Transfer quarterbacks coming in and making an impact in the film room and on the field in college football is nothing new. TCU, in fact, is no stranger to that, having welcomed in several highly-touted transfers over the last few years to compete. Many fans believed Matt Joeckel would come in and easily dispatch Trevone Boykin four years ago, only to have Tre have a renaissance over the off-season and lead the Horned Frogs to two of the most statistically-impressive offensive seasons in TCU history. Kenny Hill followed, and battled incumbents Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein in camp before earning the job outright for his last two years of eligibility. And now comes Michael Collins, one of the more unique transfer players of the Gary Patterson era, here to challenge and push sophomore Shawn Robinson for playing time this fall.
Collins walked on a season ago, coming to Fort Worth via Penn, a school not exactly known as a football powerhouse. But, it didn’t take long for the Connecticut native to earn a scholarship with the Horned Frogs. “I didn’t really think of him as a walk-on. He was a good player.”
Robinson and Collins were “neck and neck” this spring in the battle to be QB1 on September 1st. A week into practice, it’s still a tight race, though the sophomore out of DeSoto might have a slight edge. “I would have to say, because he’s been here longer, probably Shawn, has been (in the lead). But I will know more tomorrow. Because now the teaching is done and now it’s more into we’re getting better and you’re reacting more than you’re thinking.”
Patterson was coy in asking about the strengths and weaknesses of both, as Patterson doesn’t want to give away his secrets to future opponents. But he did mention that the athleticism of both is an advantage, noting that Collins “runs a lot better than what you think he does” and Robinson has lost several pounds over the last several months, something that is advantageous to his play on the field. “Both Shawn and Michael looked good, Shawn really gets himself out of trouble, though. They’re both pretty athletic. Obviously Shawn’s really athletic. Shawn has lost a lot of weight in the spring, we were heavy. I think we were at 228 - I think he’s down in the high teens. He runs better, has more stamina. When you’re not tired, you probably make better decisions.”
Though Robinson has the edge, Collins has been more than a pleasant surprise. The sophomore, who stands a robust 6’5” and clocks in at 214, has a championship pedigree; he won three consecutive state titles as a prep for New Canaan High School where he was teammates with TCU offensive lineman Lucas Niang. As a senior, he set a Connecticut state record with 54 of his 89 career touchdown passes, earning him all-state honors. He earned admission to the prestigious Wharton School on Business at The University of Pennsylvania, and after being the backup as a freshman, was on track to be a three year starter. But, as he told DieHards in an interview last spring, that wasn’t enough. “I just realized after a year that it wasn’t the college experience or football experience that I wanted,” Collins said. “I wanted a big-time college football experience, a chance to chase my dream and possibly play at the next level.”
Collins was impressive in leading the scout team in 2017 against Patterson’s vaunted defense, a unit that was stacked with veterans at the time. He had several highlights during the spring game as well, capping a solid performance with a 17-yard touchdown toss to freshman Taye Barber. He certainly has caught offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie’s eye. “Mike Collins has come in and done a great job. He’s picked up the offense. He’s very smart.” Collins earned a scholarship from the Frogs for his performance last fall, but it was only a matter of time, to hear it from Coach P. “I wouldn’t have put him on scholarship if he was more than what we expected.”
Shawn Robinson’s opportunity came first, as he started one game a season ago, at Texas Tech, when Kenny Hill was out with an injury. His performance left mixed reviews (6-17 passing for 85 yards, one touchdown plus 10 rushes for 84 yards), but was plagued by a couple bad drops and windy, cold weather conditions. It wasn’t about the stats, according to Coach Patterson. “Two things came out of him starting the Texas Tech game. He learned what it took to prepare. It’s one thing to prepare as a backup, especially as a young guy and you don’t really understand it, so he had to do that. The second thing he learned is you need to get down. You’re not going to run over everybody.”
At this point, it may truly be anyone’s job to win. TCU will scrimmage today (Saturday) before having an off-day Sunday. You can imagine the coaches will be breaking down the film, watching that position closely. Whoever ultimately wins the job, the Frogs’ head coach seems to think he has two guys that can win games in the conference, something that could be a difference-maker for TCU. “It will be interesting to see how it turns out. In this league, especially if your quarterback is going to run, you have to have two. I haven’t see anyone win a title that hasn’t had to play two, including Oklahoma. They had to have a guy come in (when Baker was ‘suspended’ for two plays).”
For Sonny Cumbie, it’s not just about finding the starter, it’s about maximizing the potential of whoever that ends up being. “They’ll rotate days [with the first-team] until one guy asserts himself or the time comes to kind of anoint this guy as the starter and allocate all the one reps to him. But two really good guys who push each other.”
The two players, for their part, don’t seem bitter about battling all camp, according to Cumbie. “Talked to them both the other day, the competition and everything is only going to increase the play at that position.”
Patterson may have said it best, though. “It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.”
TCU Football opens their season on September 1st against Southern. Kick-off is slated for 11:00am.