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2020 TCU Football Preview: Quarterbacks

Max Duggan returns as the presumptive starter, but who will compete for backup reps in light of redshirt transfer Matthew Baldwin’s medical retirement?

West Virginia v TCU Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The TCU quarterback room took a tough blow Thursday afternoon, when Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram revealed Ohio State transfer Matthew Baldwin will be withdrawing from the program and ending his career for medical reasons.

Baldwin transferred to the Horned Frogs in 2019 and was initially denied immediate eligibility before TCU filed an appeal with the NCAA and won. The former Lake Travis standout tore his ACL as a high school senior and has undergone three surgeries on the injured knee throughout his career. Baldwin spent one season as a Buckeye, but unfortunately, his career with the Horned Frogs ended before it could take off.

The loss depletes TCU’s quarterback depth behind sophomore Max Duggan, who returns this fall as the team’s presumptive starter. While his play was somewhat inconsistent, Duggan showcased plenty of raw talent as a freshman, breaking out with a big-time performance against Texas where he totaled 345 yards and three touchdowns to earn Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors.

Duggan finished the 2019 campaign with 2,077 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, both TCU records for a true freshman, while adding 555 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground. The second true freshman to ever start at quarterback under head coach Gary Patterson, Duggan also shined against Texas Tech, compiling 398 yards and three touchdowns as the Horned Frogs held on for a 33-31 victory.

The former four-star recruit from Council Bluffs, Iowa battled with Kansas State transfer Alex Delton for starting reps until becoming the No. 1 quarterback for the team’s final 10 games. Duggan showed early on why he’s the future for the Horned Frogs, throwing his first 143 passes without an interception, the second-longest streak for a TCU quarterback. Against Kansas State, Duggan rushed for 115 yards, becoming the first Horned Frog signal caller to top the 100-yard rushing mark since Trevone Boykin in 2015.

Duggan’s freshman year was largely a tale of two seasons. Over TCU’s first seven games, Duggan tossed 11 touchdown passes and logged only one interception. His struggles kicked in during the final five games, however, as he threw nine interceptions over that span including three against both Baylor and Oklahoma State. Duggan’s completion percentage also fluctuated during the season, ranging anywhere from 70.4 against the Longhorns to a measly 33.3 percent against the Oklahoma Sooners and 38.9 percent against Purdue.

With a full season under his belt, Duggan will be looking to raise those percentages as a sophomore while limiting the turnovers that hurt his production late in the season. Should Duggan go down for whatever reason (knock on keyboard), TCU will have a significant question to answer, and that’s who will take the reigns under center? Baldwin’s departure means the Horned Frogs mainly have three choices in Georgia transfer Matthew Downing, JUCO recruit Stephon Brown and three-star freshman Eli Williams.

Brown originally enrolled at Appalachian State in 2018 before being dismissed from the program and transferring to Independence Community College, where he threw for 16 touchdowns and six interceptions while running for eight touchdowns. The 6-foot-5 signal caller arrives as the No. 1 rated JUCO dual-threat quarterback in the 2020 recruiting class, and with two years of experience, his number could be called for the second-team reps.

Downing only threw a handful of passes during his time at Georgia, going 7-for-9 and totaling two carries for 11 yards. The redshirt sophomore, whose older brother Michael once lined up at safety for the Horned Frogs, didn’t see any action in 2019. Williams suffered an injury midway through his senior season in high school, but arrives as the No. 24 dual-threat recruit in the country. In five games, Williams threw for 459 yards and four touchdowns while blazing defenses on the ground with 509 rushing yards and eight scores.