Whoever emerges as the winner of TCU’s quarterback battle knows they’ll be in position for an excellent year.
First-year head coach Sonny Dykes has earned a reputation as an offensive guru as he produced a No. 1 overall pick with Jared Goff and had plenty of success with Shane Buechele and Tanner Mordecai at SMU.
Every player wants to be a starter, but having the opportunity to be the latest signal caller to orchestrate Dykes’ offense is even more motivation for Max Duggan and Chandler Morris.
“I think it’s spreading the ball around,” Morris said when asked what excited him the most about Dykes’ system. “We’ve got dudes that can make plays, we’ve got a lot of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw eight to 10 players touching the ball.”
Dykes says he wants the quarterback to be a point guard and distributing touches to a talented receiver room led by Quinton Johnston will be key. Duggan, the incumbent starter, believes the offense will make that job easy.
“It’s really quarterback friendly. You can tell by the past teams and quarterbacks he’s had,” Duggan said. “There have been a ton of great ones that played in the NFL, that were great in college. There’s excitement playing with Coach (Garrett) Riley and Coach Dykes’ offense. The friendliness of it.”
The competition will be intense as Morris and Duggan are focused on different areas this off-season to improve their game. For Morris, it’s more about the physical and mental aspects.
“I worked on my weight a lot and learning the playbook. I wanted to really get that down, whether it’s basic stuff or not. I really focused on that,” Morris said. “Like with a formation, we’ve got tons of formations I wanted to understand that really well and know all the ins and outs of that formation.”
Morris said he also has worked on his footwork this summer. For Duggan, it was all about fine tuning his mechanics and continuing to develop as a thrower.
“Honing in on becoming a more fluid passer, a more confident passer,” Duggan said. “That just takes reps, that’s throwing more, doing some different things release wise. Trying to find that rhythm that works.”
Duggan is looking to build off completing almost 64% of his passes last season, a career-high for the senior. For Morris it’s about showing his performance against Baylor wasn’t just a one-off and that it’s a level he can consistently reach.
Each has their own approach mentally when it comes to battling with their teammate.
“My mindset is compete, don’t compare. That’s my biggest thing going into camp,” Morris said. “At the end of the day you’re competing. It’s not about what the other person is doing, I’ve got blinders on me. I’m just focused on what I can do to compete and get better.”
Duggan won’t shy away from the challenge and believes the competition will bring out the best in him and the rest of the quarterback room.
“You’re always going to be competing. I think that’s what really drives athletics and sports,” he said. “Knowing it’s going to make you better and the guy around you better is what helps a lot.
“If you were not being pushed by somebody, if you were just a dude you’re not going to work as hard during practice. You’re not going to take extra reps, not going to spend more time in the film room watching practice and games. You know competition is going to make you a better player.”
Regardless of who emerges as the victor, both said the quarterbacks have established a close relationship and are getting along.
As for how quickly Dykes will determine the winner, he said there’s no deadline for a decision.
“We’d all like to know as quickly as possible, but it’s like anything else,” he said. “It’s all about production. We’re just going to sit down and see. There are going to be some guys in the quarterback battle that have a bad day and bounce back and have a good day.
“You’re just looking for all the different factors, there’s so much that goes into that decision. I think it really comes down to one thing: who makes the team better, who gives us the best chance to win.”