Texas Tech football: Is Behren Morton ready for this opportunity?

Texas Tech football: Is Behren Morton ready for this opportunity?
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Sep 23, 2023; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Behren Morton (2) throws a pass against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second quarter at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

No one wanted to see the Behren Morton era of Texas Tech football begin this way.  However, Saturday’s heartbreaking injury to starting QB, Tyler Shough, has accelerated the timeframe for Morton’s ascension to the throne of the Red Raider offense.

It’s a disappointing end to the season (and potentially the Red Raider career) for Shough, who deserved so much better from the football gods than he received the last three seasons.  However, it’s a tremendous opportunity for Morton to live out his childhood dream of being Texas Tech’s starting QB.

Born in Lubbock where he lived during the peak of the Mike Leach era, the product of Eastland High School has seemed destined to be the Red Raiders’ signal caller since birth.

A 4-star recruit in the class of 2021, he was the No. 149 player and No. 19 QB in the nation according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings.  He picked Tech over offers from the likes of Baylor, Kansas, TCU, A&M, USC, Wisconsin, and Washington State.

What’s interesting for Lubbock folks is that the Red Raider coaching staff at the time (then led by head coach Matt Wells) picked Morton as its QB for that class over another star player with West Texas ties.  Also in that recruiting class was Lubbock’s own Sawyer Robertson, maybe the best QB prospect to come out of the Hub City in a generation.

Ranked as the No. 134 player and No. 16 QB in the nation by the 247Sports composite rankings, the Coronado High School product rivaled Morton in terms of pedigree.  However, Robertson would sign with Mississippi State over offers from the likes of Arizona State, Arkansas, Florida State, Louisville, TCU, Texas, USC, Wisconsin, and Washington State.  Interestingly, though, he did not get an offer from Tech.

Now, Robertson is playing at Baylor after transferring this offseason.  In fact, much like Morton was on Saturday, Robertson has been pressed into action in Waco having to start the last three games for the Bears after week-one starter Blake Shapen sprained his knee in the opener.

Certainly, the careers of each of these Lubbock natives will be closely connected, especially if they square off multiple times as starters in the same conference as could be the case in two weeks when Tech travels to Waco.  Those potential matchups would provide a referendum on the decision that the Wells coaching staff made in picking Morton as its QB target, rather than Robertson.

For now, though, Red Raider fans seem to be squarely behind Morton as the future of the program.  As the 2023 offense has sputtered and Shough played below expectations turning the ball over at critical times and lacking the type of field awareness that elite QBs possess, calls for Morton to get a shot have grown louder with each passing week.

Now, his time has arrived and it comes with Texas Tech on the brink of disaster. At 1-3 on the season and having lost two of the most winnable games of the year (on paper at least) at Wyoming and West Virginia, Tech could use a spark to help get back into the conversation for a bowl bid (isn’t it sad that the bar is now that low for a team that had Big 12 championship aspirations?).

Can Morton prove to be the 2023 version of Steven “Sticks” Sheffield who came on for an injured Taylor Potts mid-game and infused life into the 2009 team when it was a disappointing 2-2 on the season and struggling to take care of business against lowly New Mexico in Lubbock?  Though Sheffield was not a former prized recruit and was not seen as the future of the QB position in Lubbock, he quickly became a fan favorite thanks to his gunslinging mentality and the fact that he led his team to impressive wins over Kansas State and Nebraska to help turn that season around.

Morton will be in a different situation than Sheffield in that he is essentially being handed the reigns of the offense for the foreseeable future and into next season, while “Sticks” had to constantly battle for the job with Taylor Potts (who would win the QB1 battle for the 2010 season to relegate Sheffield to backup duty again much to the angst of the fan base).

Still, the hope is that Morton’s swashbuckling style of play could be what this offense needs to get out of the coma that has set in.  Sure, there are plenty of other warts on that side of the ball other than Shough’s disappointing play but the QB position has the ability to elevate the rest of the team like no other position on the field can, and maybe that’s what the uber-talented Morton will do.

Therefore, let’s do a deeper dive into what Morton has been thus far as a Red Raider and examine just what we might see from this promising yet unproven player who has been suddenly thrust into the starting job for the team he always dreamed of leading.

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When Morton is at his best, his talent shines through and it is easy to envision him being an all-conference performer.  He has a touch on the ball that few QBs we’ve seen in the “Air Raid” era possess as we saw on his TD pass to Myles Price against Tarleton State last weekend.

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What’s more, at times, he gets rid of the football with lightning-quick speed, something that will help him survive behind an offensive line that is struggling to protect the passer again this year.  Also, the zip on his passes reminds some of former Red Raiders like Mahomes or B.J. Symons.  There is simply a pace to his game that Shough or most other former Texas Tech QBs have been unable to match and that could spark the offense.

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On the other hand, Morton can be turnover-prone.  He’s tossed a pick in four of the seven games in his career that have seen him throw 10 or more passes.

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Also, his propensity for getting rid of the ball in a hurry leads to some dangerous moments where he may or may not read the defense correctly after the snap.  Morton plays like a guy who has an immense amount of confidence in himself and that’s great until that confidence leads to some head-scratching decisions.  Can he limit those moments moving forward as QB1 for the rest of the year?  That will be a key if he is to have success.

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In the end, Morton gives this offense a chance to be better than it has been thus far.  He’s simply got physical gifts that Shough can’t replicate.

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However, the mental side of the game is where Morton needs to develop the most and that’s why Shough won the job this offseason.  QBs must be reliable between the ears before their arms and legs allow them to succeed in the heat of battle and Morton has yet to prove that he’s that type of player.

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Perhaps that will come with experience, which is something Morton should get plenty of this year.  It is now Morton’s show in Lubbock and he has an opportunity to turn this year around if he can harness his immense talent and play within himself while still managing to give the offense the type of spark that he is capable of.  But one thing is for sure, it is going to be a fascinating turn of events in Lubbock as many Red Raider fans now get what we’ve been calling for almost all season.

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