For the next two weeks, we're taking a look at one player each Big 12 team can't live without -- the most indispensable players heading into 2016. We continue this series today with the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Most indispensable: QB Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes' sophomore season was a breakout affair as he transformed from promising freshman into one of the Big 12’s top quarterbacks. He led the conference with a 4,653 passing yards and his 36 touchdowns tied Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield atop the league. All told, Mahomes accounted for 5,112 total yards and 46 touchdowns as he led Tech to a 7-6 record while starting all 13 games. The Red Raiders’ dynamic quarterback brought durability and consistency — he passed for more than 350 yards in 10 of 13 games— to the offense.
With Mahomes as the centerpiece of the offense, Texas Tech finished in the top 10 nationally in points per drive (2.98, seventh), yards per play (6.95, eighth) and third down conversion rate (51.7 percent, first).
There’s a good chance Mahomes is even better as a junior. He skipped baseball to focus on football during the spring with an eye on sparking the Red Raiders into Big 12 championship contention. While he excels as a rusher and passer, Mahomes can improve by limiting his mental mistakes and cutting his interception total below double digits after throwing 15 as a sophomore.
Even with marginal improvement as a junior, the Red Raiders offense would be in good hands with Mahomes in charge. Behind him Kliff Kingsbury’s squad is searching for experience after Davis Webb’s decision to play at Cal as a graduate transfer. Iowa transfer Nic Shimonek is set to backup Mahomes but he only saw action in a pair of games a year ago.
The Red Raiders have other important players on the roster but nobody features the indispensable nature of Mahomes, who has the ability to keep Tech in any game with the run-pass playmaking threat he provides on every snap. If Tech is able to surprise and put itself in the Big 12 title race, Mahomes will likely be the driving force.