A redemption story: The case for Casey Pachall to start at quarterback

OPINION-EDITORIAL: Expect Casey Pachall to be the starter for TCU in the fall - and be prepared to cheer for him

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TCU quarterback Casey Pachall (4) walks off the field after the 50-48 loss to Baylor in their NCAA college football game in Waco, Texas, Friday, Sept. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

TCU quarterback Casey Pachall (4) walks off the field after the 50-48 loss to Baylor in their NCAA college football game in Waco, Texas, Friday, Sept. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Come August 31, TCU will be playing LSU in Cowboys Stadium, beginning its second Big 12 season as the team looks for a conference title. 

For now, the team is still in spring practice, with fans looking in from the outside asking one big collective question: “Who’s playing quarterback?”

Last Thursday, head coach Gary Patterson said it’s still an open competition and that he “has until August” to decide on who will be his main man.

It may supposedly be anyone’s spot, but all the evidence says the senior wearing a No. 4 jersey will be the guy behind center in the fall.

Below are the five reasons why Casey Pachall will get the starting job - and why TCU fans should embrace and support him as the starter.

1. Pachall would not return unless he knew he was going to get the job.

Patterson couldn’t have summed it up better than the way he did after the second practice of spring. Pachall has one of two options this season: He can be a great story or he can be a waste of time.

Patterson knows well enough that bringing Pachall in will be a huge risk to the image of the program. Some fans are calling for Boykin to start merely for the character aspect, but that aspect is exactly why Pachall will get the starting role.

Would Patterson allow Pachall back to the team if he didn’t think Pachall would be clean and turn from his infamous days? Better yet, would Patterson bring back Pachall from his past public missteps to be a backup quarterback, as opposed to the starter with something to prove?

The answer to both questions is a resounding no.

A school like TCU wouldn’t dare to touch a player with “character issues” with a ten-foot pole unless Patterson was fully confident the player had cleaned up.

If any fan doesn’t believe that previous statement, ask a few former players how they’re doing today. 

Ask Tanner Brock how he is doing at Sam Houston State after being caught selling marijuana. Ask Antonio Graves on what he’s doing after academic issues got him released from the team. Ask Dwight Smith, Travaras Battle or Quincy Aldridge how TCU treats players with issues unbecoming to the university.

Pachall wasn’t coming back unless he proved he changed. Fans can hate his past actions all they want, but they cannot deny that the university believes Pachall is a changed man.

Because he’s back, he’s not going to be a backup player. The PR struggle TCU would face with Pachall sitting on the bench would be too much for the school. There’s no doubt the school would get frustrated with relentless calls, asking why Pachall returned if he wasn’t going to contribute in a starting role.

Besides, if Pachall knew he couldn’t get the starting job, he’d take the Javarius Jones approach and transfer away to a FCS school where he’d get an immediate start.

The point still stands that Pachall has proven he’s a changed man to Patterson and TCU. The university knows its not worth the public scrutiny to have Pachall back on the team just to be a reserve player.

Not only that, but Pachall has too much talent to sit on the bench.

2. Pachall is the best quarterback TCU has on the field

Pachall is getting the starting job because he is simply a better quarterback than what TCU can offer otherwise.

By no means is this meant to insult to any other quarterbacks at TCU, particularly Trevone Boykin. The sophomore should be praised for his work in nine games, especially as a player given just 48 hours notice to play quarterback in TCU’s first home Big 12 game.

Given the circumstances, Boykin performed well for a freshman quarterback. He’s a good quarterback who will only get better with age and it’s appropriate he’s battling for the position. He deserves it.

After all, he had some great performances, such as his 261 passing yards and four touchdowns against Baylor. The same praise can be given to him for his showing against West Virginia in TCU’s double overtime thriller victory.

However, it was Pachall who threw for 473 yards and five touchdowns against the No. 5 Boise State Broncos, on their beloved “smurf turf,” that helped TCU to a Mountain West Championship.

It was Pachall who was put on the Maxwell and O’Brien Award watchlists. It was Pachall who set single-season school records for completions, passing yards and completion percentage.

For this fall, it isn’t a matter of Boykin not being good enough for the spot. It’s a matter of Pachall being better.

3. TCU’s offense fits Pachall

Likewise, Pachall is the best option for TCU in the terms of offensive schemes. Pachall has all the tangibles to run the offense TCU coordinators like.

Any fans remember the mess TCU’s coordinators were forced with when the team had to switch from Pachall’s pass-heavy offense to Boykin’s scrambling offense?

Jarrett Anderson and company like the pass-heavy offense and Pachall knows how to utilize that scheme. Case in point, see last years’ Kansas and Virginia games, where Pachall threw for 300+ yards in each game. 

With talented receivers like LaDarius Brown, Brandon Carter and Cam White returning, along with transfers Ja’Juan Story and Josh Doctson coming into the mix, why wouldn’t TCU want to exploit a pass-heavy offense?

Pachall is the senior with more experience and more precision as a passer. While Boykin will certainly improve with off-season workouts and drills, can anybody prove that he will be a better player for TCU’s scheme than Pachall is right now?

When the talent of the receiving corps is added to the equation, there’s no question TCU’s offense will best benefit from a tall quarterback with a strong arm.

As of now, Pachall’s the quarterback with the build, the motion and the knowledge. Boykin can hold his own and is talented himself, but Pachall has the tangibles which TCU’s offense thrives on.

4. Patterson likes Pachall, even if he won’t admit it outright

Now, Patterson will rightly say it’s an open competition in spring practice and will likely say so until TCU takes its first snap in Arlington this season. He’ll continue to say either quarterback can win the job, as the outside speculation will make the two quarterbacks play better and improve.

He’ll tell media members over and over about how he hasn’t selected a quarterback yet. He’ll try to tout how both quarterbacks are getting better and give generalities on how both are performing.

Yet, there’s only one he’ll talk about specifically. And when he does, you can tell his body language changes.

Patterson’s arms will cross, he’ll shift his weight and take a fast glance at the ground. He’ll take a verbal pause before looking straight into a reporter’s eyes and answering the questions on the topic.

In interviews, Patterson will say how Boykin is “far advanced” from last spring, but state how he’s glad to have a senior quarterback competing in the offense. He’ll refuse to say how he’s judging his quarterbacks, but he’ll let it drop that Pachall threw a long touchdown to Brandon Carter during the scrimmage.

He’ll say how anyone can get the job, but let media members know Pachall’s bench press numbers (350 pounds, as of March 2), his academic situation (23 hours from graduating), his throwing mechanics (solid, easy to adjust) and how his release time is improving (so much so, Patterson feels Pachall needs to slow down and trust his new receivers more).

Patterson may never say who’s winning the battle outright, which is best for his team. However, no question about it. Behind the closed-door practices, Pachall’s apparently winning the battle for quarterback.

5. TCU wants the redemption story - and so should the fans

On the field, Casey Pachall’s apparently getting things done. That great question remains though - what’s he doing off the field?

Yes, Pachall left the team because of legal, off-the field, non-football issues.

However, he spent his fall semester wisely. 

Pachall went to rehab to get better. Addiction is an awful thing and getting away from a troubled past is something anyone would want.

He successfully completed rehab, got a support system with “eyes looking out for him” off the field, according to Patterson, and by all appearances is trying to put his life together. Why is it then that he’s being jeered for trying to improve?

It makes no sense.

Pachall should be praised for trying to get better. The university should be praised for being willing to give him a shot. After all, as previously noted, Patterson and the university believe in him.

He’s still undergoing multiple counseling sessions and some other related programs to keep him clean. Patterson won’t go into details about what Pachall’s off-the-field life is like, but he will assure that he has a support system “with a lot of eyes on him.”

If this is all the case, why are fans concerned more about Pachall being a waste of time, as opposed to being excited about Pachall trying to be the great story?

Imagine if he comes back to have a dominating season. Imagine what happens if TCU does win the Big 12. Or if TCU gets to the national championship under Pachall?

Casey Pachall has the chance to be the national sports story of the year. He knows it, Patterson knows it and the school knows it.

They all also know what happens if Pachall fails.

‘But what if that happens,’ a TCU fan asks. If there is a failure, blame the top dogs.

If Pachall fails again, the blame should be squared on no one else but Gary Patterson and the respective administrative heads of TCU’s athletic department. Since Pachall is back, the university is clearly looking for a redemption story to be told. 

The school knows the risks. The administrators know the rewards. The university knows what it has to do in order to keep Pachall clean and make him into the narrative it wants.

It dares not to go into a disaster that would come with another Pachall legal issue. It knows how damning that story would be. The risks have been calculated, the costs have been valued and the rewards have been dreamt.

The university seems to have its idea set. TCU wants to tell the story of how a prodigal son cleaned up, came back to football and brought the university glory.

On August 31, as tens of thousands of fans scream for the Horned Frogs in Cowboys Stadium, they shouldn’t be surprised to see that story begin with a snap under center to someone covered in tattoos and wearing a No. 4 jersey.

This fall, anticipate Casey Pachall being the starting quarterback.

Be ready to cheer for a redemption story.

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