FRISCO, Texas — New faces on offense won’t be an uncommon sight throughout the Big 12 in 2018. TCU is no exception to that trend.
With quarterback Kenny Hill, running back Kyle Hicks, wide receiver John Diarse, and several key pieces of the offensive line all gone from Fort Worth, questions loom about just how effective the revamped cast will be this fall. And at the center of it all is the sophomore who many expect to leave behind an extraordinary legacy once it’s all said and done — quarterback Shawn Robinson.
“This has been great just coming out and seeing all of this at a young age,” Robinson said. “Being around the older guys and learning what to do and what not to do...it will really help me in the long run.”
Though coach Gary Patterson hasn’t verbally confirmed that the native of nearby DeSoto High School will be the starter, the build-up for the former 4-star recruit and Texas state champion’s first full season under center has been present for quite some time. His call to be among the players in attendance at the Ford Center on Monday only reinforces the sentiment that it’s his job to be had, and was an opportunity which he savored.
For a player with only one career start at the collegiate level, a 27-3 win at Texas Tech last November in which he filled in for an injured Hill, Robinson is already demonstrating the qualities of a leader that can rally a locker room — fully aware of the effort and mentality needed to succeed.
“They haven’t named a starter, so regardless of what they same I’m not yet the guy, but I approach it like I’m the guy mentally,” Robinson said. “All I can do is what I can control and be the best me that I can be.”
What does that look like for Robinson? Taking initiative, but also letting his talent do the talking.
“I’ve gotten better at being a leader, though I like to just play on the field and let that do to the talking,” Robinson said.
Robinson isn’t the only Horned Frog at his position who has been tabbed “the next big thing” by some. With the arrival of fellow 4-star quarterback Justin Rogers this spring, TCU now has two dual-threat passers with potential to go down among the best the conference has seen. Robinson is determined to make that vision a reality.
“There have been a lot of great quarterbacks to come through the Big 12,” Robinson said. “I’m just trying to be the next one.”
Robinson didn’t shy away from expressing his admiration for former Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who dazzled with more than 5,000 passing yards during his senior year in Lubbock, Texas two years ago. But if there’s any Big 12 quarterback that has molded Robinson the most, it’s the fellow DFW-native who he backed up in 2017.
“When I came in, Kenny took me under his wings and showed me the ins and outs immediately — what to do and what not to do,” Robinson said. “I’m very thankful for that because I wouldn’t be where I am mentally or anything in the offense without him.”
Case in point, Robinson said that Hill’s guidance was critical leading up to start against the Red Raiders. His performance was no means flawless on that windy Saturday in West Texas. But 85 passing yards and another 84 on the ground were enough to get the job done.
“I was nervous and Kenny calmed me down. He told me that everything was going to be fine and to just be me,” Robinson said. “I made a lot of mistakes, but I was just happy that I was able to go through the film and really figure out how to get better at what I needed to get better at.”
Eight months later, Robinson has now been on campus for well over a year and is that much more familiar with the offense. And there’s plenty of excitement to be had about the wide receiver corps to work with, whether it be the speed of sophomore Jalen Reagor or the veteran playmaking skills of seniors such as KaVontae Turpin and Jalean Austin.
“A lot of the guys in the group are younger,” Austin said. “For us veterans, it’s just making the plays that we know we can make and always make. If they see us do that, it gives the younger guys the confidence that they can do it too.”
With a new face at quarterback, that group may also have the chance to make more of those big plays than they did the last two years, according to Patterson.
“All of our quarterbacks throw down the field,” Patterson said. “Nothing against Kenny, but I think these guys have more vertical capabilities and we’ll have more speed.”
With the return of running backs Sewo Olonilua and Darius Anderson, the latter who was named to the preseason Maxwell Award watch list, the speed for TCU this fall isn’t limited to just the quarterbacks and receivers either. But as is the case with most, the supporting cast is excited to see what Robinson can accomplish if given the green light.
“It’s still a competition, but for Shawn, it’s his to take,” Olonilua said. “He has to just step up, take the position and lead the team.”
It remains a mystery when exactly Patterson will formally name a starter. College football is a sport that is so often filled with surprises. But when it comes to unexpected, TCU players are confident that any surprises will be positive ones.
“We’re an explosive offense,” Austin said. “I’m looking forward to it.”