FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Shawn Robinson won his only start last season, making the sophomore TCU’s most experienced quarterback.
Coach Gary Patterson has always said he judges quarterbacks by what they do on Saturdays. Robinson, filling in that mid-November day at Texas Tech for injured Kenny Hill, got a key victory that helped the Horned Frogs get into the Big 12 championship game on way to another 11-win season.
While Patterson brought Robinson to Big 12 media days this summer, a rare move by the coach with a younger player with limited playing time, he still hasn’t declared Robinson as the starter over fellow sophomore Michael Collins, a 6-foot-5 transfer from Penn who redshirted last season.
“The quarterback competition is a lot closer than you thought it was in the spring,” Patterson said. “Mike actually did a lot of good things.”
Whoever is at quarterback for TCU will be surrounded by talented skill players. Speedy receivers Jalen Reagor and KaVontae Turpin have both shown their big-play ability, while Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua may be the best running back duo in the Big 12.
The big concern for the Horned Frogs is replacing four starting offensive linemen, and tight ends that provided additional protection.
TCU’s defense also took a big hit when 6-4, 329-pound athletic tackle Ross Blacklock suffered a season-ending Achilles injury during non-contact work in fall practice. Blacklock and Corey Bethley stood out as freshmen on the defensive line last season.
Linebacker Travin Howard, the only player in TCU history with three consecutive 100-tackle seasons, and Big 12 sacks leader Mat Boesen were among Frogs seniors who finished their careers in the Alamo Bowl victory over Stanford last December.
But big Ben Banogu is back. The 6-4, 249-pound defensive end, who had 16 1/2 tackles for loss and 8 1/2 sacks in his TCU debut after transferring from Louisiana-Monroe, bypassed early entry into the NFL draft despite the potential to be a high pick. He instead returned to TCU to finish his degree and get better on the field.
“Being in the NFL, getting drafted, all of that will come,” Banogu said. “My biggest thing is I want to learn as much I can, expand on my game so whenever I get there, I’m hitting everything in stride.”
TCU opens the season Sept. 1 at home against SWAC team Southern.
Ty Summers is an impact player whether he is lining up as a linebacker or defensive end. As a sophomore linebacker two seasons ago, his 121 tackles ranked second in the Big 12 behind only Howard. Splitting between two positions last year, Summers’ 64 tackles included eight for loss, three more than 2016.
“Linebacker-slash-defensive end, let’s keep it at that,” he said about his role as a senior. “Versatility is a big thing, and I’m the kind of guy that I’m going to do what the team needs to be successful.”
BEFORE THE BIG 12 SCHEDULE
The marquee non-conference matchup is Sept. 15 against Ohio State, the only team with more 11-win seasons than TCU over the past 15 seasons. That game will be played in the home stadium of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, about 20 miles from the TCU campus. That is also the home of the Big 12 championship game, and where Ohio State won the national championship four seasons ago. TCU has won at least 11 games 10 times in the past 15 seasons — the Buckeyes have 11. That is a week before the Frogs open their round-robin Big 12 schedule at Texas. Iowa State, which beat TCU last season, then is in Fort Worth on Sept. 29.
FIRST FOR GP
Robinson, who appeared in six games, was the first true freshman quarterback to start a game under Patterson, who is in his 18th season as head coach. On a windy day in Lubbock, Robinson ran 10 times for 84 yards and completed 6-of-17 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown in a 27-3 win.
Hill, who initially pursued a pro career, is back at TCU as a student coach while working to finish his degree. After two years as the Frogs starter, he will now help the former teammates competing to replace him.
“I think Kenny will be big,” Patterson said. “It’s good to get an older person that was part of the group.”