FORT WORTH, Texas - Somewhere amid the middle aged men/women is a college kid absolutely loving the attention. Enjoy it now Trevone Boykin ... these things don't happen to everybody, but in this situation it is fun to watch a guy so deserving have his chance at college football's brighest light.
Boykin may not win the Heisman Trophy - most "experts" have Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott as the leaders - but the junior from Mesquite has already won. The face of the 2014 TCU team is Trevone Boykin, who now has his own unofficial T-shirt line. The fact that he doesn't see a cut of this is a different matter.
This is not the first time in the modern era TCU has had a Heisman contender, but it is nothing like the last time the school had a player who could win the award. (For this article, I am deliberately leaving out 2010 quarterback Andy Dalton, who was never seriously considered as a legit candidate).
TCU alum's Amy and B.J. Warren sport the popular TCU/Trevone Boykin shirt
In 2000, TCU spent about $100,000 to promote senior running back LaDainian Tomlinson in his pursuit of the Heisman. There were billboards, notebooks, and a slogan of "LT For Heisman".
In 2014, TCU is not spending any money to promote Trevone Boykin.
Then head coach Dennis Franchione's thinking, as well as the school's, was that if LT made it to New York as a finalist it was a win. LT made it to New York, and finished fourth. The winner was Florida State QB Chris Weinke ... I can't believe I typed that.
LT did interviews all over the map, as did head coach Dennis Franchione. If there was a microphone, one or both was talking to it.
In 2000, the school was in the Western Athletic Conference, and using every available tool to promote the university, the team, and there was no more visible spokesperson than LT. At the time TCU needed every piece of available positive exposure.
Looking back, it all worked as the team and school continued to grow.
In 2014, TCU is established and while the head coach is still very much a salesman, he is trying doggedly to control how much time Trevone Boykin fields questions about his own greatness. GP should feel good that Boykin has been properly neutered coached to say little.
"I'm aware of it. I see the shirts. I see things around and people talk to me all the time about it," Boykin said after TCU's 41-20 win against Kansas State on Saturday in Fort Worth. "It's an inividual award and I'm blessed and honroed to be mentioned with those guys. The only thing I want is for the best for the team."
Is it a distraction?
LaDainian Tomlinson finished 4th in the 2000 Heisman voting
"It's not a distraction at all. We joke about it," he said. "Who would have thought? Nobody was thinking last year I'd be up for the Heisman."
He is right. Nobody ever thought Trevone Boykin would be a Heisman candidate. But his head coach does not agree these things are not a distraction.
Most of this promotion comes down to the coaches, and the time. Fran' and GP are different animals, and TCU is in a much different place than 14 years ago. Today, TCU is in the club. Back then, everybody at TCU was banging on the door to be recognized.
It's 2014, and head coaches are paranoid of their own shadows fearing the shadow may be taking notes, stealing plays or signals that ultimately get them fired. Accordingly, coaches at big time programs treat their teams like the CIA, and information is released on a need to know basis.
TCU is not spending a dime on any Trevone Boykin For Heisman promotion, mostly because it is doubtful the head coach would sign off on it, and the teams in the Power Five already receive enough publicity.
Ultimately, Trevone Boykin may finish a few votes shy of actually winning the award but the fact that TCU didn't have to spend any money for him to be a part of the debate is another indicator of just how far this program has come.
FORT WORTH, Texas - Watching TCU toy with No. 7 Kansas State should leave no doubt as to the national legitmacy of the Horned Frogs. Watching Baylor embarrass Oklahoma in Norman a few hours earlier on Saturday only does the same for the Bears.
As to which team is better - TCU or Baylor - head to head should always be the No. 1 factor. Baylor beat TCU earlier this season, and that should be it.
The fact that TCU remains ranked higher than Baylor despite the Frogs' three-point loss in Waco on Oct. 11 is a total indictment on the short-sighted scheduling by coach Art Briles and athletic director Ian McCaw.
(Yes - I have been beating this dead Bear for months and will continue to do so until this issue is no longer relevant.)
The Baptists are gambling it all that the college football playoff selection committee will ultimately regard the head-to-head with TCU as the decisive element in this debate. What is working against Baylor is that the game was in early October, it was close, and a non-conference schedule that impressed no one.
The only reason Baylor is not ranked higher than TCU right now in any poll is can summed up with a non-conference schedule consisting of SMU (0-8), FBS Northwestern State (5-5) and Buffalo (3-6).
It's not as if TCU's non-conference slate is a death row, but TCU head coach Gary Patterson has mastered the illusion of the fake hard game. He has learned to find the right team from the power conference to create the appearance of slaying a monster. In the past, he found a Virginia, a Clemson, or an Oregon State to do the trick.
In this case, the Frogs' slaying of a Gopher has done the trick and created a debate: Is TCU or Baylor more worthy of a final four spot. Know this - no conference outside of the SEC is going to land two teams in the final four.
TCU's 30-7 win against Minnesota is the reason the Frogs' are ahead in the polls, but on closer inspection the Gophers are no Buckeyes. Minnesota is 7-2 and fattened itself on a slew of bad teams - Eastern Illinois, Middle Tennessee, San Jose State, and a Big 10 schedule that remains soft. Minnesota has not defeated a Top 25 team.
But the Gophers have won far more than they have lost, thus providing the difference for TCU's case. Of note - UM plays No. 14 Ohio State, No. 13 Nebraska and No. 25 Wisconsin to close the season. UM's 7-2 could be 7-5.
Had Baylor played anybody from a legit Power 5, the Bears would be ahead of TCU in every poll. Had Baylor played anybody, it would mitigate the Bears' 14-point loss at West Virginia on Oct. 18.
This brings to mind when I asked McCaw back in July during Big 12 media days about their schedule.
"When we scheduled the three non-conference opponents this year we were in the midst of a 15-year bowl drought; the philosophy was, let's get to six wins and bowl eligibility," McCaw said. "Our goal is to win three non-conference games, and set us up to have a great year in the Big 12 and hopefully win a Big 12 championship."
He added: "I want us to play a name opponent, but I want us to play a name opponent in January and not September."
With remaining games against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State, there is a good chance Baylor will do just that, jump TCU and reach college football's new final four.
But Baylor's decision to schedule garbage in the non-conference has made this a debate when there should be none, and left the Bears vulnerable when they should be secure.
FORT WORTH, Texas – Fox football analyst Charles Davis was not exactly sold on Trevone Boykin before he came to Fort Worth for his first time calling a TCU game this season. The last time Davis saw Boykin was last season in Norman, Oklahoma in a TCU loss against the Sooners.
“On the record? I think he’s a future NFL quarterback. Game is made for his talents,” Davis wrote in a text message to me. “The rest of the season, and all of next, will maximize and expand his game. My mistake? Not giving enough respect to his having to move between positions so often. That’s on me.”
Put me in the skeptical crowd with Boykin as an NFL passer, but completely sold as one of those special guys who on the college level can be immortal. No player in college football has made the strides from last season to this season as Boykin.
If – and this is a rather large if – TCU wins out, wins the Big 12 and reaches the new college football playoff racket, Boykin should be invited to New York City for the Heisman Trophy award presentation. He has the stats. He has the story.
He has passed for 2,306 with 21 touchdowns and three interceptions. He has also run for 374 yards with three touchdowns.
Even his head coach, who right now is actively trying to control the amount of attention his junior QB receives, acknowledges it’s a great story.
* Boykin was offered over a TCU scholarship over Johnny Manziel.
* As a redshirt freshman, Boykin was taking reps as a running back the week starting quarterback Casey Pachall was busted for a DUI. Boykin’s first start at QB was that week, TCU’s first ever home Big 12 game.
* His first college pass attempt was intercepted by Iowa State.
“It’s hard to move back on a Thursday,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “We told him, ‘If they had a middle-third safety, we told him to check it down to the hitch.’ His first throw of the game was right down the middle of the field to the free safety. He didn’t even have to move. He’s come a long way.”
* Last season, Pachall returned, and Boykin moved to wide receiver.
In TCU’s 30-27 loss last season against West Virginia, Boykin caught a team-high 11 passes for 100 yards. He finished the season with 26 catches for 204 yards.
* In the spring, TCU brought in Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel, ostensibly to start. They also hired new offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham.
* Boykin beat out Joeckel, and so far this season has turned into a college football QB terror. He has played a lot, knows what he is doing, can run, competes, and now has become an accurate passer.
He has everything, if TCU keeps winning, to earn an invite to NYC for the Heisman trophy show.
"For Trevone Boykin to move into the top three (of the Heisman trophy voting) we are going to have win a lot in the next five," Patterson said. "That means he has some great stats and he will have will be considered. It will be hard because he had such a late start. I have tried to downplay it because the more I downplay it the more people want to talk about it."
If TCU defeats West Virginia this weekend in Morgantown and Kansas State the following weekend in Fort Worth, everybody will be talking about Trevone Boykin.
FORT WORTH, Texas - Of the many adjustments TCU has had to make since entering the Big 12 is changing the definition of a "good defense". Before TCU entered the Big 12, Gary Patterson expressed energy and enthusiasm at the challenge of stopping Big 12 offenses. Now he knows - it's a beating.
Before 2012, TCU had given up 30 or more points in 11 of its previous 91 games. Since the start of the 2012 season, TCU has allowed 30 or more points 11 times in 30 games.
Some of this is scoring increase is as a result of playing against Big 12 opponents, and the dramatically improved level of the quarterbacks, receivers and running backs.
"Everybody has a good skill set," TCU head coach Gary Patterson said this week.
Some of this is the emphasis on scoring that throughout college football. In 2006, there was one team that averaged more than 40 points per game - Hawaii, 46.9. In 2014, nine teams average more than 40 points per game.
And some of this as the youth that plays football today practices it 365 days a year, and are executing vertical offenses successfully earlier than every before.
The following are TCU's scoring defenses from this season to 2004, and nationally ranking. 2014: 23.0 ppg. (50th) 2013: 25.3 ppg. (54th) 2012: 22.62 ppg. (30th) 2011: 21.46 ppg. (28th) 2010: 12 ppg. (1st) 2009: 12.77 ppg. (6th) 2008: 11.31 ppg. (2nd) 2007: 18.7 ppg. (10th) 2006: 12.3 ppg. (3rd) 2005: 18.6 (15th) 2004: 33.2 ppg. (103rd)
I asked Patterson this week if he is inclined to change anything schematically after his team had given up 33 and 61 points in the previous two weeks.
"We do a lot of things to help ourselves. On two of the touchdowns (at Baylor), we were in a two-deep and the guy ran by," Patterson said. "It's more about how we are playing than what we play. We have to get better at what we do."
In 2012, TCU allowed an average of 22.6 points per game. In 2013, TCU allowed an average of 25.2 points per game.
Those figures, which eight years ago would have given GP a heart attack, finished second and fifth, respectively, in the Big 12.
TCU is not playing the type of defense Patterson likes, but some of this is we have to change how we define a good defense.
FORT WORTH, Texas - The player thought to be a potential liability for TCU this season has developed into a reason they could win the Big 12. Trevone Boykin's best position is not wide receiver, and Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel was not going to be handed the starting job.
The player whom TCU ostensibly picked over Johnny Manziel is playing like "one of those" college quarterbacks that may not have a role in the NFL, but thrives at this level.
Boykin should be considered one of the biggest reasons why No. 9 TCU can defeat No. 5 Baylor on Saturday at Rich Old Guy Stadium in Waco. For TCU to win, Boykin will have to do more than his counterpart, Heisman hopeful Bryce Petty.
His head coach trusts him to make the money throws, and to know what to do and when to do it. They are no longer pulling the leash on Boykin in fear.
"I'm the one that has always believed in Trevone," TCU head coach Gary Patterson said during his weekly press conference. "He's very athletic."
Two years ago, when Boykin was forced into the Big 12 schedule as a redshirt freshman, his head coach said: "When it's not there, you're not ... Dan Marino. You are a redshirt freshman quarterback." And, "Don't do anything fantastic; don't be bad. Manage the game. What you want is a junior Trevone Boykin not a freshman Trevone Boykin."
Boykin is a junior, and that maturation has occured. Patterson trusts his QB with the passes that make him nervous - over the middle.
With TCU adding veer/option plays to complement a new spread offense, Boykin looks like a poor man's Robert Griffin III - a guy who can throw it, run it, and can drive opposing defensive coordinator's nuts.
He leads TCU in rushing with 260 yards and a 5.1 yards per carry average. He is completing 61.5 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and is averaging 294 passing yards per game.
Do not underestimate the value of Boykin having played in 28 games, and being forced into the quarterback role two seasons ago with no college experience.
When TCU travels to Waco for Saturday's game, they will not be seeing the same team they defeated on their last visit in 2012. This may be Baylor's best team of this era, and better than last season.
Boykin is not the same player he was two years ago, when he was making his second career start, in a 49-21 win over Baylor in Waco.
He has played a lot, matured, and developed into something not many expected.
Trevone Boykin is a better college quarterback than wide receiver, and a reason why TCU can upset Baylor.
TCU's contract with SMU to play football runs through 2017, and while there is no obvious reason not to extend this long rivalry, there is a reason not to hurry up and sign a new deal.
I asked TCU director of athletics Chris Del Conte why he will not say that TCU wants to continue the Iron Skillet series after 2017?
"I have no issue we shouldn't continue it," he said. "The question is we don't know what the landscape will hold. I don't look at that we should not play them."
TCU plays SMU on Saturday in Dallas in a series that has become increasingly lopsided, and irrelevant. This is not like Texas not playing Texas A&M. TCU/SMU matters to a relatively small number of people in the FW/d.
TCU's real rivarly these days is with Baylor, or Texas Tech. Playing SMU is a nice, little game but does not generate much of anything outside of a small number of homes.
As an increasing number of old rivalries die, TCU should be sure that playing SMU will not hurt them down the road. TCU has far more to lose just by playing SMU.
"Guys my age - we thought this was a good rivalry," former TCU wide receiver Bart Johnson told me. He was a senior on TCU's Rose Bowl team, and is currently in his third year at SMU law school. "I would think that for the students enrolled now or playing, I'm not sure they think that. I don't know if it carries the same weight as it did four or five years ago when we were in the Mountain West."
With TCU a member of the Power Five - Big 12, Pac 12, Big 10, ACC, SEC - and the new addition of a playoff "final four", there is considerable speculation how a non-conference schedule will impact teams at the end of a season.
If in the next two or three years the effect of playing teams such as SMU has minimal impact on whether a Power Five team makes it to this Final Four, games like this will continue. If it's a negative effect, series such as these are in jeopardy.
"Without question there are conversations on both sides," Del Conte said. "It makes a lot of sense financially to continue it. It's close. It's historical. Would you be able to pick up another game against a non-equity school member? To me, this opponent fits.
"But there are so many things that are moving parts."
TCU/SMU will likely continue, but the Horned Frogs are not pushing this, just in case.
It was been widely assumed that former TCU defensive end Devonte Fields will make himself eligible for the NFL draft in the spring, but as of today that is not the plan.
Fields is currently enrolled and playing at Trinity Valley Community College, and his head coach said Fields' plan is to go through the recruiting process with the plan to play again at the Division I level.
"Everything he has said to me and everything his family has said to me is the plan is for him to get his (Associate's Degree) and to play Division I again," Trinity Valley CC head coach Brad Smiley told me in a phone interview on Tuesday. "He is excited about going through that process and playing Division I again. He has not said anything about coming out to play in the NFL."
Fields was essentially kicked out of TCU for a handful of infractions, the last being a dispute involving an ex-girlfriend that reportedly included assault. Fields is still scheduled for a pre-trial hearing in Fort Worth on Oct. 17 stemming from the charges in late July.
Fields initially tried to transfer to Stephen F. Austin, but NCAA rules would not allow him to play without sitting out one year because of TCU's ruling.
Fields then followed the Cam Newton route and transferred to a junior college where could play immediately - in this case, Trinity Valley CC in Athens, Texas.
"He's a great kid and he's been doing great," Smiley said. "He came here with the right attitude and he just wanted to get things settled down."
Trinity Valley CC is currently 3-0, and ranks third in the National Junior College Athletic Association poll. Fields has 17 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one tackle for a loss. Smiley said Fields is seeing a double team nearly every play.
"Everybody he sees knows who he is," Smiley said. "He is their Super Bowl."
As a true freshman in 2012, Fields was the Big 12 defensive player of the year. He missed all but three games in 2013 because of a foot injury. He was named the 2014 Big 12 preseason defensive player of the year.
"He could not say enough nice things about TCU, Stephen F. Austin and the way everybody tried to help him," Smiley said. "He is just trying to get things settled down."
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