By now, you know: Max Duggan won’t start the season for TCU and his sophomore campaign is in doubt overall.
It should go without saying that the first and main priority is the health and well-being of Max Duggan, whether he ever takes a snap for the Horned Frogs again or not. But, as fans — and with the start of the football season less than three weeks away — it’s possible to both care about Duggan and the depth chart.
As our friend Parker Fleminng pointed out on Twitter Sunday, TCU’s ability to recruit, sign, and develop quarterbacks has been suspect in the Big 12 era. Since Trevone Boykin, the Frogs have seen six different players start at the position, and if you remove Kenny Hill from the equation, seven different passers took snaps in 25 games, and with Duggan gone, not a single one of them remains on the active roster heading into 2020.
TCU Football has had big names like Shawn Robinson and Justin Rogers sign with the program only to leave; Robinson is competing for the starting job at Missouri and Rogers was recently granted a waiver at UNLV, where he could start this fall. Foster Sawyer was a highly-touted recruit that left and landed at SFA, Mike Collins transferred to TCU only to transfer to Rice, Alex Delton was a grad transfer who started 2019 as the starter, but had left the team before the calendar turned to December, and Matthew Baldwin landed in Fort Worth from Ohio State only to be forced into a medical retirement before ever taking a snap in purple.
Since Andy Dalton, as far as I can tell, just three players that suited up for the Horned Frogs as a quarterback ended up graduating from the university while still an active member of the football program (Boykin, Hill, and Grayson Muehlstein).
Now, Gary Patterson has 11 quarterbacks on his roster (counting Duggan), three of whom are on scholarship. The battle to be QB1 on September 12th likely comes down to Matthew Downing and Stephon Brown, both transfers. Downing is a 6’0”, 205 pound sophomore who matriculated from Georgia after playing in four games and completing 8-10 passes as a walk-on in 2018. Maintaining his redshirt, he did not see the field in his first year for the Frogs.
Downing has the attention of Patterson, who has commented about the leadership, work-ethic, and football IQ. “The biggest thing is he’s a competitor, just like his brother that played here,” Patterson said. “He’s smart, understands the offense and he’s a competitor.” He also mentioned that Downing has gotten all the first team reps, which has given him an opportunity to improve daily. As a high school senior, he threw for 2,659 yards with 24 touchdowns. He also rushed for 386 yards and three TDs, earning the Region 7, Class 6A Offensive Player of the Year honors. His high school coach had high praise for the redshirt sophomore, saying “Matthew’s one of the hardest working, most dedicated kids I’ve ever coached. He’s not the guy who’s going to blow you away with a measuring tape or stopwatch. He’s just a ballplayer and gets the job done no matter what the circumstance.” With loads of swagger and the ability to extend plays with his feet, the former unranked recruit is more than just a field general — he’s a guy that can absolutely win football games for the Frogs.
Brown might be the more intriguing prospect, and seems to be a favorite of co-OC Doug Meacham. At 6’5” and 230 pounds, the junior by way of Independence C.C. has been described as “Cam Newton” lite, and certainly looks a little like the New England Patriots starting QB. The #1 dual-threat passer in the juco ranks, Brown has been a prolific runner and thrower at the high school and junior college level — throwing for over 10,000 yards in high school and 1,400 yards with 16 scores and nearly 600 yards with 8 more scores on the ground last year at Indy. We haven’t seen much of Brown yet and until we get a chance to watch practice (more of an if than anything), it’s hard to make much of his adjustment to the Power Five level. But he’s big, he’s athletic, and he has a strong arm. He’s definitely a player to keep an eye on over the next few weeks, and it could be a fun battle between Downing and Brown for the starting job.
There are two interesting young prospects as well, players that might not be ready to see the field in September, but could be players should Duggan’s health issues linger into the fall. Eli Williams, a true freshman out of Oklahoma, played in just five games as a senior due to a knee injury, and is very raw — though a solid athlete that will find a way on the field at one position or another.
Wilson Long is a name to know as well; the three star recruit was a former Texas Tech commit under Kliff Kingsbury, and was headed to Princeton before the Ivy League season was cancelled. An Austin native, the 6’0”, 195 gunslinger is a confident kid who plays with an aggressive style and lit it up for Austin Regents. He’s a preferred walk-on at TCU.
Down the road, TCU has a few interesting recruits committed, including German Alexander Honig, a three star recruit who has spent his entire career overseas, and Trent Battle, another 3* player who has exploded onto the scene as he has dominated the competition in Alabama. Other programs have come hard after the 6’1” dual-threat, but he has held firm to the Frogs to this point. Both are members of the class of 2021.
More than likely, camp is going to be about the battle between Downing and Brown, while hoping for a full and swift recovery for Duggan. With opening day inching closer, the Frogs are desperate to identify a starter, a back-up, and — knowing their luck — a third string option.
TCU Football is set to kick-off the 2020 campaign against SMU on September 12th, at Amon G. Carter Stadium.