FORT WORTH, Texas — It felt like anything but a spring day at Amon G. Carter Stadium on Saturday, as fans braved 30-degree weather with the wind chill all the way down in the mid-20s. That didn’t keep the Horned Frogs from taking the field for the annual TCU spring scrimmage.
The frigid weather didn’t make for a high-scoring contest by any means, which wasn’t exactly a surprise. But fans still were treated to a glimpse of what the 2018 TCU football team may have to offer once Week 1 arrives in September.
Here are three observations from the action on the field that lasted a mere 44 minutes on Saturday.
Shawn Robinson has plenty of work to do
Shawn Robinson, the rising sophomore who many initially expected to take over the starting quarterback job from Kenny Hill this fall, showed some flashes of the talent that can make him a potential threat for any Big 12 team on Saturday.
Nonetheless, there is plenty of work for Robinson to accomplish if the man who led nearby DeSoto High School to a state title in 2016 intends to become the prodigy that some expect him to. Robinson had his struggles, which included an intercepted pass by safety Niko Small, multiple sacks taken, and a sloppy exchange in the backfield that resulted in a lost fumble.
As far as Robinson’s competition goes, Michael Collins — a Penn transfer who impressed early in spring practice — found Taye Barber for a touchdown pass Saturday but also threw a bad interception into double coverage. The bottom line — there’s progress to be made before coach Gary Patterson is able to name a starter.
The Horned Frogs’ receivers and backfield look fine
Senior wide receiver KaVontae Turpin hauled in an impressive diving catch down the sidelines on the opening drive of the scrimmage, and that was just one of several impressive plays made by the Horned Frogs’ wide receiver corps on Saturday.
From newcomers to veterans, there doesn’t appear to be any shortage of talent among the unit. Freshman Taye Barber, who was recruited by the Horned Frogs as a 3-star prospect and the No. 99 player from Texas in the 2018 recruiting class, was able to make a flashy touchdown catch off his knee. TCU fans can only hope that he’ll display that instinct and athleticism once the games that matter arrive.
Other noteworthy wide receivers set to return in 2018 including rising senior Jaelan Austin and rising sophomore Jalen Reagor. Omar Manning, who redshirted in 2017, should only add to that depth.
To compliment the receivers, the Horned Frogs’ backfield — even with the departure of Kyle Hicks — shouldn’t be any less effective with the return of sophomores Sewo Olonilua and a healthy Darius Anderson, the latter who led TCU in rushing yards last year. Olonilua was responsible for the first score of the day on a side-arm pass from Robinson.
The defense didn’t hold back
Certainly the offense had its slip-ups on Saturday, but the TCU defense looked as aggressive as can be. From forcing interceptions on three successive series to a forced safety, Patterson appears to have the unit in the shape that Horned Frogs fans have been accustomed to over the years — ready to pounce on any opponent.
Make no mistake about it, the Horned Frogs could have some growing pains — particularly at linebacker, as Patterson noted on Saturday — as they replace several key starters from 2017. The departures of cornerback Ranthony Texada and safety Nick Orr in the secondary are also sure to be felt, but Small’s interception of Robinson was nothing short of an impressive one. Small also had what was arguably the biggest hit of the game on Barber.
Defensive end Brandon Bowen also made himself seen with a batted down pass from Collins after he missed the entire 2017 season due to injury.
In a conference where offense — passing in particular — is the name of the game, having a steady defense can oh so often be an X-factor. The numbers that the unit posted in 2017, including six straight games without a second-half touchdown allowed, were critical in sending TCU to a 10-2 regular-season record and its first championship game berth.
Replicate that this fall, and the Horned Frogs could find them competing for a shot of a Big 12 title again.