Trevone Boykin won’t play in Friday’s spring game for TCU, as planned while he recovers from wrist surgery.
But all of the potential backups will, and the Horned Frogs’ offensive staff will be watching with a keen eye, trying to pick up any differences to help sort out the competition between Bram Kohlhausen, Foster Sawyer and Grayson Muehlstein.
Somebody has to be the No. 2 quarterback, and the Horned Frogs want to have confidence in him. You know, just in case.
“One of the things we knew, we had to find a backup quarterback,” coach Gary Patterson said of the 15 spring practices, which wrap up with the 7 p.m. practice at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Admission is free, and the team will show off its new uniforms afterward. “I think we came a long way, as far as running the offense. I would say all of them can do that, and they can do it at a very fast level.”
But that’s as far as Patterson will go with his confidence level.
“I wouldn’t say we feel like we have a backup that we feel like we can win a Big 12 title with at this point,” he said this week, assessing the spring. “But I think we’re a lot farther along than what we were when we started 15 practices ago.”
Boykin didn’t miss a game last season, setting eight school records. But he played with a left wrist injury, and the Horned Frogs were confident in backup Matt Joeckel, a senior transfer from Texas A&M. But when Joeckel suffered a knee injury in October and was lost for the season, the backup quarterback picture became more pressing.
Zach Allen finished the season as the primary backup, but he’s moved to receiver for this season, leaving the competition with Kohlhausen, who began his career at Houston and appeared in four games last year, as the most seasoned player.
Sawyer and Muehlstein are redshirt freshmen.
“Just pure throwing it, I’d probably say Bram, when he’s having his good days, is probably a little bit ahead of the other two,” Patterson said. “But if you just look at it over the 14 practices, I’d say they’ve all been even.”
Patterson said all three quarterbacks are good runners, with Muehlstein being the fastest and Sawyer “better than you think.”
Each has gotten work with the first, second and third offenses, particular in four practices without Boykin.
“The thing I liked best about it, because Trevone was out, was they all handled the offense, the tempo and everything,” Patterson said. “I would say all of them have done a decent job, for sure, just running the offense, executing, where to put the ball and running the ball.”
The Horned Frogs went through the spring with defensive end Mike Tuaua sitting out and another end, James McFarland, who missed the last week so he could get a knee injury “cleaned up.”
Without them, it was hard for Patterson to get a true read on the defensive line, but he thinks the defense as a whole – despite having to find two new linebackers, two safeties and a corner – will eventually be fine.
“I think we’ll have to win early on offense,” he said. “I think this defense has the potential, the longer the season goes, the better we’re going to keep getting. I think we’ve got an opportunity to grow on defense to be a really good defense by the end of the year, because you’ve got all your front guys back.”
Patterson said the defense, which he believes is faster than a year ago, started “really making some big strides” in the past two weeks.
“I’m not saying that we’re not going to be very good at the start of the season,” Patterson said. “I’m just saying that you had some proven entities last year, and even at linebacker, I knew that we could play better than what we were being given credit for. We have some very athletic guys. There’s just a lot of teaching that goes into what we’re trying to get accomplished.”
Patterson said receiver Josh Doctson, who had surgery for a broken bone in his hand suffered in the second week of spring practices, has already started catching passes again.
Deante’ Gray, out since suffering what Patterson called a “non-contact” injury in the first week, is on track for a return in August and possibly June.
“We’ll get those two back, plus five new wide receivers coming in,” Patterson said. “The depth is something we needed.”
Patterson said the offensive line appears to be the best for TCU since the Rose Bowl-winning squad of five years ago, even with left tackle Hala Vaitai unable to practice while he recovers from a shoulder injury. He is one of four starters returning, although he is moving from right tackle.
One of the big reasons for Patterson’s optimism is center Joey Hunt.
“Really smart,” Patterson said. “He’s got unbelievably quick and strong hands. It’s really hard to fool him.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407
TCU spring game
7 p.m. Friday, Amon G. Carter Stadium