Not so long ago, TCU Horned Frogs junior quarterback Trevone Boykin was failed TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin.
The starter after Casey Pachall went to rehab in 2012 and then into the 2013 season when Pachall broke his arm, Pachall's eventual return and Boykin throwing three interceptions against Oklahoma State resulted in a move to wide receiver for the final five games.
Explosive plays just weren't there for the 6'2, 215-pounder, however, but he was expected to remain at the position because of the offseason addition of Texas A&M graduate transfer Matt Joeckel.
Instead, Boykin won the job in fall camp and has put a choke hold on it ever since, excelling in the new Air Raid offense run by former Texas Tech co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie and former Houston co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Doug Meachem.
Now sharing offensive coordinator duties, the expertise the two have working with passers has clearly benefitted Boykin -- he's increased his yards per attempt, increased his touchdown passes, and reduced his interceptions, all while averaging a career high in yards per carry and scoring seven touchdowns on the ground.
How much better has he been? His seven touchdown passes against Texas Tech set a single-game school record and matched his passing production in that category for the entire 2013 season.
A player who was once known as an athlete playing quarterback is now being called a "game manager" by Texas head coach Charlie Strong.
Of course, as the numbers mentioned above indicate, he's also improved in a number of different areas and benefitted from an emerging wide receiver corps.
"If you look at him this season, he's making the right throws," Strong said. "[He is just] catching the ball and just releasing the ball out of his hands. But he's had athletes outside who can make those catches. Even if it's not a really good pass, they can jump up and get the ball or the ball can be thrown in any direction, and they can come down with it."
The offense has made it easier for Boykin to make the right reads and get the ball out quickly, a problem last season when he took 14 sacks on only 176 pass attempts, almost twice the rate allowed this season by the offensive line.
More athletic wide receivers have increased the catch radius at that position while also operating in more space, reducing the need for Boykin to throw into small windows. Last season, his interception rate was 3.7% before dropping to a minuscule 1.3% this season.
At one point this fall, Longhorns defensive coordinator Vance Bedford was making quarterback comparisons every week. The comparisons were back last Friday, with Bedford saying that Boykin reminds him a bit of former Virginia Tech star Michael Vick because of Boykin's excellent athleticism.
In fact, Bedford doesn't think Texas has played a passer this season with the running ability of TCU's Boykin.
"He's dangerous with the football. It's a scary situation. We haven't faced a guy like him this season. He can beat you with his feet. When he gets on the perimeter, he can improvise, and that's where I get concerned because a lot of times your defensive backs and linebackers have a tendency to watch the quarterback, and all of a sudden he just threw fifty yards for a touchdown. We're really concerned about him athletically."
Running for 123 yards n 17 carries and three touchdowns against Kansas State's disciplined defense proved ample evidence of his ability to make big plays on the ground.
His leap and flip into the end zone is one of the more iconic images of the whole college football season, though Meachem and Combie would probably prefer that he doesn't leave his feet like this in the future:
But he has been slowed down on the ground this season -- Kansas dealt with Boykin's running ability by playing a spy on him all game and held him to two yards on 11 carries.
The Longhorns may employ a similar strategy, though the Horned Frogs spread the field with four wide receivers, which can make it difficult to devote one player to shadowing the quarterback.
A bigger concern may be whether or not the Texas defensive front can maintain their rushing lanes against Boykin. In games against Iowa State and Kansas State, the three or four players along the defensive line did an excellent job of maintaining that crucial integrity and keeping both quarterbacks in the pocket.
As the play above shows, Boykin will take advantages of defensive lines that allow openings. Check out this screen cap of his leaping run against the Wildcats:
Notice how the defensive ends have gotten way up field and the defensive tackles have taken wide angles, leaving the middle of the field wide open, a hole through which Boykin will run every time with great pleasure.
However, keeping the TCU quarterback behind the line of scrimmage is no longer a big win for the defense, as the first play in this highlight reel proves:
The development hasn't been lost on Texas defensive end Cedric Reed, though he wasn't exactly expecting it after playing against the West Mesquite product in 2012.
"It surprised me because a couple years ago, he was just a guy on the run," Reed said. "He would always run the ball. He was a guy that was a running back playing quarterback. Now he's the full package. He can throw the long ball, the short ball, he can run it. He's reading the defense well. He's just become a complete quarterback in a running back's body."
Head coach Gary Patterson and teammates have raved about Boykin's competitiveness, the desire to succeed that has pushed him to improve as a passer, pushed him not to listen to the critics who said that he would never be able to play the position at a high level.
Aided by an improved offensive line that has allowed only 17 sacks of Boykin this season (tied for No. 31 nationally) and a more explosive wide receiver corps featuring lanky transfer Josh Doctson and speedsters Kolby Listenbee and Deante' Gray, Boykin has also benefitted from a strong running game enabled by a deep group of running backs.
In a year, Boykin has gone from failed quarterback to a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback as the offense has gone from stagnant to explosive as seemingly everything has come together for the Horned Frogs offensively.
Both transitions have been incredible and neither one could have happened without the other, leaving the Longhorns with the difficult task of trying to slow down one of the most explosive offenses in the country helmed by one of the country's most productive quarterbacks.