It’s a little bit less than two weeks away from the opening kickoff of the 2019 TCU football season. After starting off with a QB room filled with 6 candidates - Coach Gary Patterson stated that the QB race is essentially down to two candidates as they have pulled away from the competition - Kansas State graduate transfer Alex Delton and true freshman Max Duggan - who enrolled at TCU back in January.
Depending on where your mileage is on Delton...this could be anywhere from encouraging to extremely disheartening. For me personally, when it comes to having a true freshman being one of the finalists for the starting job... unless your name is Clemson or Alabama, it tends to be a little bit alarming. The other finalist for the job is a QB that hasn’t necessarily shown that he can play at the highest level... after all he was not always the starter at KSU.
Now I trust our coaching staff - they have more access to these players than anyone else -even though I may disagree with them from time to time on certain decisions, they are the professionals in the building so once they announce who the starter will be, I’m going to have to make my peace with it.
I’m about to do an argument for and an argument against for both of these quarterbacks, but before I do I want to give a shout out to all of my Justin Rogers stans out there. While it is a bummer that he was not announced as one of the candidates that have pulled away in the QB competition, it is worth noting that he could still be recovering from that dislocated knee, and still working through the mental steps of getting back to 100%. Which to be honest after dislocating his knee - he may never be what he once was as a runner ever again. Of course, me being the chronic optimist that I am, I still believe in JR and hope that he at least gets to see some real playing time this year.
Now on to our final two contestants:
Alex Delton, Sr (6-0, 200lbs)
Argument for: Of all of the QB’s on the roster, Delton has the most experience out of all of them if you are talking about pure D1 football experience. During his time at Kansas State, Delton appeared in 20 games, and while he was never the entrenched starter - he did make a handful of appearances as the starter in 2018 when Skylar Thompson went down with an injury.
Experience is good - especially when it isn’t the type of experience that is so bad that it leaves a QB’s confidence shook and in irreparable condition. Delton’s passing numbers don’t jump off the page (nor do many KSU QB’s under Bill Snyder) but you name an intangible and it seems like Delton’s got it and then some. Hearing the coaches talk about his leadership on the squad so far has been nothing short of buzz worthy. It sounds like he’s always talking with someone, always working, always trying to get a better rep-our with anyone that he can on offense. That’s nice and all, but will it translate to wins? At this point of the season I couldn’t tell you.
What I can tell you is, is what Delton is good at. The man is a natural runner, isn’t necessarily the fastest but he’s a tough runner. He’s not fragile or flimsy, and he has a very tough build. Extreme knock on wood here, because I am sure TCU would find a way to be this unlucky but if I had to pick one QB that would stay healthy all season long on our roster, it would be Delton. He also knows how to hit those short and intermediate routes, and if he can get the ball quickly into the hands of our playmakers, then he should be just alright when it comes to passing.
Overall, the mix of toughness and experience that he brings to the table just makes Delton the best “football guy” option on the roster right now. He’s played in front of large crowds on the road, and it is hard to get a senior QB who has seen just about everything, rattled upstairs.
Argument against: During his time at Kansas State, Delton never had a season where he threw for more than 3 touchdowns in a season... YIKES. Look, I know that it’s Kansas State and they don’t believe in passing in Manhattan, but when it comes to earning the starting QB job, that stat line leaves a lot to be desired. Last season Delton threw for 554 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Now that doesn’t really tell us much when you take into context the system that he played in.
Those numbers would almost certainly look different, in a good way, if Delton played at any other program in D1 football. That’s the brand that KState played under Snyder, and all things considered, it worked. Now that doesn’t give him a pass for not looking great as a passer. I went back and watched some of his game film, and Delton doesn’t have the best accuracy when it comes to throwing the ball deep, and while he can hit those short passes and has a quickish release, he has a tendency to under throw receivers or put it behind the routes that they were running (a la Shawn Robinson in 2018). That would AT BEST put his ceiling at 2017 Kenny Hill (MY BOY). While TCU won 11 games in 2017, they could have won even more if the offense matched that of 2015.
Now I know that is an unfair comparison to make when that 2015 squad had two of the best three offensive players in program history, but a boy can dream can’t he? Now back to where Delton fits into this. As of this point, as a refined passer, I am out on Delton until proven otherwise. To be fair, I felt the same about Boykin going into 2014. In this case, I want Delton to prove me wrong and i’m hoping that a change in system and scenery can help him take the next step. Until he does, the jury has him as someone who’s ceiling is as a game manager that can be allusive with his legs.
Max Duggan, Fr (6-2, 190lbs)
Argument for: This one is all about upside. If Duggan is winning over the coaches and players in practice as a true freshman, then imagine what he can be 2 years from now after getting two full years of experience as a starter. Getting a young player experience early can help a team reap the benefits later on down the line. In most cases, you sacrifice a couple of wins to get a young guy snaps early on - and then come their sophomore/Jr year they are ready to rock and roll, and are winning more and more games, playing better, etc.
If Duggan really and truly is the future, then now might be the time to start him instead of waiting until next year. Duggan would come in with 2 very good proven running backs, at least on WR that can do just about anything you ask of him, and an offensive line that has seen its ups and downs throughout the course of the previous season, but is experienced enough to where they cannot possibly be as bad as last year. The part about the OL is the most important though, because the last thing anyone wants to see is a young QB scrambling for his life on every other snap, so giving Duggan a year with a experienced OL and an experienced mentor like Delton, could pay huge dividends down the line.
As all freshman do, Duggan is going to make freshman mistakes, but again while he’s got such a great supporting cast around him now, he can work out the kinks pretty quickly and easily and the skill position guys have more than enough talent to help cover up some of those freshman mistakes. I mean for the love of God we won the Cheez-It bowl despite our QB having more picks than completions by the 4th quarter. IT CAN’T BE WORSE THAN THAT....RIGHT!?!?
So if Duggan really is showing all of these flashes in practice, then why not just do what Texas Tech did with Alan Bowman, let him play and get the experience now. It may not necessarily be the most win NOW move, but it could be absolutely critical in Duggan’s development.
Argument Against: This one is the most self explanatory. Duggan would be a true freshman, and when you start a true freshman QB, you live by them and you die by them. QB’s like Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence are exceptions to the rules where they have ascended to the ethereal QB level plain as true freshman.
Takes off Super Frog helmet as I am about to type out this next sentence
We are TCU. We aren’t lucky enough to get players that are that good as true freshmen on a regular basis, so i’m just not going to bet on Duggan being Deshaun Watson 2.0. I mean please prove me wrong, but I’ve got to see it first, and I’d rather not damage a young QB now. While the best experience that Duggan can earn would be by playing in the games, he is still very young and I would rather not waste a year of his eligibility if we didn’t have to.
If the house is burning in 2019, but we manage to save the golden goose and move it into a mansion in 2020-2023, then I am totally fine with that. But that is going to require a lot of patience from the fans as well as the coaching staff. Nobody dislikes watching bad QB play more than I do, but I would almost certainly not want to damage Duggan in 2019, no matter how bad Delton plays, I would want to keep Duggan healthy and his confidence untouched.
Speaking of damaged, Duggan does not have the biggest of frames, and he weighs less than Delton does despite being taller. Give Duggan a full year to put on some weight and muscle (if he hasn’t already), and then I’d be much more comfortable with him running around and scrambling. I just don’t want to see happen to him what happened to Texas Tech true freshman Alex Bowman, who’s lung basically collapsed after he took several hits to the ribs.
If we have to sit through another year of tough to watch QB play, so that we can get 4 years of good to great QB play from Duggan down the road I am more than agreeable to that.
I mean either way the coaches are going to name a starter for week 1, and my guess is that by the end of week 2 or 3 we may see another guy emerge as the de facto guy who comes in and takes the job for himself. Either way... there’s no real way to have a solid gut feeling about who should start until we see both of them play in meaningful games. At this very moment in time I feel like Delton is a known quantity, but it is very soothing to have a senior presence at the helm vs a true freshman’s. That being said if we go in to West Lafayette and Delton goes 1/6 with two picks, then I will be very ready to change my tune. I’m excited to see what Duggan can do, but i’m honestly just excited for either of these two QB’s to prove me wrong in my doubts and give me a clear cut starter to root for.
What are your thoughts on the QB situation? Let us know in the comments below!