TCU shocked the recruiting world on Monday, when 5-star running back Zachary Evans ended his long, roller-coaster-esque recruiting process by quietly enrolling in and attending his first class at TCU.
A few members of the Frogs O’ War staff gathered to give their initial reactions to the Frogs’ massive recruiting win.
What’s your initial reaction to Zachary Evans enrolling at TCU?
- Anthony: Hopeful. We’re talking about the top rated player in Texas. #1. We often like to posture that stars don’t matter, but we all know they do. We know GP and crew can get elite play and development out of 4-star or lower rated players, what can they do with a 5-star talent? If the coaching staff can work their magic and get the best out of Evans like they have with so many others before, his “best” could be special.
- Parker: I’m actually pretty neutral about this. Good talent is good talent, but context and the situational reality of the path that lead Evans to TCU - rather than, say an SEC school - mean that Evans is a high-uncertainty prospect, certainly as uncertain a prospect as TCU’s ever signed. Evans has an elite skill set, but unfortunately he has it at a position where value is primarily dictated by usage and scheme. Does the Evans signing make me feel like TCU is going to update their offense in a way that would maximize Evans’s value? No.
- Melissa: Always nice to follow Parker on a roundtable because it makes me automatically an optimist. My initial reaction was simply surprise; I have followed Evans recruitment for the last several months and never once did I hear TCU’s name associated with his. Like everyone, I am aware that he has made some mistakes and was suspended by his high school program on more than one occasion, but he doesn’t seem like a bad kid, just one that needs some guidance. Gary Patterson’s program has babysat players successfully in the past — if they can keep Evans on the straight and narrow, he can be hugely successful in Fort Worth.
- Jamie: I’ll be completely honest. I knew of Zachary Evans, but based on how his recruitment was playing out, including the various “top” lists and where he was visiting, I didn’t pay much attention. I didn’t watch any of his highlights until Sunday night when the rumors really gained some momentum. This guy is an absolute game-changer. People who know what they’re talking about have said he’s the best back to come out of Texas since Adrian Peterson. Does that mean he’s a lock to be elite? No, of course not. But it should give Frog fans hope.
The Frogs have an absolutely loaded running back room. How do you see that playing out?
- Anthony: Think the likely reference is how the 2017 backfield played out: a workhorse getting the routine carries (read: every first down *ducks*); an explosive gamebreaker doing more on fewer carries; and a banger and/or gadget guy brought in on short yardage and special packages. Projecting 2020: Foster & Barlow share the workhorse role, Evans is the gamebreaker, and Demercado is the situational back.
- Parker: I see that playing out very similar to 2019, when TCU had a very strong dual-RB attack and made no effort to innovate with the run game. TCU’s offense hamstrung its play-makers in 2019, and if, in 2020, a “strong RB unit” is yet again the feature, the offense’s best case scenario will be succeeding in spite of, rather than because of, its design.
- Melissa: I am really hoping that Evans is another sign that the offense will be adjusted with the additions of Jerry Kill, Doug Meacham, and Bryan Applewhite; I would love to see a return to the days of Ed Wesley, BJ Catalon, and Waymon James. All three running backs can be used in the passing game, and Evans has made it clear that part of the reason he chose TCU is he expects to be involved in other areas of the offense than just the running game. With both Barlow and Foster coming off of redshirt years, they’ll be expecting to play — are there enough touches to keep everyone on campus, or will Barlow have a wandering eye? All that being said, having three guys that are that talented should make life a little easier for Max Duggan and hopefully help give the receivers room to develop and meet their potential as well.
- Jamie: Honestly, I wouldn’t be shocked if Evans is the main dude when the season starts, with Barlow sprinkled in for relief and a change of pace. I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Frogs were splitting carries three ways between Evans, Barlow, and Foster. What I do know, though, is that the offense has to be better than last year, and if it looks the same, there’s little Evans can do to change the outcome.
Evans is the highest rated recruit and first five star in TCU’s history. Do you think this will open the door for TCU to elevate its recruiting game?
- Anthony: Perhaps if he had been in the fold through the recruiting period and able to attract others to join up along the way, but now this will only elevate TCU’s recruiting profile if he translates to success on the field. TCU’s previous “Best Recruit” Devonte Fields helped make the 2012 recruiting class rank #29 overall nationally, including future pros and key pieces to the 2014-2015 success. But it was that on-field success that led each of the last five classes to rank 3rd in the Big 12, with a prolific presence in the NFL Draft.
- Parker: Stars matter, for sure, and high profile recruits matter. If Evans comes in and succeeds and gets drafted, yes, but we are years from that happening. If Evans comes to TCU after spurning larger offers - for whatever reasons - I doubt he has any lasting impact on TCU recruiting, which I should note has been on a steady trend of improvement since TCU joined the Big 12.
- Melissa: There is definitely a correlation between the programs that recruit the best and the ones that win the biggest; that being said, I don’t know that Evans can change things all that much. Now, maybe he gives other top targets reason to look at the Frogs or maybe he helps them win some high-profile games, but ultimately, it’s going to be quarterback play and getting to Jerry World that keeps TCU recruiting at a high level, not one five star tipping the scales.
- Jamie: I think the biggest thing Evans does as the first 5-star recruit to come to TCU is show other 5-star recruits that they can do the same thing. That TCU isn’t a place where they’ll fade into the background, but where they can excel and reach the next level. The Frogs did a lot to help themselves with the most draft picks in the Big 12 or of any program in Texas this past year. Couple that with Evans coming, and I think other kids will start to give TCU a second look.
TCU’s 2020 recruiting class has four of the top 10 recruits in school history. And yet, TCU was 5-7 last year. How do you expect these recruiting successes to translate to the football field?
- Anthony: Natty. In all seriousness, it comes down to the offense and Max. If he’s good, this class could translate to an appearance in the Big 12 Championship; if he’s great, this can translate to a NY6 bid; if he’s elite, this could be a Playoff team during their time on campus.
- Parker: TCU’s problems in 2018 and 2019 were not primarily talent-related. Better plays impose a higher ceiling on a program, for sure, but that ceiling’s height is mitigated by the way that talent is employed. All the five star running backs in the world won’t make TCU a modern offense - that requires purposeful adjustments to governing philosophies.
- Melissa: We went 5-7 with ten pros… better quarterback play, better scheme, catch the ball. The Frogs could go 6-6 or 10-2 and neither would surprise me, but I don’t know that Evans is the one guy that makes the difference. TCU is recruiting paper tigers at a high level, but that talent isn’t translating on game day. Whatever it takes to change that, I hope we found it.
Jamie: At some point it comes down to coaching and scheme, and last year TCU’s offense struggled with both. New blood in the form of Jerry Kill and Doug Meacham can hopefully fix those issues by putting TCU’s talent in the best position to find success.