FORT WORTH, Texas — Ben Banogu is a newer kid on the block at TCU. But the junior defensive end transfer has wasted little time in announcing his arrival as one of the Horned Frogs’ — and the Big 12’s — most fearsome pass rushers.
With 4 sacks, 25 total tackles and 2 forced fumbles at the halfway mark of the season, Banogu has played a critical role in re-igniting TCU’s defense.
His work has helped the Horned Frogs limit of all their opponents to below-average scoring totals through six games.
His red-hot start to 2017 even earned him praise from ESPN analyst Todd McShay last month, calling Banogu one of the most fun players to watch in the nation.
And Banogu’s extended path to putting on a TCU uniform has made his performance all that much more special.
“Everybody wants to be recruited by TCU coming out of high school,” Banogu said. “Coming to TCU was really a blessing and I’m glad they’ve given me the chance to come here.”
The waiting is the hardest part
Banogu didn’t follow the traditional route to becoming a Horned Frog. A broken femur forced him to miss the majority of his junior season at Prosper High School.
Banogu made a full recovery, but the lack of playing time as a high school junior left him behind most recruits.
“There are a lot of things I wished that could have happened coming out of high school, but it is what it is,” Banogu said. “You’ve just got to learn to grow from that and be the best player you could be.”
Banogu, however, wasn’t left out to dry. He received an offer to play football at Louisiana-Monroe, taking a redshirt upon his arrival in 2014. It was the second time in his football career that Banogu took a significant hiatus from playing.
But Banogu shined when his chance to play at the collegiate level finally arrived in 2015. He produced 44 tackles and 3 sacks as a redshirt freshman.
Despite his success, though, Banogu ultimately concluded that ULM wasn’t for him.
“The environment I was in at my old school didn’t really fit me,” Banogu said. “I’m glad that Louisana-Monroe did (offer me) even though I left there. The time that I was there helped me grow a lot as a player and person.”
In 2016, Banogu transferred to TCU — an hour drive from his hometown of Prosper. But NCAA transfer policies forced him to sit out his sophomore season — marking the third prolonged stretch which Banogu was forced to watch his team from the sidelines.
Watching the Horned Frogs stumble to a 6-7 finish last season wasn’t quite how Banogu envisioned his arrival to TCU. But sitting out helped him grow.
“You kind of lose the game when you have to sit out a year,” Banogu said. “But after talking with Coach P and all my coaches, they kind of helped me through that and (develop) my goal to better at every single game.”
Though Banogu couldn’t contribute on game day, he did what he could to be the best athlete possible. Additionally, he lost 25 pounds from the time he arrived. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Banogu says he’s in the best shape of his life.
“I’m a lot faster and stronger so that’s just a great credit to our training staff,” Banogu said. “They do a great job in the weight room. I can’t take all the credit for losing weight and stuff.”
It wasn’t just football activities that Banogu experienced a transformation in either. From being closer to home and having a better education, the junior hasn’t taken anything for granted since stepping on campus.
“The people here a great. The teachers here do everything in their power to help you and so do the coaches,” Banogu said. “In everything you do, TCU gives you the best chance at being great at what you want to do.”
Now eligible, Banogu has made his mark quickly in Gary Patterson’s defensive scheme.
Though the junior is no stranger to success, Banogu admitted Patterson’s methodical approach on defense has given him “headaches” — and a perspective on the game that he never dreamed of having.
“He makes you think about different things that you really wouldn’t think about in football that he sheds light on,” Banogu said. “If you’re watching film with him, he breaks it down for you and you’re like ‘OK, I didn’t see it that way’…..that’s helped our team and it’s helped me a lot.”
That’s just part of what has led to Banogu making some brilliant plays in 2017. His forced fumble against Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph after sacking him was a key play in the Horned Frogs’ triumph at Stillwater. (skip to 0:37):
Or this monstrous sack against West Virginia quarterback Will Grier two weeks later:
— TCU Football (@TCUFootball) October 7, 2017
And that’s just a snippet of what Banogu has done for TCU this season.
“The same thing jumps out for you (about Banogu) — He’s long and he can run,” Patterson said. “He’s really only played one season of college football.”
Despite his youth, Banogu has the mindset of any veteran TCU playmaker on defense — that is, championship aspirations and so much more by staying focused on the task at hand.
“We can be as good as we want to be,” Banogu said. “We’re at a good point now but we’re only halfway through the season. So if we can be consistent and keep on doing what we’re doing, we can find ourselves in games that matter.”
A pro-Frog in the making?
The NFL Draft is heading to nearby AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas next spring. With Banogu’s numbers, it wouldn’t be a stretch that he’ll take his shot at the NFL in 2018.
“I think (NFL) has always been the dream for every little kid….it just really comes with continuously working at it and then doing everything you can possibly do to get to that point,” Banogu said.
While the thought might be fun to entertain, however, Patterson doesn’t want his latest defensive star to jump the gun on getting to the next stage of his career.
“The maturity factor in him for playing at the next level is that he needs to get much experience as he can,” Patterson said. “That’s what I would tell him if he asked for it.”
Only time will tell if Banogu decides to return for his senior season or leave college a year early.
But with the advice from Patterson, TCU fans should expect to see a lot more big plays from Banogu this season.
And give them a chance to appreciate him while they can.