Josh Doctson is getting close to catching the most touchdown passes in TCU history. He needs seven more.
He already has the record for most in a TCU season; he did that last year with 11 and also set the school record for receiving yards in a season.
If only there was a record for downfield blocks made by a receiver. He might chase that harder.
“I was blessed to have the ability to catch,” he said. “But it’s playing without the ball — physicality, being more physical without the ball, not necessarily with the ball. I need to play with more effort.”
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That sounds like harsh self-criticism. After all, Doctson is the Horned Frogs’ top NFL draft prospect, one of the Big 12’s most dynamic players and quarterback Trevone Boykin’s most-trusted target. Plus, he debuted last week at Minnesota with a team-high eight catches, a touchdown and an onside kick recovery.
So, “Need to play with more effort?” Really?
“Personally, I feel like I didn’t have a good game,” Doctson told reporters Tuesday. “I feel like me not being able to practice for a while affected it. I definitely watched the film and saw myself do things uncharacteristic, that I didn’t do a year ago.”
TCU coach Gary Patterson perhaps saw the same thing. He was not surprised Doctson criticized his own performance.
“Josh is his worst critic,” Patterson said. “That’s why he’s sitting where he is right now, from going to Wyoming to back here to walking on, to earning a scholarship, to being the kind of player he was last year. Josh Doctson is self-made, very, very critical, very serious. You’ve got to be careful about being too serious on Josh, because he’s already hard enough on himself.”
Yes, Doctson is a former walk-on. But he used to be a scholarship player — at Wyoming, where he signed out of high school at Mansfield Legacy in 2011.
He had a good freshman season with the Cowboys, catching five touchdown passes (including one against TCU — he’s the only player ever to score for and against TCU, by the way).
But Wyoming wasn’t a fit, and Doctson wound up securing a chance to walk on at TCU, closer to home, where his mother also worked on campus.
He sat out his transfer year, then in 2013 tied for the team lead in catches. The total was only 36. But in 2014, when the Air Raid offense came to town, it was a match straight out of the playbook.
Josh Doctson last season became the only player since 1996 with two touchdown catches of 75-plus yards in the first quarter of a game. He caught touchdown passes of 77 and 84 yards against Oklahoma State.
Doctson’s 65 catches were one shy of the team record for a season. His 1,018 yards broke Reggie Harrell’s record of 1,012 in 2003. And his 11 touchdown catches were one more than Jeremy Kerley in 2010 and Mike Renfro in 1977.
“I think just the opportunity to have more catches,” co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham said, asked what made the difference for Doctson. “Just the style of offense, maybe. Because we obviously throw it a little bit more than they had in the past. And I’ve been in some rooms where it was kind of a run-first offense — those wide receivers, they’re not fun to be around when you’re only catching 20 balls a year.”
Doctson also brought leaping ability and ball skills that made him a fit, co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie said.
“He’s always had great body control and ball skills,” Cumbie said. “He did it early on last fall — made plays, gained confidence. Physically, he’s gotten bigger, gotten stronger. I think he’s a kid that this offense is going to target a lot. It’s an obvious growth in maturity and in playmaking ability.”
Doctson knows where he stands on the receiving charts at TCU. He’s been made aware.
“I mean, yeah. I see it,” he said. “But it’s just, I don’t know, it’s a distraction. So I just let it be.”
4 Career 100-yard receiving games for Josh Doctson: three at TCU, one at Wyoming.
Six months ago, the record chase was certainly the last thing he was thinking about. He broke his hand in March and had to sit out part of spring training.
But with surgery and the hand healed, Doctson went into fall practices confident of his health. Then another injury or injuries — he and Patterson are not saying what — limited his work.
So it was hard to predict what he could deliver last week at Minnesota.
“Josh can tell you — you only practice one week out of four, you’re not going to play like you did a year ago,” Patterson said. “He has to get in better shape, keep getting in better shape, get back to the level he played last year. Josh has been awesome, as far as what kind of person he is, but the bottom line to it is, you just can’t do things if you don’t work at it. And he knows that.”
Doctson doesn’t have to look back very far to remember.
“I’m just playing like a walk-on,” he said. “We should all play like a walk-on and not even care what we’re ranked. Just playing football, together as a family, we’re going to do well each game.”
That’s what Patterson is accustomed to hearing from Doctson.
“Like anybody else, he wants to be drafted. But I don’t think that’s more important than winning,” Patterson said. “That’s the special thing about Josh Doctson. There’s a reason we won 12 games last year and only lost one. Because when you have more Josh Doctsons on your team, then that’s the way it works.”
Where he stands
Josh Doctson can be found near the top of the career receiving charts at TCU since 1998. The rundown:
1. Josh Boyce,
2. Jimmy Young,
3. Cory Rodgers,
4. Reggie Harrell,
5. LaTarence Dunbar,
6. Josh Doctson,
1. Josh Boyce
2. Cory Rodgers
3. Josh Doctson
4. Jimmy Young
4. LaTarence Dunbar
1. Josh Boyce
2. Cory Rodgers
3. Jimmy Young
4. Jeremy Kerley
5. LaTarence Dunbar
5. Josh Doctson
Catches per game
1. Josh Doctson
2. Cory Rodgers
3. Josh Boyce
4. Adrian Madise
5. Quentily Harmon