Quarterbacks: There are a lot of them! Each week, QB Curve will keep you up to speed on the game’s most important position by putting a different college signal-caller in the spotlight and putting the rest of the field in perspective.
QB of the Week: TCU’s Trevone Boykin
Typecasting — The Jack of All Trades: This may seem like a strange way to open a feature devoted specifically to the position, but just for the record: Trevone Boykin is a 100 percent, full-time quarterback. It’s important to clarify, because his status hasn’t always been so clear-cut.
As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Boykin spent time practicing with the running backs before being thrust into the starting-QB job after incumbent Casey Pachall was suspended for the final nine games; TCU subsequently went 3-6 in Boykin’s starts and failed to top 20 points in five of its last six games. Last year, Boykin spent most of his sophomore campaign “maximizing his versatility,” shuttling between quarterback when Pachall was injured, wide receiver when Pachall was healthy, and spot duty in the Wildcat. But he attempted just six passes in the last five games, and the Horned Frogs ranked next to last in the Big 12 in total offense en route to their worst record (4-8) since 1997.
After that flop, coach Gary Patterson decided to shake things up in the offseason by installing a pass-happy Air Raid offense, even recruiting Johnny Manziel’s former backup at Texas A&M to give the Frogs a triggerman with some experience in the system.1 For Boykin, a run-first type who posted a subpar 115.3 efficiency rating against FBS opponents in 2013, the writing appeared to be on the wall.
As a fifth-year senior with a degree from A&M, Matt Joeckel is eligible to play this season as a first-year transfer.
Through four games this season, though, it’s been all Boykin, all the time, and whatever doubts still lingered about his long-term potential were erased in Saturday’s out-of-the-blue, 37-33 upset over no. 4 Oklahoma. By Sunday morning, TCU had vaulted from an afterthought in the AP poll, at no. 25, all the way to no. 9, setting up an unexpected showdown of top-10 teams this weekend at no. 5 Baylor. The trip will be Boykin’s first as an entrenched, veteran starter on the road against a Big 12 defense, and will go a long way toward setting the ceiling for the rest of his season, if not the rest of his career.
At His Best: There’s a reason TCU coaches went out of their way to keep their backup quarterback involved in the offense last year, and this is it:2
The flag on the play was against Texas Tech’s defense.
Boykin isn’t a long-striding, breakaway threat — the embedded run was his longest of 2013, covering 30 yards — but he does have great lateral quickness and elusiveness in tight spaces, which serves him well on ad-libbed, scramble-drill plays like that one. On designed runs, he’s more of a workhorse, having logged double-digit carries (including sacks) in 15 of his 19 career starts; so far, he’s leading the team in 2014 in both rushing yards and attempts. In the win over Oklahoma, Boykin was credited with 22 carries, a career high, for 77 yards.
But the entire point of applying jumper cables to the offense was to deliver a jolt to the dormant passing game, and Boykin seems to have met his coaches halfway: He’s one of only 14 quarterbacks this week averaging 40 passes per game, and the only one above that threshold whose team has yet to trail in the fourth quarter this season.3 His touchdown-to-interception ratio has improved from 7-to-7 last year to 10-to-2 through the first four games in 2014, the best margin among Big 12 starters after Baylor’s Bryce Petty; Boykin’s overall efficiency rating is up by nearly 20 points. “[Boykin] was different from any time we’ve played him before,” said Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, whose defense yielded 318 yards and two touchdowns on 38 passing attempts. “He was much more controlled, calculated. I thought he was great.’’ So far, that seems to be the consensus.
Through the first three quarters, he’s averaging 36.0 attempts before hitting the brakes.
At His Worst: There’s also a reason TCU coaches went out of their way in the offseason to bring in a viable challenger. Despite making 15 starts in 2012 and 2013, Boykin had failed to lock down the starting job for 2014 due to spotty accuracy and decision-making, and seemed likely to open the year at a different position.
His place on the depth chart is secure, but have we seen enough in essentially two relevant starts (against Oklahoma and Minnesota) to anoint Boykin the next big thing on an aspiring Big 12 contender? Even in those games, he completed just 56 percent of his passes for a mediocre 6.9 yards per attempt, and was intercepted in both. While that’s good enough if the TCU defense forces five turnovers (as it did in the win over Minnesota, when all three TCU touchdown drives began inside the Gophers’ 40-yard line) or returns an interception for the game-clinching touchdown (as it did against Oklahoma when, after that pick, TCU’s final four offensive possessions resulted in two punts and two fumbles), the same stat line might lead to very different results on the scoreboard if the defense and/or special teams aren’t able to make contributions.
To Saturday and Beyond: Seeing Boykin outduel Trevor Knight in Fort Worth was a wake-up call to the rest of the league; if Boykin successfully trades punches with Petty in Waco, he’ll have officially arrived as a top-shelf weapon, and not just by comparison to his counterpart. There’s still a stigma attached to “Big 12 defenses,” and to Baylor’s defense in particular, which remained highly flammable long after the Bears offense had turned the corner. But the stereotype is out of date: Baylor will enter Saturday’s game ranked fourth nationally in total defense and fifth in scoring, best in the conference on both counts. In their last game, the Bears held Texas scoreless for 57-plus minutes, overcoming a lackluster afternoon by their own offense in the process. The second half of that sentence is far less likely to recur than the first.
It’s rare for a single game at this point in the season to feel so deterministic, yet here we are. Boykin has been good enough to put himself in a position for a breakthrough on a national stage, but isn’t yet far enough removed from his erratic stylings as an underclassman to rule out a sobering regression in the same setting. The same goes for TCU as a whole. Baylor is a buzzsaw in Waco, nearly two years removed from its last home loss.4 If the Frogs end that streak, or even come very close, they’re here to stay.
That loss came at the hands of TCU in October 2012, in Boykin’s second career start, but that looks like a coincidence: While TCU has a losing overall record in the meantime, Baylor has won 12 straight at home by an average margin of 26.8 points.
• Ole Miss’s Bo Wallace entered his senior season with a well-deserved reputation for … let’s say inconsistency. We could also say he terrified both sidelines equally most of the time: In 16 conference games in 2012-13, Wallace threw for exactly as many interceptions (20) as touchdowns. So far in 2014, though, the dividing line between “Good Bo” and “Bad Bo” has been pretty clear, and has usually been drawn at halftime. Against Alabama, Wallace sliced up the Crimson Tide for 251 yards and three touchdowns in the second half alone, rallying the Rebels from a 14-3 deficit after two quarters to a 23-17 upset. The comeback confirmed Ole Miss’s ascendency into the SEC elite — for now — and exacerbated a season-long trend:
In two of the Rebels’ five games (lopsided wins over Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Lafayette), “Dr. Bo” didn’t attempt a pass in the fourth quarter. In the other three, he:
– Connected on three touchdown passes in the final quarter against Boise State, turning a 7-6 nail-biter through the first three frames into a 35-13 rout.
– Led two extended scoring drives in the third and fourth quarters against Memphis, helping turn a 7-3 tussle at the end of the third into a 24-3 cruise.
– Sparked Saturday’s rally against Bama.
Nationally, Wallace leads all FBS passers this season in pass efficiency in the fourth quarter and in the second half overall. Maybe if coaches can somehow convince him the game is going to end at halftime, they can avoid all that drama.
• At some point, there’s a very long, sad story to be written about the trajectory of Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, who began his career as a five-star recruit and, as of Saturday afternoon, stood a very good chance of ending it on the bench after another miserable performance at Tennessee. Driskel was pulled from the game late in the third quarter, with Florida trailing 9-0 in the wake of his third interception. From there, he looked on as true freshman Treon Harris led two quick, short scoring drives to put the Gators in front, 10-9, and then as the defense came up with the game-clinching interception on Tennessee’s final drive. Coaches sent Driskel back out to kneel out the clock, and as far as Gators fans were concerned, it might as well have been a curtain call.
But the reflection point has not arrived after all: As of Monday morning, Harris had been suspended indefinitely amid allegations of sexual assault, and Driskel was back at the controls for this weekend’s visit from LSU (which isn’t exactly doing cartwheels over its quarterback situation, either). Over 19 career starts, Driskel has badly regressed, from a guy who was composed enough to lead the team to a BCS bowl as a sophomore in 2012 to a guy who, two years later, has been picked off six times with a horrific 89.1 efficiency rating in Florida’s first three conference games. In fact, forget the interceptions: On his other 20 attempts at Tennessee, Driskel completed 11 for 59 yards. At 3-1, the Gators remain technically in the thick of a convoluted SEC East race, and realistically doomed unless someone stages some kind of exorcism on their quarterback.
• Before you watch this next clip, I think it’s important to establish that Massachusetts QB Blake Frohnapfel clearly does possess a basic understanding of the rules of football. Earlier this season, he passed for three touchdowns in a near upset of Colorado; last week, he put the ball in the air 61 times for 589 yards and five TDs in a 47-42 loss to Bowling Green. On Saturday, he attempted 60 passes against MAC rival Miami (Ohio), completing 35 for 389 yards and four scores. UMass is a horrible team, but its quarterback is not a random person plucked from the crowd in warm-ups.
That said, the final play against the RedHawks ranks among the most brain-dead quarterbacking moments on record, and that encompasses a lot of dumb decisions by overwhelmed, adrenaline-soaked adolescent brain stems. The Minutemen trailed by one point, 42-41, with three seconds to play following a first-down completion to the Miami 6-yard line; the clock was momentarily stopped for the chains, so all Frohnapfel had to do was take the snap, spike the ball, and wave on the kicker for a chip shot to win. Instead, well …
With that, the Minutemen inherited the nation’s longest active losing streak from Miami, in a game they led 41-14 in the first half. Given that UMass’s last win came at the RedHawks’ expense, in 2013, don’t hold your breath for that dubious honor to change hands again anytime soon.
Reggie Collier “Athlete” of the Week: Kansas State’s Jake Waters
The Reggie Collier “Athlete” All-Stars honor quarterbacks who best embody the “dual threat” ethos of their inspiration, the first player to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,000 yards in the same season.
Waters is the first repeat All-Star of the season, having previously taken the honor in Week 2 for spearheading K-State’s come-from-behind win at Iowa State. As badly as we want to spread the love, his efforts in Saturday’s 45-13 win over Texas Tech could not be denied: Waters finished the day with 24-of-31 passing for 290 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions, adding another 105 yards and a fifth touchdown on the ground. For the season, he’s accounted for nearly 69 percent of the team’s total offense amid virtually no national hype outside of this item. To date, Kansas State’s only loss was a competitive effort against arguably the best team in the country over the first six weeks, Auburn. When everyone suddenly notices the Wildcats creeping up on the Big 12 title a month from now, don’t say you weren’t warned.
QB Curve Power Hour!
Ranking the nation’s best quarterbacks after Week 6.
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon. At this point, Oregon’s injury-plagued offensive line is on the verge of being shut down as a public safety hazard, but Mariota still leads the nation in pass efficiency and still has not thrown an interception, despite serving as the victim of public muggings in the Ducks’ last two games. (Last week: 1)
2. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State. Prescott has delivered back-to-back TKOs against SEC West heavies LSU and Texas A&M, arguably the two best individual outings by the same quarterback this season. (LW: 6)
3. Jameis Winston, Florida State. Like his team, Winston has yet to put together a complete, convincing performance this season, and woe to the opposing defense when he does. FSU is still averaging 43.3 points per game in his four starts. (LW: 2)
4. Bryce Petty, Baylor. It must be oddly comforting for Baylor that Petty delivered the worst stat line of his career on Saturday, by far — 7-of-22 passing for 111 yards — yet the Bears still beat Texas by three touchdowns in Austin. (LW: 3)
5. Nick Marshall, Auburn. Marshall, on the other hand, delivered one of his best performances, sparking an impressively lopsided win over LSU on a day when any kind of win would have been impressive enough. (LW: 9)
6. Kenny Hill, Texas A&M. It’s hard to come down too harshly on a passer whose first really awful day (three picks in a loss) still yielded 365 yards and four touchdowns. (LW: 5)
8. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss. I think this pretty much sums it up. (LW: NR)
9. Blake Sims, Alabama. Strike a defensive touchdown from the books, and the same attack that hung Christmas lights all over Florida’s defense a couple of weeks back limped out of Oxford with just 10 points. (LW: 8)
10. Everett Golson, Notre Dame. Golson wasn’t great against a top-shelf Stanford defense, but he was good enough in the end to keep the Irish on the lifeboat carrying the few remaining unbeatens. (LW: 7)
Waiting: J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Shane Carden (East Carolina), Jared Goff (California), Cody Kessler (USC), Anu Solomon (Arizona)