The TCU Horned Frogs won five of their last six games in 2020 and had a chance to win a sixth out of seven before their Texas Bowl matchup with Arkansas was canceled. Head coach Gary Patterson returns, of course, and the Horned Frogs are out to build on last year’s finish and get back in contention in the Big 12 Conference this fall. As we take a closer look at the offense, here are three things that will define the unit during the 2021 season.
1. QB, QB, QB
When TCU is on, it has an incredibly productive quarterback (see Trevone Boykin, Kenny Hill). When it doesn’t, well, it has problems. The good news is that last year’s starter, Max Duggan, is back. But is he the right quarterback to lead this offense in 2021? He completed 60 percent of his passes, averaged 179.5 yards passing, and threw 10 touchdowns against 4 interceptions. He also rushed for another 526 yards and 10 touchdowns. If he can build on that, then he can grow into the upper tier of productivity in this conference and that’s good news for TCU.
Will the rest of the roster push him? Probably not. Matthew Downing, last year’s backup, is back, but he barely played last year. The rest of the roster is populated with freshmen, but one name looms large — Chandler Morris. The Oklahoma transfer is the son of former Arkansas head coach Chad Morris. For now, Morris is just a ‘name.’ If the Horned Frogs are going to take the next step this year, it will be with Duggan running the show.
2. THE RISE OF EZE
Like the rest of the Big 12, TCU took in several transfers that can play right away. No one on offense looms larger than Obinna Eze, who is set to take over at left tackle after TJ Storment left for Texas Tech. Eze is massive, even for a left tackle, at 6-foot-8, 315 pounds. At Memphis, he was dominant, helping the Tigers to nearly 7,000 yards in total offense in 2019 as the Tigers reached the Cotton Bowl. He’s a part of the reason running back Kenneth Gainwell is in the NFL and quarterback Brady White was one of the game’s most productive passers in college football. Eze play a prized position when it comes to the pros — left tackle. If he can show that he can be as dominant at TCU as he was at Memphis, then a first-round selection isn’t out of the question. And if Eze is that dominant, the play of Duggan is likely to improve.
3. DOES THIS OFFENSE NEED A LEAD BACK?
Duggan was the Horned Frogs’ leading rusher last year. Is that a sustainable solution for this offense? Probably not. But the Horned Frogs have plenty of options returning, too. Three backs that rushed for at least 300 yards last season are back — Darwin Barlow (428 yards), Zach Evans (415 yards), and Kendre Miller (388 yards). Barlow and Evans had four touchdown runs each. In recent years, the Horned Frogs have opted to use a running-back-by-committee, in some cases due to injury. But the Horned Frogs had the best rushing offense in the Big 12 last year. Is this the year that one back comes to the fore and takes control of the job? Maybe it’s not necessary. But Evans is the back, based on recruiting rating, that SHOULD jump to the top. But don’t rule out Barlow, who led the three of them in yards last season.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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