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A Star is Born

TCU has a potential star in the making at quarterback, something the Frogs have sorely needed.

TCU v Texas Tech
If everything breaks right, Max Duggan will be quarterbacking TCU for the next three years.
Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

No, this column isn’t about the movie. I haven’t seen it. I think it’s because Lady Gaga gets too shouty in “Shallow,” and I hate it when singers stop singing and just shout into a microphone. But I digress.

Take a look at Max Duggan’s statistics 10 games into his first season at TCU. Do you see a star? 159-282 passing (56.4 percent), 1868 yards (6.6 yards per attempt), 15 TD, 7 INT passing and 440 yards and five touchdowns on 110 rushes. He’s 80th in the nation in passing yards per game and 53rd in passing touchdowns.

Now watch film of Max Duggan. What do you see now? See him scramble and absorb hits from defenders, see his body language — the body language of a freshman that’s confident because he just doesn’t know any better — infuse the entire team with a boost, see him uncork lasers downfield to Taye Barber. Isn’t he a star in the making?

Yes, he is.

The eye test is fickle and unreliable, and yet it’s hard to find someone that doesn’t think Duggan will be a star based off a fickle and unreliable test. He’s only a freshman, and he’s scrambling past defenders in ways that remind TCU fans of the halcyon Trevone Boykin days. No less an authority than Gary Patterson himself has said Duggan is ahead of where Andy Dalton was as a freshman.

The Horned Frogs aren’t a great team right now. Their 5-5 record is probably a touch unfair — TCU had chances to beat SMU, Baylor and Kansas State and couldn’t convert against any of them. But that 5-5 record is a whole lot easier to swallow when the precocious future of the program is taking snaps behind center.

This is not meant as any disrespect to Alex Delton, Michael Collins, Justin Rogers or any other quarterback that was on the roster at the start of the season: there’s a reason why Horned Frog Twitter was clamoring for Duggan to start at the beginning of the year. The buzz around the Iowa native was real. Hardly anyone thought he had the running ability he’s displayed this year, but there were no questions about his arm.

And TCU needed a fresh start. The Frogs had been in a state of flux at the quarterback position since that night at Pat O’Briens before the Alamo Bowl. In the four years since the 2015-16 season, TCU has had seven different starting quarterbacks — Kenny Hill, Foster Sawyer, Shawn Robinson, Grayson Muehlstein, Collins, Delton and Duggan. Of those, three were transfers and two were break-glass-in-case-of-emergency cases.

Robinson was at one point thought to be the heralded successor, but he disappointed last year and transferred to Missouri. The Frogs needed a freshman to come in and establish a foundation for the program. Duggan is doing that. Each and every week, he adds a little bit more to his resume.

We haven’t even heard him speak yet. TCU has a stringent no-freshman-allowed policy in press conferences. Whatever Duggan has to say has been limited to what trickles out through teammates. Poll any of those teammates, and you’ll find that all of them agree Duggan is a fiery competitor, a natural-born leader and an unnatural talent.

This isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison, but travel east on I-30 or I-20 and you’ll find another young star. Luka Doncic has transformed the Dallas Mavericks in just two short years, and the Slovenian sensation is only getting better. Dallas knows it has a star on its hands, someone to take the torch that Dirk Nowitzki passed on and run with it to even higher heights.

Duggan is more raw than Doncic at this point. He also has just three more years to craft his legacy at TCU, while Doncic has a decade and more to make his mark in Dallas. It’s not an exact comparison. But fans in the Metroplex could do worse than watching Duggan and Doncic, two players with unlimited potential and youth on their side, find their ways in the world.

With one more offseason to get comfortable in the offense, and with a hopefully more healthy receiver corps in 2020, Duggan should skyrocket up all those national rankings listed above. And with him at the helm, TCU should be able to open up the offense and start demolishing defenses with innovative plays. And, with an innovative offense and a defense full of talented freshmen-turned-sophomores, the Frogs should be an unholy terror to play against.

Then just imagine what they’ll look like in 2021.