TCU quarterback Kenny Hill knows the spotlight. The former Texas 5A prep star at Southlake Carroll started eight games at Texas A&M in 2014 before his transfer to the Big 12 school.
He won the job in August, following four-year starter Trevone Boykin as Horned Frogs’ offensive catalyst. But coach Gary Patterson said this week, as 13th-ranked TCU readies to open Saturday night against South Dakota State, that Hill “needs not to try to win the world” in his TCU debut.
It’s a smart move.
The junior QB ought to aim to ease his way back into stardom as the Horned Frogs attempt to reload offensively. The Saturday opener at Amon G. Carter Stadium serves as a perceived tuneup for TCU ahead of its Sept. 10 meeting with Arkansas.
But the adjustment period for Patterson's team on offense may extend into September as the Horned Frogs replace Boykin in addition to their leading rusher and receiver from 2015.
“You’re just a little bit apprehensive,” said Patterson, entering his 16th season, “because you don’t know how that will all go. We’re hoping that those jitters, all those kind of things, those thought processes will go away early.”
Despite the lack of experience at skill positions, TCU hardly lacks for talent.
In addition to Hill, it returns running back Kyle Hicks, named to the Doak Walker Award watch list, and receive KaVontae Turpin, who was a standout return specialist who snagged 45 catches for 649 yards and eight scores as part of an explosive offense in 2015.
Deante’ Gray is also back at receiver after missing all of last season with a knee injury. He caught eight touchdowns in 2014. Additionally, heralded junior-college transfer Taj Williams and Emanuel Porter, who caught three touchdowns last year, top the depth chart at the wideout spots.
TCU opened last season with a No. 2 national ranking. It has finished in the top 10 in five of the past eight seasons and accumulated the fifth-highest FBS win total since 2005, behind Ohio State, Boise State, Alabama and Oregon.
So the expectation for Hill and the other new starters on offense is to win right away -- and to look good doing it.
Of course, you won't hear any of that from Patterson. He’s looking for a steady performance from his new-look offense and its QB.
This is no longer the unit that scored 45 points or more in six consecutive games a year ago.
“The biggest thing is having a handle for the offense and not feeling you have to do too much,” Patterson said of his quarterback. “Just run the offense and let the offense work for you.”