Don't look for Texas Tech quarterback Steven Sheffield and fired Tech coach Mike Leach to do lunch any time soon.
Not after Sheffield called Leach's ouster “a blessing in disguise'' for the program.
The senior from Austin, Texas, whose nickname is “Sticks,'' openly hurled stones during Big 12 media days at Leach's quirky style.
Leach, known for his single-mindedness toward offense, really did ignore the defense to the point of not even knowing the game plan or major calls at critical times.
“This sounds bad, but they were treated like the step-child,'' Sheffield said, which led to stress between the two units. “They were off on their own and did about whatever they wanted.''
Leach also tried to keep out any NFL influences, to the point of intentionally misleading his players about agents.
“We thought it was illegal to talk to agents,'' Sheffield said. “We had a sign in our facility that there was a $500 reward if anybody saw an agent.''
Schools often tailor some of their teachings and physical conditioning to work done in the NFL, which helps during pro tryouts. Sheffield said that was absent under Leach, leading some Red Raiders to feel they were behind the curve.
Sheffield offered this example:
Leach, for all his self-promoted wizardry, told his quarterbacks nothing more than to throw to the open receiver. Under a new staff, Sheffield said, different reads are in place for different defenses from the first step.
“And our steps must be precise,'' he said. “Stats are kept on those things, and they are shown to players every day.
“NFL scouts look at that stuff. They look at your first step being straight back and not false-stepping. That's stuff we were never coached up on.''
Like many college athletes who see their coach fired, Sheffield originally hoped someone on the staff would be promoted, simply to avoid the hassle of major change.
In this case, it was popular associate head coach Ruffin McNeill, who coached Tech to a win in the Alamo Bowl.
But McNeill went to East Carolina. And the Tech administration went outside for Tommy Tuberville.
Sheffield said it took one meeting with Tuberville to ease his mind.
“The first thing he told us,'' Sheffield said, “is that we're trying to win the Big 12 championship.''
What's the big deal about that? Isn't that what all coaches tell their teams?
“That was something that was never brought up before,'' Sheffield said. “Championships were not talked about in the Leach Era. It was win one game a week.''
That philosophy got Tech into 10 straight bowls under Leach. But none was a BCS bowl. And the Red Raiders sniffed only one championship, in 2008, and that ended with a 44-point loss to Oklahoma.
It wasn't just Tuberville who got Sheffield motivated for this season.
“When I saw his hires, I just went, ‘Wow!''' he said. “These guys know what they are doing.''
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown is charged with helping pick a No. 1 quarterback between Sheffield and fellow senior Taylor Potts.
Both have starting experience. Both have thrown seven touchdown passes in a game. And both are coming off injuries that knocked them out of spring practice — Sheffield with a broken foot and Potts with a broken index finger on his throwing hand.
Sheffield reinjured the same foot first broken last October by Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh.
“From watching tape,'' Sheffield said, “I can't tell if it's when I planted and he hit me or when I got slammed to the ground.''
Texas Tech struggled at quarterback last season but seemed to get a spark from Sheffield before he was sidelined. Meanwhile, Potts was booed by home fans, and for one week wore the name “Nick'' on the back of his jersey because Leach thought it sounded tougher.
But with a new coach, no one is sure which of the two has the best chance to start.
Sheffield said he and Potts don't hang around together but that both are handling the situation well.
“It would be a waste of time,'' Sheffield said, “if we went around writing hateful messages to each other and slipped them in each other's locker.''
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