Over the last 15 years, TCU has produced All-Americans, a Hall of Famer, run the table in the regular season twice, won a Big 12 Conference championship and a Rose Bowl. But Friday, Gary Patterson unlocked a new achievement that solidifies the Horned Frogs as national powers, landing a commitment from 5-star prospect and the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback, Shawn Robinson.
Shawn Robinson, a 2017 prospect from Denton Guyer, spurned TCU’s Big 12 counterparts and traditional powers Oklahoma and Texas, among other suitors. And why not? TCU’s explosive offense produced the second-most points per game in college football last season, along the way transforming erstwhile wide receiver Trevone Boykin into a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback.
If offensive coordinator Doug Meacham can do that, just imagine what Shawn Robinson can do in purple-and-black with his 5-star credentials.
Of course, Boykin is just the latest in a rather impressive run for TCU quarterbacks. Andy Dalton, who captained the Frogs’ Rose Bowl season in 2010, reached an agreement with the Cincinnati Bengals for six years, $115 million.
Dalton’s successor, Casey Pachall, was outstanding before personal issues sidetracked his progress.
But now with Boykin, one of the front-runners for the Heisman in 2015, TCU boasts a successful alum in the NFL and a top-tier college playmaker. Neither Texas nor Oklahoma have been able to claim either in the last half-decade.
When compared to claiming a Rose Bowl or winning consistently enough in Conference USA and the Mountain West to garner Big 12 interest, the commitment of Shawn Robinson might seem insignificant. There’s no guarantee he lives up to his billing, or that he remains committed for the next year-and-a-half before he can sign his national letter of intent.
However, this commitment is symbolic of where TCU has come as a program.
The Horned Frogs became members of the Southwest Conference in 1923 and won a national championship in 1938. They belonged in the same club Texas, which was building its reputations as a college football forerunners.
But when the SWC shuttered in 1996, TCU was no longer in the same club with the Longhorns. TCU was in league with Houston, Rice, SMU, bypassed by the former Big 8, which gladly made Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and — through some political arm-twisting — Baylor part of the same club as Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The Frogs’ long road back included stops in three conferences before finally getting into the league that originally passed them over: First was the Western Athletic, then C-USA and finally the Mountain West.
Gary Patterson being there for most of it as head coach certainly helped. TCU didn’t have to endure the overhauls and misfires customary with routine regime changes, and the result has been steady progress.
Of course, succeeding at a high level in C-USA or the Mountain West doesn’t come without overachievement. Whether that’s innovative game-calling or recruiting unheralded gems, TCU did it all to stay ahead of the curve.
The Frogs best teams in the Mountain West era — which, before last season, were also the best teams of Patterson’s tenure — were largely built on defense. Efforts like holding Adrian Peterson to 63 yards in 2005, and guys like Jerry Hughes propped up the Horned Frogs in a pivotal period for the program.
But under Justin Fuente previously and Meacham now, the offense is abuzz while the defense remains stout, and it’s not predicated on a single star like LaDainian Tomlinson. TCU has a sustainable system going for its offense, much as it’s had for its while enduring the repeated departures of NFL talent.
Shawn Robinson took notice. And in catching the eye of a 5-star quarterback, TCU took another step in its progress: No longer must Patterson rely exclusively on innovation or recruiting the unheralded gems — the players Oklahoma and Texas miss while collection their star-studded classes — in order to be successful.
Building recruiting classes of 4-and-5-star players year after year is the mark of a self-sustaining national power. With Shawn Robinson in the mix, that’s exactly how TCU defines itself.