and an opportunity to return after the bye.
Here's the issue with thinking that Shough will automatically return as the starter when he's healthy. Donovan Smith is really good. The dream scenario for McGuire and Kittley is that there's zero quarterback controversy in five games because Donovan Smith has played that well.
In a quarter and a half in relief against Murray State, Smith was 14 of 16 with 221 yards and four touchdowns. For his efforts, he was awarded an honorable mention Player of the Week honor from the Earl Campbell Award.
If Smith and Kittley can put up numbers that lead to 3 or 4 wins over the next five games, Shough will return...as the backup. If the Smith that played last season against Iowa State, Baylor, and the second half of Mississippi State is what Kittley can put on the field, it's not even a question in my mind.
Smith has proven that he's durable and sometimes the best ability is availability for a quarterback. Another available quarterback is Behren Morton, who will play against Houston, according to head coach Joey McGuire.
Both of the quarterbacks, but Smith in particular, will have every opportunity to seize the job from Shough in the next three weeks. If Shough misses more time, it's even more likely that he doesn't start another game for the Red Raiders.
On the flip side, if Smith and Morton don't look good, the coaching staff will insert Shough back into the lineup as soon as he's cleared and available to play.
I don't doubt Shough's toughness or ability, but the dream scenario here for the Red Raiders as a team is that Smith wins four of the next five and forces McGuire's hand to keep him on the field.
Smith's first test is against the 25th-ranked Houston Cougars and their really good front seven led by defensive coordinator Doug Belk, who's one of the best in the business.
Texas Tech and Houston square off Saturday, September 10th, at 3 p.m. at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.