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March 10, 2011

Doege holds key to Texas Tech's success

Arm strength, accuracy and mobility obviously are great assets for an aspiring college quarterback.

But they aren't necessarily the greatest ones.

For example, legendary coach Bear Bryant once said of former Alabama quarterback Pat Trammel, "He can't run, he can't pass and he can't kick. All he can do is beat you."

If strong will, innate determination and steadfast refusal to give up truly can set a quarterback apart, then Big 12 teams should be leery of Texas Tech this fall.

Over the past six years, junior Seth Doege has demonstrated all those intangible qualities while working his way back from two major knee injuries and waiting for a chance to be a full-time starting quarterback again.

"He's shown perseverance fighting through two major injuries and still wanting to play quarterback," second-year Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville says. "Ever since I've been here, he's been a student of the game, working out behind the scenes and watching film on his own. He's been preparing himself for this moment."

Doege (his last name is pronounced Day-gee) may be the key to the Red Raiders' hopes of emerging as Big 12 championship contenders. Tech's offensive line returns intact, and there are capable receivers and running backs on the roster. The defense has to improve, but that's expected with the arrival of a couple of four-star junior college transfers and other young players gaining maturity.

But mediocre quarterback play was a major factor in last season's 8-5 finish. Quarterback Taylor Potts passed for fewer than 230 yards and threw just one or no touchdown passes in four of the Red Raiders' five losses. There remains a measure of uncertainty at the position because Doege has thrown only 65 passes in his college career.

"We're going to be a little bit better offensively just for the fact that we have our whole offensive line back," Tuberville says. "We have a good nucleus, and this team knows more about the offense we're running. We made a lot of first-year mistakes because the offense we're running is very, very different than what they'd done here under the past regime.

"I think we have a chance to be better. It goes back to one thing -- the quarterback. There's a lot of pressure a lot of pressure."

Tuberville says he thinks Doege can handle the pressure, and actually thrive.

"He's on track to be a 3,000- or 4,000-yard passer if our young receivers come on," Tuberville says. "It's [the starting job] his to lose."

Of course, that also could mean he hasn't won it, either. That's Doege's interpretation, any way. He's competing with highly regarded prospects Scotty Young, Jacob Karam and Michael Brewer. Each came to Lubbock expecting to rank among the nation's leading passers -- as is typically the case with Texas Tech quarterbacks.

"The job is not mine until I earn it. It's not my job until they name me," Doege says. "I'm really excited about the opportunity and the challenge, and that [Tuberville] believes in me and trusts me. I think it's going to be a great spring."

It's been quite good so far. Doege threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns in an early scrimmage and has tightened his grip on the starting job. He followed that by throwing for 246 yards and a touchdown in another scrimmage Saturday. Karam might be the leading challenger after throwing for 204 yards and four touchdowns in that scrimmage.

That Doege is even involved in the competition is a major reason he won't easily be beaten out. The son of a high school football coach, Doege hasn't played much since he passed for 2,439 yards and 27 touchdowns as a sophomore at Crane (Texas) High. Crane is a town of about 3,400 in west Texas, about 35 miles south of Odessa.

But even before then, his dad, Randy, saw a competitive spirit in his son.

"I have a memory from his seventh-grade year in track," Randy says. "He was running the anchor leg on a mile relay against an eighth-grader. That young man could pull a quarter in 52 seconds, which is very good for an eighth-grader. Seth had a little lead and was able to hold him off.

"I knew then he didn't like to lose and would find a way to win."

Before Seth's junior season, Randy took the offensive coordinator position at Wolfforth (Texas) Frenship -- about 15 miles from Lubbock -- and Seth transferred there. But he never played there. He tore the MCL and ACL in his left knee before his junior season. Then, before his senior season, he tore the ACL in his right knee.

"Quite honestly, in our house, there was never a doubt that he'd pick up the pieces and try again," Randy Doege says.

But there were some doubts about whether he'd get the chance to try. Then-Texas Tech coach Mike Leach had offered a scholarship, but after the second knee injury, Seth was worried the offer would be rescinded.

"Leach and his staff were so loyal. They stuck with me, which was amazing," Seth Doege says. "After I tore the second one, I would have sworn they would go in a different direction.

"I called him and said, 'I know this is a business and you've got to find a guy who can play. If you have to go somewhere else, I'll understand.' "

It wasn't until 3 years later that Seth Doege finally played again, in a mop-up role in a 66-14 blowout of Kansas State in 2009. He actually got a start against Kansas that season and was 14-of-28 for 157 yards and a touchdown in a 42-21 Texas Tech victory. Last season, he played in one game and threw just four passes as a backup to Potts.

"Physically, my knees are great," Doege says. "I never even think about them. I've never had any more problems with them."

A healthy Doege brings much more than grit and determination. He's a good passer who has drawn some comparisons to former Red Raiders quarterback Graham Harrell, who threw an NCAA-record 134 career touchdown passes.

Coincidentally, Harrell and Seth knew each other in preschool in the early 1990s, when their fathers were coaching together at Big Lake (Texas) Reagan County.

Seth Doege won't be the passer that Harrell was, but he's a better athlete. He adds a legitimate running threat to Tech's offense.

"He's a mobile quarterback. He's not going to just set up in the pocket; he will run the ball some," Tuberville says. "That's the difference between him and some of the other [Tech] quarterbacks. And he studies. Coming from a coach's family, you can tell he's been brought up the right way in terms of learning, listening and doing little things right."

Last spring, Tuberville got a glimpse of what Doege could do a little sooner than he'd anticipated. Potts and Steven Sheffield were vying for the starting quarterback job. But Sheffield broke his foot on the second day of spring practice and Potts broke his finger on the third. Both missed the rest of spring drills.

"I didn't know much about Seth," Tuberville recalls. "I knew his background and I had talked to him about his injuries, but I was more focused on Sheffield and Potts. We had two seniors, a quarterback controversy, and normally Texas Tech quarterbacks pass for 3,000 yards, so there was pressure on us and we had a new offense.

"But very quickly we got a look at Seth and I was very pleased. I thought if something happened, I would be very comfortable going into the season with Seth. He just had an overall presence as a quarterback. He wasn't a polished quarterback, but you could tell he was working at being one."

Seth Doege never has stopped working. That wasn't an option.

"I've never been the kind of guy to ever quit on anything," he says. "I continued to rehab and now here I am."

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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