With Foster Sawyer’s announcement last week that he would be transferring, TCU is now in potentially dire straits when it comes to the quarterback position heading into the off-season. The Frogs will have just one player on the roster who has attempted a collegiate pass - rising senior Kenny Hill - and just two players who have taken a snap, including redshirt sophomore Grayson Muehlstein (six total snaps, all rush attempts). Additionally, Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham will have freshman Brennen Wooten, who was an early-enrollee a year ago, and freshman Jordan Kitna, though neither saw the field in their first year on campus. Of course, there is another intriguing player that will be on campus in mere days, incoming recruit Shawn Robinson of DeSoto, whom many are hoping will see the field as a true freshman in 2017. With so many questions surrounding the most important position, the Frogs O’ War staff sat down to discuss what can, what will, and what should happen behind center next fall.
Knowing what you know right now, what mindset should the TCU coaching staff have when it comes to the off-season at the QB position? Kenny Hill is the starter or it’s an open competition?
Melissa: I think it’s pretty obvious that Kenny Hill fell short of expectations this season, as he has admitted as much. While his stats at the beginning of the season were insane, he regressed once October hit (is this a tradition?) and was pretty bad as the games went on, especially in the accuracy department. While he has the capability for exciting plays, especially with his legs, he hasn’t done anything that makes me think the job shouldn’t be up for grabs.
JT: It would be easy to place the majority of the blame on the position of quarterback, and while certainly come of it is deservedly given, there were systemic issues that led to our anemic offense. Our offensive line listened to way too much (Sir) Elton John in the warm ups because they held their counterparts like they were tiny dancers. At this point I would make a joke about our receivers dropping balls, but the reality is that it’s not funny at all, Just a bummer. The point is this, our quarterbacks were not surrounded by pieces to succeed. That being said, neither quarterback looked consistently good throughout the season. I think it would be prudent to have an open competition in the spring. It’s like the free market: it forces you to get better.
Assuming there is an open competition this offseason, who is the starter in game one next year?
Melissa: I think that Kenny Hill will take the first snap of 2017, but I don’t think he will take the last. Everyone wants to anoint a certain incoming freshman as the savior, but it’s going to take time to get Shawn Robinson ready, and I don’t anticipate he will be the first man up when the games get real.
JT: As one of those people who wants to anoint a certain incoming freshman as the savior, it is with a heavy heart that I type this: Kenny Hill will be the starter in game one next year. However, I’ve been wrong before, and it is entirely possible that the person who takes the first snap, is not the person that takes the final snap.
If Kenny Hill is named the starter, who will be his backup?
Melissa: I have always been intrigued by The Mule, but having never seen him throw a pass in a collegiate game, I don’t have any reason to expect he will see the field this year either. Wooten and Kitna are intriguing guys, and I think Brennen could be the backup at the opening of next year’s campaign.
JT: Shawn Robinson. That dude’s the truth.
The reality is that Shawn Robinson will come in having thrown as many passes as any of the other quarterbacks on our roster. Despite the fact that he has had less time with the system and being on campus, I believe his talents will secure for him in the very least the backup spot for the fall.
Should TCU be in the market for a veteran graduate transfer at QB? Is there a name out there you think could be a good fit?
Melissa: In the next couple of weeks, we will certainly hear about some players on the move. But Cumbie and Meacham should definitely have their ears to the ground - maybe even at the FCS level - for an experienced veteran that could come in and provide stability at the position behind Hill, assuming he’s the starter. Malik Zaire maybe? If we could get him interested in coming down south and playing in a system that would ensure he can pile up the stats heading into the 2018 draft. That being said, Wooten and Kitna will have a year plus in the playbook, and should have a good grasp on the offense. I loved Wooten’s intangibles when he signed, and I would imagine those have earned him favor from the coaches throughout his first year on campus.
JT: I am never adverse to the proverbial outside hire. And in recent years there has been talented players on the market (Everett Golson, Vernon Adams), however, I am unaware of any big names looking to transfer. If there was a veteran transfer who had some success, I think it would be worth taking a second look, but I am unsure if there are any available currently.
Gary Patterson has not historically been very open to playing true freshmen at quarterback. If given the option, should TCU try and redshirt Shawn Robinson, or should he be active, even if he’s not quite ready?
Melissa: The ideal situation is to redshirt Robinson, but if he shows he’s the best player at the position on the field in the spring, it won’t matter what year he is. GP has shown in the past that if all things are equal, or close enough, he will go with the veteran every time. So if Shawn doesn’t sit, he will legitimately have earned it.
The other concern is what works for the rest of the team; after having a single-digit senior class in 2016, TCU will have a massive group graduating after 2017. The Frogs currently list 37 juniors on the roster - THIRTY SEVEN. That’s insane. Some will certainly redshirt, but there are around 15 guys who either start or play significant snaps. This won’t be a second year rebuild, this team will be built to win now. Do you go with the senior QB for a veteran group, or do you play the dynamic freshman who might make a lot of mistakes but has the highest ceiling? I think it will be Hill, but it won’t surprise me at all if Robinson gets on the field before November.
JT: I think this is what makes the upcoming spring so pivotal in understanding what we have at the quarterback position. Given that it is always a risk to play a true freshman at quarterback, it could be a good idea to let Shawn Robinson sit out, get stronger and more familiar with the system. That being said, it is a legitimate possibility that he plays so well in the spring that he becomes the backup (starter) and then he wins the heisman and national championship as a freshman. I think I have appropriately tempered my expectations. Levity aside, I really think the spring will provide a litmus test to see Shawn’s standing in the fall. The extra obstacle of being a freshman means that he has to play so well that it would be foolish to redshirt him. Only the spring semester will give us a sufficient answer to this looming question.
Who do you think will/should start in 2017? Have thoughts on Robinson? Let us know in the comments!