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March 4, 2013

Competition elevating Pachall's game early on

So there's a quarterback competition going on, and we won't officially know otherwise for a while, as Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin both entered spring practice Friday listed atop TCU's depth chart.

But even Gary Patterson couldn't help admit Saturday at least one advantage Pachall has over the rest of the Horned Frogs' quarterbacks.

"I'd probably say that just the outside throws," Patterson said. "You can just tell in the difference of his arm, comparably to most, how quick he throws it."



That was about as far as Patterson would go in regard to Pachall being better than Boykin or Boykin being better than Pachall through the Frogs' first two practices.

It's hard to expect more than that, really.

TCU has practiced a total of about four hours - around two on Friday and two on Saturday - both sessions in the climate-controlled Sam Baugh Indoor Facility and both in shorts, jerseys and helmets.

No pads, no tackling, hardly any pressure.

After Friday's practice, Patterson said he barely noticed Pachall or Boykin, which, to him, is a good thing, at least before he goes over the tape. Saturday was more of the same.

"I'm really excited about (Pachall) and Trevone," Patterson said after TCU's second practice. "If I'm not noticing them, then that's a good thing."

Opinions aside on who's better or not, it's hard to blame Patterson for not hinting at his own opinion of the situation, especially when that situation involves two guys who aren't strangers to a starting role.

But here's what we do know:

Pachall is 15-2 as a starter. When he left the team in October, he was 4-0 with the highest passing efficiency rating in the country. He has performed well in big games at Boise State and Baylor, and he won a bowl game two years ago against Louisiana Tech.

And his contributions haven't merely been tangible.

He has a way with his teammates, earning their trust from his first start in Waco almost two years ago up until this point, even after his arrest on DWI charges, an incident that hasn't made that "relationship any different," Patterson said Friday.

All of that isn't to say Boykin hasn't had a few moments of his own.

He went 3-6 as a starter last season but was phenomenal against Texas, TCU's signature win in 2012. He switched from running back to quarterback late in the week before Iowa State after Pachall's arrest, jumping into a starting role right as TCU entered the meat of its Big 12 schedule. And he led the Frogs' to a shootout win at West Virginia. On top of all that, Boykin has a stronger arm than probably any quarterback on TCU's roster.

But there is a clear difference between Pachall and Boykin and the way game comes to them.

TCU's offense was limited in what it could do without Pachall last year. Part of that was the Frogs' lack of a consistent running game, but they would have been able to get away with that a little with Pachall playing quarterback.

Boykin was young, and still is, so there's plenty of time and room for improvement. But on Saturday, in front of an open practice to media, Pachall was simply better, the same way he simply would've been better last season.

His outside throws, the point Patterson brought up, were perfect examples of this.

Not only has Pachall already gotten his timing down with receivers on mid-range routes to the sidelines, he also displayed a clear advantage throwing deep routes down the sidelines. Not every pass he threw was completed, but he would put the ball in the one spot that gave his receiver the best chance to make the play.

Boykin and TCU's other quarterbacks are, understandably, still working to get to that point, those throws not coming as consistent yet.

Still, football itself has never been much of an issue for Pachall. That's been the easy part. The days and nights away from the field seem to have been the troubling times.

Apparently, that has changed, though, as Pachall returned from rehab a new, re-energized person, Patterson said.

"Like I told people, everything he went through and all the things, when he came back out of inpatient it was like the kid that came here as a freshman," Patterson said Saturday. "The color was back in his face and everything going on."

Now Pachall just has to keep things that way, Patterson said.

"He's got a lot of people watching out for him," he said. "I think the biggest thing we know, if it turns out it's going to be a great story. If it doesn't, then did you waste your time? I think he understands what's in front of him."

Maybe that will come from Pachall understanding what is behind him, or rather who is behind him.

Nothing is official, but let's be honest, this is Pachall's job to lose.

But you also have to understand: Boykin isn't going away, using almost an entire season's worth of experience to push Pachall like he's never been pushed before.

And as it turns out, the quarterback competition most people didn't think existed has already refined Pachall's game even further, Patterson said.

"I think the thing that is different now for (Pachall), is just the improvement of Trevone, who's not really a redshirt freshman anymore," Patterson said. "So the competition level, I think, is making Casey better, because each of them has a strength. I think as we move forward, we're going to have an opportunity that's going to make our football team a lot better than it was a year ago."

TCU will practice Monday, Tuesday and Thursday before taking a week off for spring break.


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