TCU’s defense in 2018 made a major improvement with the announcement that defensive end Ben Banogu will return for his senior year.
Banogu announced this decision on his Instagram account.
Banogu had been mulling the decision to turn pro after a junior year when he had 8.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for losses.
“I think it’s great,” former TCU all-American and Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes told me in a phone interview on Thursday, a few hours after Banogu made the decision. “That’s a huge decision. Once you decide, there is no coming back.”
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Even though Banogu was projected as a potential first-round pick, just using former TCU defensive players as a barometer, Banogu made the right call to come back for one more season.
Unless Banogu was a top 10 lock, which he was not, staying is the right decision.
The only TCU defensive player who didn’t come out early and should have was defensive end Tommy Blake.
With all due respect to Jason Verrett, Blake is arguably the best defensive player to play under coach Gary Patterson at TCU. In 2006, Blake was one of the best defensive players in the nation. Patterson leaned on Blake to return for senior year, despite the advice from NFL scouts who said Blake would be a first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Had Blake made himself available for the 2007 NFL Draft and been selected 20th overall, he likely would have received a signing bonus of about $8 million — that’s amount received by that year’s 20th pick, Aaron Ross of Texas.
At the time, the NFL did not have a rookie wage scale.
Blake returned for his senior season where he missed games, played sparingly, and struggled with off-the-field issues. He went undrafted in 2008 and never played in the NFL.
Despite pleas from staffers to return, defensive end Stansly Maponga left TCU after his junior year in 2012. He was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, but was waived after training camp and signed to their practice squad.
Maponga has played 26 NFL games, all but two with the Falcons. He has bounced around the practice squads of the Falcons, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos.
He is a case of a player who should have returned for his senior year.
Hughes was once in a similar position as Banogu. As a junior in 2008, Hughes had 15 sacks and was a first-team all-American. He elected to return for his final year, and was again a first-team all-American for a TCU team that reached the BCS for the first time in its history.
Hughes was selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts, but ... he was not good in Indy. After three years with the Colts, he was traded to the Buffalo Bills where he found a home. In March of 2015, he signed a five-year extension with the Bills for $45 million, which included a “split” signing bonus that totaled $13 million.
Hughes is an expert of how the NFL can go, good or bad. If he says Banogu made the right call, he made the right call.
“Coming back gives you a great idea of where you need to work, and your problem areas,” Hughes said. “It gives you the chance to match up what you need to do, and work on the drills they have at the combine. It’s good for your body, and you can start prepping for that job. It’s one of the biggest interviews you will ever have in your life.
“To rush in and say, ‘I want to leave now,’ it’s better to just take your time. It’s better to go through a senior year, to come back and put together a great body of work. ... The 40-yard dash. The bench press. You can work on that while you’re in school. I think he will be able to work on every area that someone says may be a flaw and improve it. We’re athletes — we all have flaws.”
Mac Engel: @macengelprof