Training Camp Update: Shawn Robinson earns starting nod

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Two weeks before the opening game of the season, head coach Gary Patterson answered the question Horned Frog fans have been waiting on for months.

Quarterback battle:
Sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson earned the starting spot for TCU’s Week 1 matchup against Southern. The former four-star recruit beat out Pennsylvania transfer Michael Collins for the job, but Patterson expects both to play in the season opener.

Robinson’s collegiate experience may have been the deciding factor in the position battle.

“The Texas Tech game last year taught [Shawn] how to prepare for a game,” Patterson said. “For any young quarterback, it’s just the grind of doing it every week.”

What separated the two quarterbacks was Robinson’s ability to cut down on interceptions in training camp. The sophomore only threw three interceptions while his teammates threw for a combined 16.

In addition to Robinson’s accuracy, Patterson mentioned his agility to escape the pocket and keep plays alive by breaking tackles as another separation between the two.

“Shawn gives you the x-factor,” Patterson said. “You can’t catch him. He’s an offensive lineman’s dream. We spent all two-a-days trying to catch him.”

In both Robinson and Collins, Patterson said he has two reliable quarterbacks and said it’s a necessity to have multiple.

Justin Rogers, TCU’s first-year five-star quarterback, continues to practice in a limited role and is still not healthy following his ACL tear in the first game of his senior high school season.

“He’s a lot better than he was in the spring,” Patterson said. “We have a long way to go before he can get into a live snap. He’s throwing in seven-on-seven but not in full team drills.”

Injuries:
Earlier in the week, TCU’s most versatile unit was dealt a major blow. Sophomore defensive tackle Ross Blacklock suffered a season-ending achilles injury during practice last Tuesday.

Blacklock finished his redshirt freshman season with 27 tackles, two sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss, and was a major contributor on the Big 12’s best defense.

Patterson elaborated on the situation, calling it a “non-contact injury.”

Ross Blacklock’s injury is a major blow to the Big 12’s top defensive line last season. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto.

Blacklock’s injury is a huge loss for the Horned Frogs, but Patterson continues to have confidence in his defensive front.

“Sometimes your chemistry gets better when you lose somebody because your ranks draw closer,” Patterson said. “We’ll see if this group does that.

TCU’s running backs seem to have caught the injury bug, as well, according to Patterson.

“In our scrimmage on Wednesday, we ran all walk-ons,” Patterson said.

Last season’s starter, Darius Anderson, has been out for two weeks. Anderson was hit by a helmet in what Patterson calls a “freak thing.”

“That’s just camp,” Patterson said. “We have to get a lot better but some of these guys also have to learn to come back.”

Patterson said that all players without season-ending injuries will be ready to play against Southern.

New Faces:
A plethora of players with limited experience will be asked to play big roles this upcoming season and Patterson continues to be impressed with the progress his offensive line has made.

“They’re a big surprise and have really gotten better,” Patterson said. “We still need to keep getting better at one of the tackles. Our guards and centers are much better now than they were at the beginning of the spring.”

Patterson expects his team to make noise in the conference despite losing many key playmakers from last season’s roster. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto.

Patterson also raved about first-year safety Tre Moehrig’s work ethic during camp and said he hopes to see other players treat practice like he does.

“He’s a better player because he took all of the reps,” Patterson said. “He’s just a great kid, works hard.”

Patterson expects Moehrig to make an impact early in his TCU career.

Special Teams:
Junior kicker Cole Bunce appeared to be the starter last week. Bunce appeared in last season’s Alamo Bowl and was named to the 2017 Sports Illustrated All-Bowl team after making both field goal attempts, including the go-ahead score with 3:07 remaining in the contest.

Bunce replaced former starter Jonathan Song for the final five games following Song’s injury. Song has continued to battle to earn his starting spot back.

Patterson said Song has looked better than Bunce kicking into the wind and said the race is much closer than it appeared last week.

Another surprise from the special team’s side of the ball has been first-year long snapper Antonio Ortiz.

“He’s been awesome,” Patterson said. “He’s as fast or faster than snappers we’ve had in the past couple years and he’s a bigger body. He’s a better protection guy and PAT/field goal guy because of his size.”

Despite all of the changes from last season’s Alamo Bowl squad, Patterson believes his team has a chance to make some noise this season.

“If we get everybody back from what I saw the first few days of practice,” Patterson said, “we have a chance to be pretty good.”

Led by Robinson, the Horned Frogs will open up the season Sept. 1 against Southern at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.