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TCU’s Offense Is Making The Nation Take Notice

  • Ryan Fowler
  • October 6, 2022
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A program that’s quickly found itself back under the national spotlight since its heyday back in 2010 and 2015, the TCU Horned Frogs are ALL THE WAY BACK, folks. Under the leadership of first-year head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive guru Garrett Riley—who’ll we get to later—the Horned Frogs sit undefeated at 4-0 ahead of their showdown against the No. 19-ranked Kansas Jayhawks. 

Led by quarterback Max Duggan, running back Kendre Miller, and wideouts Quentin Johnston and Taye Barber, the Horned Frogs’ offensive attack has been one of the country’s most high-octane units early in 2022. And the crazy thing about it, Johnston, a projected first-round selection, ranks fifth on the team in receiving yards. They’ve become a well-rounded unit, one led by the younger brother of USC head coach Lincoln Riley. 

Garrett Riley, just 33, is in the same boat as his head boss in Dykes as the two made their way over to Fort Worth from leading the SMU Mustangs in 2021. One of the top young minds in the nation, after spearheading an SMU offense into one of the top 15 units in the country, Riley’s fingerprints on the TCU offense have rapidly evolved Duggan into a prospect to watch and the entire unit into a group that can seemingly outscore any team in the country through the first month of the campaign.

Oh, and TCU’s offense has also averaged more than 8.0 yards a rush and 13 yards per pass completion on first downs—the Horned Frogs and Riley waste no time in taking their shots and executing when in advantageous down and distances. 

While the entire group will only get better and better as the rapport increases between Duggan and his pass-catchers, the mystery of Johnston’s lack of production has become a head-scratcher for many. While the box score tells a sad story of his involvement in the game plan, analytics and target share say something much different. The big 6-foot-4 weapon has been targeted on roughly 25% of his routes run early this year, but the types of routes in which he’s run paint a much different picture than in years past. 

Johnston has been a gadget weapon early on. While that’s not to say it’s wrong of Riley to limit his skill set—they are in fact 4-0—the attention he garners from opposing defenses allows the likes of Barber and senior Derius Davis to work into the space he creates by carrying defenders out of zones. He’ll get going—it’s really only a matter of when and not if Johnstone will blossom into the talent the industry believes he can be—which makes Riley’s group just that much more intimidating to face. 

This weekend will present a nice window into who TCU really is. Are they legit contenders for a Big 12 title? Will Riley look to feature Johnston even more? A matchup very few expected to represent one of CFB’s marquee games early on has all the makings of a barnburner in Lawrence. If early signs from either side are any indication of what’s to come on Saturday, buckle up as both programs look to continue their climb up the AP Top 25.

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Ryan Fowler