By Zac Ellis
Throughout the offseason, SI.com will spotlight several teams, players and coaches with something to prove heading into the 2013 season. To check out every edition of this series, click here.
If the first month of last season was any indication, TCU's Casey Pachall seemed set to enjoy one of the better campaigns of any quarterback in the nation in 2012. In leading the Horned Frogs to a 4-0 start, Pachall completed 66 percent of his passes (64-of-97) while throwing 10 touchdowns to just one interception. He completed 24-of-30 attempts for 335 yards and two scores in TCU's Sept. 9 win over Kansas, and his standout play sparked hope for a fifth consecutive 11-win season: TCU boasted the longest winning streak in the FBS (12 games) going into Week 5.
It wasn't to be. Pachall's season was cut short on Oct. 4 when he was arrested and charged with DWI. He withdrew from school a few days later to attend rehab. This wasn't the quarterback's first brush with the law; he'd failed a team drug test in February 2012 but was not suspended after participating in a university drug and alcohol awareness program.
TCU went 3-6 the following Pachall's departure, losing close contests to Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Michigan State along the way. But Pachall, who threw for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns in his last full season in 2011, finished rehab and returned to Fort Worth in January to participate in spring practice. Now he has a chance to reclaim the reins of TCU's offense after his less-than-glamorous exit.
Of course, Pachall must first beat out his replacement from last season, Trevone Boykin, who stepped in admirably in Pachall's absence and completed 167-of-292 passes for 2,054 yards and 15 touchdowns over the team's final nine games. But Boykin also threw 10 interceptions, and he stumbled mightily in TCU's loss to Michigan State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Boykin connected on just 44.8 percent of his attempts and tossed a costly pick just outside the red zone in the second quarter.
Still, if Pachall has truly regained focus, it's hard to imagine him not emerging as the starter this fall. He went 15-2 in 17 starts for coach Gary Patterson before his arrest, and, at the time of his suspension in October, was ranked as the fourth most efficient passer in the country. This spring, he's shown glimpses of that high-level play. "He's looked good," Patterson told ESPN.com during workouts. "He's doing all the things well. I think he's a little more mature, which you would expect from a kid who went through what he did."
Patterson's last point is key, as maturity could be the most critical factor in Pachall's return to form. He will be on court-ordered probation throughout the 2013 season, and his activity off the field will be monitored closely.
But he has the opportunity. TCU's backfield should return healthier and more productive. Though top wideout Josh Boyce is gone to the NFL, Brandon Carter comes back after racking up 590 receiving yards and six touchdowns. The Horned Frogs have the talent to be a Big 12 title contender. If Pachall has put last year's issues behind him, he could help TCU make a BCS splash one final time.