“This spring has been very similar to what it was two years ago when we had a major changeover in the program,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said after practice last week.
The biggest question: Who will take over at starting quarterback?
The Horned Frogs lost Heisman Trophy-hopeful Trevone Boykin to graduation after a 2015 season in which he produced record numbers for the Frogs.
“There is still a competition, but I think we are getting better there,” Patterson said.
The battle on who will be taking the snaps in the fall remains between red-shirt sophomore Foster Sawyer and junior Kenny Hill, who transferred out of Texas A&M following the 2014 season.
Sawyer saw limited playing time last season against Kansas and Oklahoma while filling in for an injured Boykin. Sawyer showed signs of promise in the 23-17 win over Kansas, but he struggled against Oklahoma. He threw three interceptions before being replaced by senior Bram Kohlhausen.
Hill sat out last season due to NCAA transfer policies, but he began the 2014 season as the Aggies’ starting quarterback. He threw for a Texas A&M single-game record of 511 yards in that season’s opener against South Carolina.
Patterson said it’s good for there to be competition between Sawyer and Hill.
“Both Foster and Kenny are taking reps with the ones,” Patterson said. “I expect that to be the rest of the spring and then going into two-a-days.”
Hill said the competition for the starting quarterback job has not hindered the relationship between him and Sawyer, his former roommate.
“We’re cool coming in here,” Hill said. “We immediately became friends and [Sawyer] has helped me out with both the offense and just getting situated in Fort Worth in general.”
Sawyer said it has been a healthy competition between the two this spring.
“I’m happy Kenny is in the quarterback room, and I wouldn’t want to have anybody else come in here and go and compete with me,” Sawyer said. “It’s cool to see that we both know what we are fighting for, but we also respect each other.”
Patterson said both players’ performances will be critical to the success of the team.
“For us to be the team we want to be and need to be, we need for both Foster and Kenny to keep getting better,” Patterson said.
Aside from quarterback uncertainty, Patterson said the tailback situation is becoming clearer. Junior Kyle Hicks is shaping up to be the starter while sophomore Shaun Nixon looks to be the No. 2 man. Patterson also said junior wide receiver John Diarse has added a great dynamic to the team since transferring from LSU after last season.
“John is unbelievably mature,” Patterson said. “He’s been starting on all special teams, and we will push at the wide receiver position.”
Patterson also praised several new recruits and junior college transfers for their performances throughout the spring practices.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without the 10 new guys,” Patterson said. “Markell Simmons, the safety who came in from Pima Community College, has been unbelievable. Then, you have wide receiver Taj Williams from Iowa Western Community College and freshman wide receiver Isaiah Graham.”
For the defense, Patterson said he hopes to see improvement at the positions of defensive tackle and defensive end, but the linebackers and safeties have shown promise.
“We still are thin and we need more depth, but really we’ve had a good spring thus far,” Patterson said.
Patterson said the team will begin to focus on specific opponents for the fall at practices in the coming weeks.
“Really we need to get through Friday, and then we will get a few things done next week and start turning our attention to our first three ballgames against South Dakota State, Arkansas, and Iowa State,” Patterson said.
The Frogs will take the field in the spring game on Friday night.