The Horned Frogs rallied their troops late in the season to salvage a bowl appearance against Cal in 2018. They reversed the early season narrative of turning the ball over, aside from the Cheez-it Bowl, and earned a winning record of 7-6.
The Horned Frog faithful was hoping that the QB question would be answered last year, but we are currently two weeks from the season opener with a question mark at QB1. The answer to this question will influence whether or not Gary Patterson can have one of his patented bounce-back years.
Coach Patterson stated that two Quarterbacks had separated themselves from the pack after practice on August 14th. It appears as though Alex Delton and Max Duggan have earned the most reps after solid Spring camps carrying into Fall practice. A 5th-year senior vs. a true freshman. Despite the age difference, each brings something unique to the offense that could hold them together.
The maturity of Delton and ground factor he showed off at K State is something invaluable to the Sonnie Cumbie offense. Duggan has got some wheels on him and his raw potential excites the Frog Fans in Fort Worth. Either one could provide a wonderful storyline come December, and will have much more to work with than they have in years past. Delton was part of a solid running offense his Sophomore year at K-State as he ran for 500 yards on 100 carries and a Cactus Bowl MVP award. This running talent could turn TCU’s backfield into a 3 headed monster with Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua.
Similarly, Duggan has never thrown to as much talent as TCU has at receiver. Jalen Reagor is a force to be reckoned with and Taye Barber is an emerging star out of the slot in his own right. It’ll be important for the receiving corps at TCU to maintain this year in the event of another turbulent QB battle. Cumbie’s leash will probably be shorter than the one awarded to Shawn Robinson last year. Reagor served as a security blanket for everyone that found themselves under center last year in purple. While you can expect defenses to treat him differently, you can also expect him to elevate his game with the hype of a possible 1st round draft selection in 2020 looming.
The offensive line will also be looking to stay healthy, as they are anchored by a tackle that refused to give up a sack last year in Lucas Niang. The loss of Cordel Iwuagwu last year proved costly as the Frog line lost its form towards the middle of the season. After gaining experience and graduating next to none of their production last year, I expect Delton or Duggan to feel pretty safe behind this Frog line.
Speaking of the trenches, Patterson is looking to reload at defensive end this year after turning last year’s D-end duo into a pair of top 50 NFL draft picks. There are two fresh faces in Redshirt Freshman Ochaun Mathis and Senior transfer Shameik Blackshear from South Carolina. The two of them have been reported to have had strong Summer workouts and a strong Fall camp. Patterson went as far as to say Mathis has the potential to be the next Jerry Hughes, high praise coming from Coach P. Blackshear has taken a business-like approach to his final season and is looking to benefit from a different defensive scheme.
The end work will be lightened by the best DT pairing in the Big 12 in Corey Bethley and Ross Blacklock. Interior offensive lines will have their hands full with the 247 Freshman All-American and FWAA All-American respectively. The talent on the back end is evident as well. After losing Innis Gaines for the back half of the season, the senior has been cleared for contact and is ready to build on his superstar performances as a Sophomore against Stanford and as a junior against Ohio State. In his company, he will have two of the best corners in the Big 12 when it comes to Yards allowed per target. Julius Lewis and Jeff Gladney have received high praise from Pro Football Focus, citing strong performances in their junior years.
The question mark on defense comes from the middle of it. Garret Wallow was impressive in the reps we saw him take last year at Linebacker, but the injury of Innis Gaines forced Wallow to split time at safety as well. The Frogs are going to need Wallow to hold it down at linebacker after the departure of Montrel Wilson. Wilson’s absence leaves Wallow with a youthful Linebacker room, full of first and second-year players with very little experience. As Patterson says, they’re going to have to “grow up fast” to help solidify their spot as the top defense in the Big 12.
An overlooked facet of the game that the Frogs look to improve on is their special teams. After posting the shortest average punts and the second-most total punts in 2018, the Frogs had a tough time flipping the field. The frequency of these punts exacerbated the problem to the point of action. The Frogs have brought in Aussie punter Jordan Sandy to retool their woeful punting game. Reports from Frog insiders say that the punting game should see a vast improvement this season.
The Patterson Pattern that I named this article is the theory that a lot of college football fans have noticed: Gary Patterson doesn’t have two bad years in a row. He followed his first season as head coach (6-6) with two double-digit win seasons in ’02 and ’03. After a 5-6 finish in ’04, Patterson followed up with a pair of 11 win seasons. After an 8-5 campaign in ’07, Coach P’s Frogs produced 4 straight 11+ win seasons.
The body of work speaks for itself as the aforementioned streak of winning brought TCU to the Big 12 where they would produce a pair of 11+ win seasons following a down year and by Gary Patterson standards 7-6 is a down year.
Assuming the narrative fits the 2019 squad, the Patterson Pattern will need a solved question in the QB room and a healthy defense that’s already full of talent to fulfill the Patterson Pattern prophecy.
Featured Image: Fort Worth Star-Telegram