I try like hell to stay out of the “second-guessing 18-year-olds” business. It’s unbecoming, and akin to trying to figure out why people watch Buckwild. But after hearing the news quarterback Casey Pachall is returning to TCU, I couldn’t help wonder if Zach Allen is now caught in an ominous numbers game.
Allen tickled the imagination of Orange Nation. He showed obvious leadership qualities, helping bond the incoming class. He likely would have stepped in and competed for the starting job this spring. He seemed to be the perfect successor to the lineage of great SU quarterbacks. Orange fans will always wonder “what if?”
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Pachall returned to TCU for second semester this week, after being arrested for a DUI in early October. He had left school during the season and was suspended indefinitely. But he spent time at a drug and alcohol treatment facility and was welcomed back by coach Gary Patterson after completing program. Patterson said, “He finished all of his in-patient work and has been in out-patient work up until Friday. He did everything we wanted him to do.”
It would make sense for the Horned Frogs to embrace Pachall, not only because college-aged kids deserve chances to right their wrongs, but also because he’s a terrific quarterback. In 2011 he threw for 2,921 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions, guiding the team to an 11-2 record, a top 15 finish and a win in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Last year he threw for 948 yards, 10 touchdowns and only one interception in his first four games before his arrest. He returns with one more year of eligibility. Assuming he wins the job back, his backup will be Trevone Boykin. The freshman from Mesquite, Texas filled in admirably and helped guide the team to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. He threw for 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, throwing for 2,000 yards and running for 400 more. His inexperience and youth showed however, as he was largely unable to get the ball to TCU’s best playmakers consistently.
So if Pachall is the starter in ’13, that means Boykin would presumably be in line to take over as the full-time starter as a junior in ’14. On the roster currently are also two red-shirt freshman signal-callers in Tyler Matthews and Carson Snyder. Some Frogs fans believe Matthews will compete this fall with Boykin to be Pachall’s backup.
That means Allen joins a program in ’13 with a senior starter, and three sophomore quarterbacks competing for the slot when Pachall graduates. Even if Zach redshirts, he would only realistically have a chance to start as a junior in ’16. Obviously, being a starter for two years for a stellar Big 12 program like TCU is nothing to scoff at. But Allen could’ve walked into Syracuse and had a chance to be a four-year starter, especially if he red-shirted this fall.
We all understand how disconcerting the SU coaching change must be for all recruits. One staff flies to see you, develops a relationship with your high school coach, and walks into your home to meet your family. Then you’re asked to trust an entirely new set of coaches, most you have absolutely no relationship with. Yes, critics argue players should commit to schools, not coaches. But when you’re 18 and away from home for the first time, comfort and trust are deciding factors. I sympathize with that.
Allen gets to stay closer to home. He’s less than a two-hour drive from Temple, Texas. He has far more familiarity with Patteron’s staff, which has remained in tact for years, than all the news faces at SU. He also wanted to enroll early, so from a timing standpoint Syracuse was chaos in the moment he was deciding. I don’t begrudge the decision to head to TCU. He’s a natural born leader, and all the best to him in his career. But from a football standpoint, he’s now locked in behind four quarterbacks on the depth chart for the next three years. That can even more daunting than getting to know a new offensive coordinator.