It will be another month or so before TCU football coach Gary Patterson announces his starting quarterback for the upcoming season, but it’s fair to say Alex Delton is well positioned to win the job.
Delton, a senior graduate transfer from Kansas State, has turned plenty of heads since he arrived on campus. And he made his presence felt while leading the offense during spring practice.
“To be honest with you,” Patterson said Monday at Big 12 media days, “he saved us.”
Delton is still wearing purple and playing quarterback in the Big 12, but next season will be different for him. After four injury plagued years at K-State that saw him fall behind Skylar Thompson on the depth chart, the Hays, Kansas native is looking for both a fresh start and a strong finish to his college football career with the Horned Frogs.
His new coach and his new teammates are hopeful everything will work out for Delton in Fort Worth. He arrived at an ideal time, while TCU was low on healthy quarterbacks, and helped stabilize the position before reinforcements arrived. But nothing is guaranteed.
Patterson says the Frogs will audition six quarterbacks during preseason practices, and they all bring something to the table.
Freshman Max Duggan was the No. 3 ranked dual-threat quarterback in his recruiting class, Mike Collins started four games last season, Justin Rogers is a former four-star recruit, Matt Downing transferred from Georgia and Matthew Baldwin transferred from Ohio State.
But Delton trumps them all when it comes to experience.
He played in 20 games for K-State and had some impressive moments, including a MVP performance at the 2017 Cactus Bowl, where he bulldozed UCLA for 158 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He also engineered a fourth-quarter comeback against Kansas while serving as a team captain last year.
“To have an older guy coming in like that really made a big difference in how our spring went down,” Patterson said. “You had a guy that came in, rolled his sleeves up, went through our offseason, which is not easy, and did a great job with that. He’s woven himself into being one of the guys on our team. I think he’s helped our team chemistry quite a bit.”
Can he also lead the offense to touchdowns? That’s the biggest question facing Delton now.
It will be fascinating to see how he evolves at TCU.
Delton displayed plenty of talent as a run-first quarterback at K-State, but he never completed more than 57.6% of his passes or played in more than seven games in a single season with the Wildcats. He couldn’t avoid injuries or dominate the position.
But he will have more playmakers by his side at TCU, and he will have more opportunities to put up numbers in Sonny Cumbie’s offense. Patterson likes mobile quarterbacks, but he lets them throw the ball more than what Delton was accustomed to under Bill Snyder at K-State.
Delton completed 96 of 171 passes for 1,202 and five touchdowns at K-State, adding 868 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. He could potentially top that production in one season at TCU ... or serve as the backup.
Anything seems possible right now.
“After going against him, he reminded me a lot of my old quarterback, Kenny Hill,” TCU offensive lineman Lucas Niang said. “I could tell he was talented. That wasn’t a question.”
TCU receiver Jalen Reagor has been impressed with Delton thus far. He tried to say all the politically correct things about his team’s quarterback competition on Monday, but he spoke with genuine enthusiasm when Delton’s name came up. He called him a leader and a hard worker.
“We went and got a lot of workouts in, and we threw a whole bunch before we even got back to school,” Reagor said. “Everyone took him in with open arms. That’s just the kind of program that we are.”
Delton took an interesting path to TCU. He originally committed to UTEP, where he planned to reunite with his old offensive coordinator Dana Dimel. But he later contact the TCU coaching staff and asked if the Frogs were interested him as a transfer when Snyder suggested them as an attractive landing spot.
“We didn’t seek out Alex,” Patterson said. “He sought us out.”
Patterson, a native Kansan and K-State alum, invited Delton to check out campus on a recruiting visit, and everything clicked.
He hasn’t looked back.
“He proved a lot to me this off season,” Niang said. “He came in and he has been grinding. I feel like he is one of us and he has been here a while. That’s not the case, but it feels that way.”