In 2021, TCU Horned Frogs football finished the season just 5-7. The defense was near the absolute bottom of the country (34.9 points allowed per game) while the offense wasn't near what it is this year (28.7 points per game). Longtime head coach Gary Patterson was not having a great fall. After 21 seasons, Patterson parted ways with TCU, as the school disagreed with his future for the team. Sticking around through thick and thin, wide receiver Quentin Johnston decided not to transfer or quit on the program, even as the coach that recruited him walked out the door. Now, Quentin Johnston's draft prospects are through the roof.
From Temple to TCU
Johnston was a four-star recruit out of Temple High School in Texas. A good player, Johnston still had plenty of players in front of him. He finished with 13 other receivers in front of him in the recruiting rankings.
The long and tall 6-foot-4 receiver didn't draw all the nationwide attention and highlights in his first two seasons. Productive, Johnston finished 2020 and 2021 with a combined 55 receptions. Those receptions got him over 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. But this season has been a breakout year for the Texas native.
Practically matching the work of his prior two seasons, Johnston has 59 receptions this season for 1,060 yards. Catching six touchdowns, Johnston has been a deep threat all season and has been asked to make plays in the clutch.
Johnston Shows Off Against Kansas
Just as an example, Johnston burned the Jayhawks' defense with under two minutes to play in the Frogs' road game at Kansas. At the time, Kansas was an unbeaten 5-0, and the team had just landed its first top 25 ranking in years.
On second-and-8, quarterback Max Duggan slung the ball up in the air. Johnston was interfered with by cornerback Cobee Bryant, but he still recovered by making a ridiculous basket catch and dragged his one foot at the back of the end zone to score the touchdown.
"With the ball in his hands you can see how talented he is," Duggan said after the game. "Seeing him burst out again was fun to watch."
The play also may have literally been the difference between a playoff appearance and not, as TCU won the game by just a touchdown, 38-31. The catch was the winning score for the Horned Frogs.
Johnston Can Help TCU Make History in National Title Game
Johnston's big ability to go one-on-one and win matchups over the top will be as important a factor as any entering the national championship game against Georgia.
The Bulldogs' elite defense has been tough to break for years now. If there is any way to get to them, it must be through the air. When Georgia put together an all-time great defense in 2021, there was one team it had trouble defending. In the SEC championship game, Alabama hung 41 points on the Bulldogs, by far the most allowed by the defense all year. Heisman winner Bryce Young carved the defense for 421 yards through the air and three touchdowns.
This season, Georgia's defense has regressed slightly after being cleaned out by the NFL Draft. It is still elite but has again had issues covering elite passing offenses and top receivers.
In this year's conference title game, Georgia allowed 502 passing yards by LSU. Two wideouts, Kayshon Boutte and Malik Nabers, had over 100 yards receiving and were able to spread out the Bulldogs' defense.
After the game against LSU, Georgia failed to seriously adjust in the Peach Bowl. On New Year's Eve, Ohio State's C.J. Stroud needed only 23 completions to throw for 348 yards and four touchdowns.
Two big-time receivers, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, had great nights. Harrison snatched five footballs for 106 yards and two touchdowns, while Egbuka grabbed a touchdown himself and 112 yards.
With a lot of evidence on the table, the blueprint for the Horned Frogs to have success in the title game is clear. They must be able to throw the ball effectively and will be counting on a big day from their top receivers including Johnston.
All of a sudden, the focus will be on Johnston to come up with the big catch like the one he had versus Kansas. He must find a way to break a Georgia defense that knows its weakness heading into the game and is certainly practicing to defend against the passing game.
This underdog TCU team still has plenty to motivate it. Plenty of people feel the game could be a blowout. Left out of the AP's All-American team, Johnston still has reason to feel he isn't being appreciated enough. "Me personally, I don't really like to get caught up in the social media," Johnston said after TCU defeated Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl. "I tend to stay off of social media, just going on people's pages looking about what they're talking about because at the end of the day it doesn't really matter if they can't perform on the field."
Previously rated as a wide receiver worse than 13 others in the country, many mock drafts believe he will be the first wideout off the board. Experts feel that his talent and level of play are there, but it isn't obvious that everyone has caught on to the idea yet.
Off a 163-yard performance against Michigan, if Johnston again displays the talent he has against Georgia, the receiver's playmaking abilities may just be the difference between TCU's first playoff title or falling short.