Could TCU’s star defensive end be playing on Sundays next season?

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Coming out of high school, TCU defensive end Ben Banogu just wasn’t that guy.

He was an afterthought. TCU head coach Gary Patterson said he saw him, but didn’t extend an offer.

Instead, Banogu signed with the University of Louisiana-Monroe, where he bulked up to 265 from 205.  After redshirting his freshman year, Banogu started 13 games, racking up 14.5 tackles for loss, including five sacks – one at Alabama. He also forced two fumbles.

His performance was enough to catch TCU’s eye when he sought to transfer.

After sitting out in 2016, he won a starting job at defensive end in spring.  At 257 pounds, he has the size of NFL defensive end and a record that could see him in the pros.

So far  this season he has four sacks, six quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles in six games. This includes a strip-sack of Mason Rudolph at Oklahoma State. He set the tone for TCU’s win over Arkansas on the third play of the game when he knocked the ball out of quarterback Austin Allen’s hand. He sacked West Virginia quarterback Will Grier on a bull rush up the middle.

TCU defensive end Ben Banogu, left, forces a fumble by Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017.(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

“He’s a good player,” Patterson said. “We wouldn’t be where we are without him.”

His performance has caught the eye of NFL draft forecasters.

ESPN’s draft expert Mel Kiper has Banogu going in the first round of the NFL draft.

Banogu has until January to decide if he’ll enter next year’s draft which is scheduled to be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Right now, he and Patterson are focused on TCU’s season.

At Tuesday’s media availability, Banogu wasn’t phased by Kiper’s evaluation.  

“That’s nice of him,” he said, barely flashing a smile. “But at the end of the day, I just want to do well for the team. You cross that bridge when you get there.”

Patterson said he’s seen mixed results for players who declare early.

“I’ve found it hasn’t turned out real well,” Patterson said. “But I’ll never tell them not to. The way I’ve always dealt with players is, ‘It’s not going to be my fault. I’m not going to tell you to stay, I’m not going to tell you to go. I’m going to give you the facts and what I think.’ That’s what I’ve always done.”

Banogu will make the call, Patterson said

But he added that it’s important Banogu continue to learn the game at college football’s highest level.

“He needs to get as much experience as he can,” Patterson said. “That would be my suggestion if he asked me. Because at the next level, there’s a lot of other intangibles that go into being that guy.”