Is the quarterback competition at TCU real?

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Casey Pachall's arrival was a big deal in the Big 12, and his return to TCU presumably bolstered the Frogs' hopes of winning their first Big 12 title.

When he left the team to seek treatment for drug and alcohol addiction following a DUI arrest last October, he was the nation's leader in passer rating, but this spring, he hasn't just been handed the job that backup Trevone Boykin fought for over the final two-thirds of 2012.

"Trevone is way ahead of where he was because of what he played," Frogs coach Gary Patterson told ESPN.com in a recent interview.

Before becoming the starting quarterback upon Pachall's abrupt exit, Boykin spent time working at running back. Days later, he made his first start in a lopsided home loss to Iowa State. The redshirt freshman wasn't ready, but tough lessons he clearly learned over the rest of the season have paid off this spring. Meanwhile ...

"Casey’s rusty, so I’d say we probably won’t be able to know anything about who that guy will be until we get into fall practice," Patterson said.

Patterson has expressed similar sentiments before, but it's almost always met with strong skepticism, words masquerading as a motivational ploy to keep Pachall working or a cover to prevent Patterson from appearing like a coach who's handing a troubled player his old job back without him earning it.

TCU's practiced are closed tighter than about any in the Big 12, so the number of people who know how that race truly looks is minimal, but is it really all that hard to believe that Patterson's not blowing smoke?

Pachall didn't throw a football or lift from October to January while he was in treatment, and re-joined the team as the semester began, but practices didn't begin until March. That's a long time without playing the game at full speed, and we saw Boykin make great strides late in the season as a passer.

Pachall's ceiling is significantly higher, but it's also entirely possible that the time away put a major dent in Pachall's mastery of the offense and his own throwing mechanics.

Call me crazy, but I buy what Patterson is selling at this point in the spring about Boykin and Pachall being very close, close enough to cause some debate about who the starter will be.

Will time working over the summer with his receivers in 7-on-7 change that, along with more practices in fall camp? I'm sure Patterson hopes so, and I expect that to be the case. For now, though, I don't believe Patterson is blowing smoke about who TCU's best quarterback is at this exact moment.