LJ is one of the most underrated players to come through TCU, but the Frogs’ head coach saw something special in him from the beginning.
His father Lawrence considers it all a blessing. The way he tells it, Cumbie liked L.J. as a tight end, but once he showed Gary Patterson Collier’s highlight reel, one of college football’s best defensive minds wanted the raw talent on the defensive side.
What ensued was a five-year marriage with the Horned Frogs that Shahan was there for nearly every step of the way. She attended several games and never missed fun activities like the annual “Meet the Frogs” event or spring game. She’d been to both Alamo Bowl appearances too, but her husband Kevin delivered the perfect birthday surprise this past fall with TCU season tickets.
However, the Shahans didn’t witness Collier’s last game at TCU – the Cheez-It Bowl the day after Christmas. That’s because they had already booked travel to watch L.J. at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, the place where his draft stock began to soar.
“He was going from being a hotshot at Munday to being a number,” Shahan said. “That was hard for him – to go from being put on a pedestal and wanting to play, but it’s not his time yet. That was one of his hardest lessons – wait for your time. Then when it’s your time, go shine.”
Thankfully, he figured out he had a brighter future on defense early on.
“I always knew I wanted to play at higher level. I always knew I wanted to play at a Power Five school. And the offer from TCU gave me that opportunity. Never visited, never stepped foot on campus. Didn’t really know too much about Texas Christian University but I got the call and ran with it and it paid off for me,” Banogu says. Forced to sit out a season due to transfer rules, Banogu spent his first year in Forth Worth getting in stellar shape.
”Being at TCU gave me that competitive edge of I want to get stronger and faster and move better than everybody else,” Banogu says. “Losing the baby fat, getting in the weight room, getting more cut, more lean—lost 20 pounds. It wasn’t (all) bad weight, but just for the scheme and what I had to do at TCU, (I) lose that weight and filled out my upper and lower body.”
A chiseled Banogu earned a starting gig ahead of the next season and quickly proved to be a key cog on a stingy Horned Frogs’ defense that conceded a mere 19 points per game. He led the team with 16.5 tackles for loss while also tallying 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. For his efforts, Banogu earned first-team All-Big 12 and Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors. In one season at TCU, the twitchy edge defender put enough on tape to be an NFL draft pick.
LVZ has a chance to be the next great backfield star for the Frogs.
The bottom line is that Van Zandt, as TCU Sports Network’s John Denton described in a recent Q&A with The News, can read plays exceptionally well, is willing to step in where needed and can find ways to impact the game regardless of where he is positioned. That foundation dates back to his high school days at Henderson, where he spent time not only as a safety but also at wide receiver.
Make no mistake about it: Van Zandt isn’t the only player who has shined for TCU of late, who is joined by the likes of defensive end Ochaun Mathis, offensive tackle David Bolisomi and others. But with the jump the 6-foot-1 defensive back appears to be making, Van Zandt is a name to keep a close watch on going into fall camp and ultimately the season opener vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
This was a disappointing weekend for the Frogs, with Saturday’s loss an especially big gut punch.
K-State scored five runs against TCU’s Marcelo Perez in the home half of the eighth. Ceballos drove in Kokoska on a double to left, followed by a bunt single from Ausmus driving in freshman Blake Burrows who pinch ran for Spurlin. Littlejim singled to center, scoring Ceballos, Thompson reached on a fielder’s choice, and Littejim scored on a single from Brennan.
Going into the top of the ninth, K-State was up 10-6 and looked like they were going to come away with the win, needing only three outs to seal the series.
Wolfe drove in Adam Oviedo on a single and Josh Watson walked which brought up Guenther who hit a three-run homer to center field. Brennan surrendered four runs in the inning and allowed TCU to tie the game at 10.
In the bottom of the ninth, Burrows walked, advanced to second on a single, on a passed ball advanced to third. With Ausmus up next, he hit a bunt single back to the pitcher but Burrows was able to score on the hit and gave the Wildcats the walk-off win 11-10 against No. 19 TCU.