TCU coach Gary Patterson may have been cagey about who the 20th-ranked Horned Frogs’ starting quarterback will be Saturday against LSU, but he’s been forthright about his confidence in using either Casey Pachall or Trevone Boykin.
For the all the gamesmanship that has been on display for weeks between Patterson and LSU coach Les Miles, whose teams open the season at 8 p.m. at AT&T Stadium — including the status of key personnel such as TCU’s starting quarterback, LSU running back Jeremy Hill and TCU defensive end Devonte Fields — the point Patterson has consistently made is that Boykin has made tremendous strides since his redshirt freshman season when he replaced Pachall for the last nine games.
Boykin is a different quarterback on and off the field, Patterson said, including an improved throwing motion.
Both quarterbacks will represent the offense as team captains during Saturday’s coin flip, perhaps to not only keep No. 12 LSU guessing for a few more minutes, but to also honor both for the path they took to get to that point.
Pachall returned after three months of substance abuse treatment last fall and has embraced his admitted second chance. Boykin showed spunk in leading the Frogs to big road wins as a freshman and dedicated his off-season to improving his passing game.
Pachall’s new direction has been striking to his teammates, including tight end Stephen Bryant.
“I think he’s more confident. I think he’s just proud of himself,” Bryant said. “He went through some adversity but he’s back. He worked through some struggles and I think he looks great. I think he’s ready to go. More than anything, I think he wants to prove to himself that he can get back out there and be the player he used to be, if not even better.”
Patterson said his players know the game he’s playing with keeping the starter a secret. “They’re watching. They all like the game,” he said. “They know I don’t need to say anything. I think they have confidence in both guys.”
Patterson has a purpose for keeping it quiet and it’s not just to keep LSU guessing. Even if Pachall is the starter, as most expect, both quarterbacks have proven they can win. And he thinks Boykin can still be an important role for the Frogs’ offense.
Keeping LSU guessing is just a nice side benefit.
“For us, it’s about making sure we give ourselves as much of an advantage as far as preparation for LSU as possible,” he said. “I think anybody who had any common sense would probably do about the same thing. Because they’re both a lot different in different aspects. I think I can win with both of them in games.
“Trevone has really improved what he can do. He has a different skill set. Casey has really improved even from the spring where he was a little bit rusty. I feel like we have two guys here who can win ballgames.”
That wasn’t the case when the 2012 season began. In fact, that’s rarely been the case for Patterson, who doesn’t recall ever having two quarterbacks “with a good enough skill set to go win against the competition level you have to play in the Big 12 and a team that is as high-quality as LSU.”
The competition has forged a deep relationship between the two quarterbacks, one that Patterson said he didn’t think existed at this time a year ago.
“And now I think they’re very close,” Patterson said during his Tuesday media luncheon. “I think we’ve built chemistry because inside our walls we haven’t made a big deal of it. Before the season is over I think it’s going to take a certain kind of quarterback to beat certain teams and it’s going to take a certain kind of quarterback to beat others.
“If [our offensive line is] not protecting very well it’s going to take a guy who can get away from all that stuff. Either you’re going to beat them with your legs or you’re going to beat them with your arm.”
But Patterson said Monday that he won’t flip-flop the position, say, for example, using one to start the first quarter and the other to start the second.
“We won’t have a rotation but both of them will play,” said Patterson, who declined to get specific. “That’ll be kind of behind closed doors but both of them will play. Both of them have the capability to win Big 12 games and play at a very high level.”
It’s a nice luxury to have, Patterson admits, to have two experienced quarterbacks with differing styles.
“Both of them can run 95 percent of what we do,” he said. “The key will be how we do that other 5-10 percent of our game plan that really highlights what they’re capable of doing.”
So if Pachall starts, for example, it doesn’t necessarily mean Boykin remains on the bench. Patterson compared the backup role as an NBA Sixth Man Award winner.
“There’s a most valuable player award for the sixth man in the NBA,” he said. “In this case you can only put 11 on the field. We feel good about both quarterbacks. I see the [reserve] being that guy. I really see him as a starter.”