It wasn’t the first questions asked during Saturday’s media availability following TCU Football’s first scrimmage of fall camp, but it was asked.
“Any time frame on when you’ll announce a starter at quarterback?”
It has been a common refrain, coming up during Big 12 Media Days, on report day, and during both media availabilities during fall camp. We’ve heard about it from Gary Patterson and co-OCs Sonny Cumbie and Curtis Luper, and we’ve asked both Alex Delton and Michael Collins about it.
And yet, we still don’t know much.
Heading into camp, Patterson spoke of the first week being teaching time, the next week a time to evaluate, and the final two weeks being focused on getting ready to play games. Saturday, he said that TCU is “past teaching time” and now it’s time to figure who your guys are. Though he wouldn’t flat out say who would be the starter, he made it clear that they really need to figure that out in the next six days, and that he was really looking at just a few factors to determine who the best man might be - who can “move the football. Who do we win with? Who doesn’t throw an interception?”
That question remains after TCU’s first scrimmage of the year, but it seems that we have at least somewhat narrowed down the candidates. Part of that might be due to one of the contenders going down with an injury (Mike Collins), but Patterson has seen enough good things out of some of the others to narrow the field. When asked who was in the lead, he said “probably Delton. Max did a couple good things, but you can tell Delton has played a lot of football. And Justin is in that boat. He’s still in the process of seeing the rush a little bit, though.” With Collins down and Matthew Baldwin’s waiver in the appeal process, those three are battling it out to be THE GUY, and Patterson likes the competition - and the competitors. “We’re throwing the deep ball better than we ever have probably since ‘14, which is a good thing. I’ve been happy with all the quarterbacks - the way they’ve acted, the way they’ve competed, the way they’ve done things. All of them.”
While it’s great that GP is happy with all of them, he also knows that at some point, they can’t all be the starting quarterback. And that he is ultimately hurting his team if he doesn’t narrow the focus soon. “You’re going to have to cut down pretty quick, it’s just hard. You can’t get enough guys reps to play at a high level if you try to get six guys ready.”
And that’s why Alex Delton is the early clubhouse leader. Bringing in a fifth year senior, a captain, a guy who played in a program like Kansas State’s for a coach like Bill Snyder... Delton’s experience certainly shows up on tape, and Patterson has noticed. “I knew it was already going to be a win for us, no matter how he played on the field - a guy a fifth year senior who came through Coach Snyder’s program, a guy who was voted captain by his teammates before.” So too, has Sonny Cumbie, who commented not on just what Delton does on the field, but the way he changes the quarterback room as a whole. “You bring in an Alex Delton, a guy who has played a lot of football, and he brings a maturity that guys gravitate to.”
Duggan, too, though has impressed early - you won’t find a player in purple that will say a bad thing about the true freshman. He has special arm talent; the kid makes throws that you see a lot on Sundays. And while Patterson might be less inclined to play a true freshman, the staff as a whole is committed to giving the ball to the guy that gives them the best chance to win. And they have plenty of of examples across the conference to see that it can work. “You look across the country and you see more freshmen are coming in and playing at a high level,” Cumbie said. “And that’s one of the things coach always talks about - you don’t want to just play, you want to play at a high level. You want to see how he progresses through the summer and fall camp… I have been really excited about how he’s handled himself. There hasn’t really been a moment that has been too big for him up to this point.”
That leaves us with one remaining healthy competitor, the oft-discussed Justin Rogers. Patterson continues to say that Rogers is “closer than he’s ever been” when it comes to full health, and that he’s learning and growing at an impressive rate with every snap he takes. He seems to have been a full participant throughout fall camp, including the first scrimmage, and that can be nothing but a good thing for the scores of fans anxious to see him take meaningful, non Cheez-It Bowl, snaps for the Horned Frogs. GP hasn’t wanted to say a whole lot about JR, likely to protect the young player from outsized expectations. But he continues to be mentioned with the other top-tier contenders, and from everything we have heard, is still in the mix to earn the starting spot.
Patterson said he hopes to have a starter chosen by the end of week two, which is when he considers camp to be over and the fall season to have begun. So, we might know who starts against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the next few days.
In the meantime, be glad that there is a strong group of quarterbacks that are doing things the right way, working hard, and pushing each other. The odds that one rises above and takes the reins is high.