I am surprised at this point that TCU hasn’t announced an expansion to their QB film room due to a maximum occupancy being reached. There are enough QBs in the room to qualify as a fire hazard.
Nevertheless, TCU has some horses in the stable that could turn a point of uncertainty in 2018 into a strength in 2019. The Frogs have done their due diligence when it comes to recruiting signal callers into Funky Town, but they can’t all play at once. I’ll do my best to shed some light on each of these gentlemen and show how each of them has a chance to take the reins of Sonny Cumbie’s offense next season.
Grant Beucler and Karson Ringdahl have put in work as throwers at TCU and certainly have every opportunity the other candidates have. However, their information is limited and the roster lists Ringdahl as a receiver now so I am a little in the dark on their abilities.
Another walk-on with an interesting story who is a dark horse candidate to take some snaps next year is this former Georgia QB. The only people standing in the way of him quarterbacking one of the top ranked teams in the nation was Jake Fromm and Justin Fields. At this point in time, they’re both starting on AP Top 10 teams and I think that sums up their talent levels respectively. Despite having two future NFLers in front of him, Downing was able to get 50 plays under his belt as a freshman, including going 8 of 10 passing for over 80 yards. He threw less interceptions than Fromm and had a better completion percentage than Fields.
What would bring such a talent to Fort Worth you ask? Downing’s older brother Michael is a defensive grad assistant. He is a former walk-on himself so it’s somewhat of a family affair for Matthew. The drive to compete has brought Matthew to Texas and he’s betting on himself again. In Georgia it got him experience in the room with a pair of 5 star QBs, as well as QB reps against vaunted SEC defenses. Downing knows he has the arm to compete with the others in the room and his previous walk-on experience should give him the confidence to tighten the QB race.
There must be something about quarterbacks named Matthew at big name programs that make them want to transfer to TCU. Baldwin was impacted by the Georgia QB situation that also hosted Matthew Downing, as Justin Fields assumed the QB power ceded by Dwayne Haskins departure, thus inspiring Matthew Baldwin to come closer to home and Tate Martell to flee to Florida. I haven’t seen it written as fact, but I’m sure Urban Meyer was impressed with Baldwin when he came to see future commit Garrett Wilson at Lake Travis and gave Baldwin the offer. Lake Travis boasts a track record of producing standout QBs like Baker Mayfield, Garrett Gilbert, Michael Brewer, and Charlie Brewer so who’s to say that Baldwin can’t follow in those footsteps?
After redshirting his freshman year, he still has 4 years of eligibility to create a lasting legacy similar to those listed previously. However, his fate is in the hands of the NCAA as they have yet to determine his eligibility for the upcoming year, which could reveal the hypocrisy of the transfer portal if they refuse Baldwin but accept the likes of Fields and Martell. Additionally, Baldwin will not be able to toss the pigskin with his team until September after shoulder surgery in the offseason, setting him back further in the race. That won’t stop Baldwin, as crazier things in sports have happened. Coaches want their best 11 on the field at all times and if the time comes where TCU needs to call Baldwin’s number, we could watch him take off.
There’s nothing more exciting than untapped potential, the great “what if,” or “could be.” It’s what perpetually inspires people to purchase lottery tickets, and when you get a high recruit to play well as a Freshman it feels like you’ve hit the jackpot. When it happens in college football, you hear all about it, like Freshman phenoms like Trevor Lawrence, Tua Tagavailoa, Jameis Winston, Johnny “John Football” Manziel. Everyone loves the story of the young pup running with the big dogs, and that’s what TCU could have here with Max Duggan. The Iowa Gatorade player of the year has impressed the coaching staff after enrolling early in the spring and has put his name in the hat for Sonny Cumbie and Gary Patterson to pick out. When coaches recruit a kid, the fans have this delusion of grandeur of him coming in and dominating for 4 years and then being the number one pick because he picked their team, and Duggan finds himself as the only one with the potential to fit that narrative.
Duggan is only 1 of 2 QBs on this 5-man list of contenders that did not start their career at a different school, the other being RS Freshman Justin Rogers. Duggan got a head start with his spring enrollment and was able to showcase his skill without the sample being diluted by the coaches allocating snaps to Michael Collins, last year’s starter. Duggan has showcased and honed his skills and will carry a productive spring into the preseason and if the TCU coaches burn his redshirt to get him playing time next year, it won’t be for no reason.
The next candidate for QB1 is the one a majority of frog fans have found most exciting. He was last year’s Max Duggan, enrolling early and putting a little more buzz into the offseason QB competition. In hindsight, he wasn’t as much of a threat to start because of a knee injury that devastated his senior season in high school. He took a trio of snaps that resulted in him being the most accurate passer of the season (1 for 1, 100% completion percentage) and gave him a highlight reel truck on a 1 yard scramble.
We didn’t get to see Rogers at full health which left some fans with a little to be desired, but he was able to keep his redshirt and thus has 4 more years of eligibility. What intrigues fans the most about him is that he is the highest rated recruit in recent history, and a steal right out of LSU territory. The 7-on-7 tournament victories, elite 11 competition, and preseason accolades all inflated the hype behind the incoming freshman but the injury to his knee and subsequent long recovery time has brought the hype to a lull. Despite the hushed hype, I’m still very high on this kid’s ability to break through and take control of this competition. His hudl tape speaks for itself and scouts were buzzing about his leadership qualities, he’s got an incredible ceiling that he can hopefully tap into as soon as this upcoming season.
The next QB on the list is the first one I’ve mentioned today with significant experience, and the only one with significant reps as a TCU QB. As a former Penn transfer, I will oblige the media requirement of saying “this kid is smart, he went to Penn” that every uninformed television announcer tossed out for every appearance Collins made last season. After missing the spring competition, Collins should be at full health for the Fall and have his chance to defend his position as TCU’s starting quarterback. His competition last year is gone as Shawn Robinson has transferred to Mizzou and Grayson Muehlstein has graduated after securing a victory in one of the tensest bowl games mankind has ever seen; the Cheez-it bowl.
Having a year of playing experience with the frog on his helmet sets Collins ahead of the curve a bit and makes it his job to lose, a fact that has been distracted from by the Duggan-Delton-Rogers buzz of spring ball. I don’t blame people from buying into the hype of the spring QB battle, we all need something to get us through football post-season sadness. Nevertheless, experience and proving that he can handle the offense last year should give Collins the confidence to perform well in the fall and earn more of a look than some of the other candidates. Gary Patterson has said before that he bases a lot of his QB decisions on Saturday experience and the resume that Collins put together last year has shown that he is a worthy candidate.
The oldest and most experienced player is just as much of a wild card as some of the younger gentlemen on this list. TCU fans are playing the game of self-argumentation of “a scene change could do wonders for Delton’s game” versus “Delton didn’t stand out in K-State so he won’t here.” In large part this argument is solved with hindsight bias at the of the year like “see, we knew what he was coming from K-State” or “our offense made it easier for Delton to play into his abilities.” From a more objective standpoint, I believe dual threat quarterbacks have their talent maximized when running the ball 7-10 times per game, including scrambles. For example: 15+ carries and operating like a fullback didn’t do Sam Ehlinger any favors his freshman year. This past year he wasn’t allocated as many carries and led Texas to a pretty solid season, in my opinion. In the past two years, with more of a starting role, Delton had 20 or more carries on 3 occasions in the past two years and had a similar passing output as Michael Collins in one year.
If you use Alex Delton’s legs as an option and less of a necessity, you will inevitably get more out of his talent as a passer. TCU has some skill position playmakers that would love an opportunity to tote the rock. The running back position appears to have at least a 3-man rotation, there are receivers all over the field with insane athletic ability, and the offensive line has a year of experience under its belt. All of these points should allow Delton to stay protected and actually play quarterback, not demand him to get dirty and make things happen himself.
His experience and age gives him an extra step on the rest of the QB room and he didn’t transfer for his final year of eligibility to have no impact. I expect Delton to get a solid shot at starting for this team, the bigger question is if Delton can hold off his competition after earning the starting job.
Feature photo: Matt Jennings