The 2019-20 college football season is rapidly approaching, and TCU football has been working to rebound from last year’s 7-6 season.
With that in mind, here’s an update on how the team is looking going into TCU’s season opener against Arkansas Pine-Bluff this Saturday.
The biggest question for TCU this offseason was who would start as quarterback this season, but head coach Gary Patterson still has not decided on his starter.
Patterson said Alex Delton, a fifth-year graduate transfer from Kansas State, and Max Duggan, a true freshman, had separated themselves from the other quarterbacks on the roster during fall camp.
Patterson decided Delton will run onto the field first for the Horned Frogs on Saturday, a choice that was expected, given his extensive experience. This decision doesn’t solidify Delton’s position as the official starter, though. Duggan will go in on the “third or fourth series,” Patterson said.
“Him [Delton] being here in the spring was great. I think that was the big key,” Patterson said. “The one thing he has been really good at is the leadership in the huddle.”
The quarterbacks will continue to compete for who owns the title of “first string,” and Patterson said the decision still may not be clear by the time the team travels to Purdue on Sept. 14.
In the meantime, the Horned Frogs will play two quarterbacks. Although a clear starter would be nice, having an abundance of signal-callers is a luxury, especially in the wake of a season where TCU lost two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries.
“The competition level was good,” Patterson said. “I think the biggest thing that came down to it is just [the] leadership aspect.”
Staying on the offensive side of the ball, Patterson noted that running backs Darius Anderson and Sewo Olinilua are running as well as he has ever seen. Olonilua will remain on the bench for the first half of the season for “things that have gone on previously,” Patterson said.
Olinilua, who was TCU’s leading rusher last season with 635 yards on the ground, was arrested in May for possession of drugs. The team is waiting to hear the Walker County criminal district attorney’s decision on the situation.
On the offensive line, center Coy McMillon impressed many during fall camp, which gives Patterson assurance about a position he was worried about earlier in the offseason.
“I think we feel better right now about center than we did going into the fall,” Patterson said. “Coy McMillon really fought through a lot of things, kind of beat up, and still, I’m having to take him out of a scrimmage…that’s the kind of dude that you want around.”
Moving to the defensive side of the ball, linebacker was another position that was unsure for the Horned Frogs during fall camp. After Montrel Wilson left the team and Ben Wilson suffered an injury that will likely keep him out until October, Patterson was forced to pull players from other positions.
Alongside junior Garret Wallow, La’Kendrick Van Zandt, originally a safety, has filled into the middle linebacker position and will start on Saturday. The Henderson, Texas, native’s speed allows him to stay with faster receivers, opening up the opportunities for the defense as a whole.
True freshman Dee Winters has also impressed Patterson and is expected to see serious playing time.
“He’s [Van Zandt] running stride-for-stride with [Jalen] Reagor down the field,” Patterson said. “He’s probably the most valuable player because he’s taken a lot of reps.”
The Horned Frogs are anticipating the TCU debut of Shameik Blackshear, a graduate transfer from South Carolina. The defensive end played in 13 games for the Gamecocks last season, starting in two.
“If you’re a grad transfer, you could act a certain way,” Patterson said. “Really, they haven’t. Really, they’ve [Blackshear and Delton] worked their tails off.”
Though TCU’s opponent on Saturday is in the FCS and went 2-9 last season, Patterson is not allowing his team to take the Golden Lions lightly.
UAPB is certainly not without weapons. Running back Taeyler Porter rushed for 1,220 yards and nine touchdowns while earning a spot on the first-team All-SWAC and BOXTOROW All-American lists in 2018.
Quarterback Shannon Patrick threw for 678 yards, six touchdowns and had no interceptions in the first two games of the season last year before suffering a season-ending finger injury. Also, wide receiver Harry Ballard is highly-anticipated after transferring from Missouri in 2018.
“Number one: they have an All-American tailback,” Patterson said. “One thing about I-AA schools, they have really good players.”
Kickoff from the Carter is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday.
“If you don’t get ready to play for a ballgame like this, then you become the nail and not the hammer, and people get hurt,” Patterson said. “You need to go into this game with emotion, and you need to get ready to play.”