How TCU became the Hottest Team on Recruiting Trail

Photos by Greg Powers | Edit by DCTF

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The vibes surrounding TCU’s program have never been higher. 

The Horned Frogs enjoyed their best season in program history with a 13–2 record and College Football National Championship Game trip. They then carried that momentum into the offseason. Head coach Sonny Dykes is on the cover of this summer’s Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine 33 years after his father, Spyke, graced the front page. When he wasn’t posing for photos, he was recruiting his tail off, as evidenced by TCU earning seven commits since June 13.

Two of those prospects, 2024 Decatur running back Nate Palmer and 2025 San Antonio Johnson quarterback Ty Hawkins, impressed over the weekend at the State 7-on-7 tournament in College Station. For Palmer, it was a sweet homecoming.

The 5-foot-10-inch, 175-pound prospect grew up in Aggieland and attended College Station High School for two years. In fact, a snub he received in the summer after his freshman season has molded him into the electrifying back he is today.

Palmer tried to hop in for a backfield route during 7-on-7 drills while at an offseason football prospect camp, but the coach leading it took pause. He told Palmer he wasn’t a running back. The coach hadn’t seen him all day. The comment wasn’t necessarily ill-spirited, but Palmer used it as motivation.

“It just drove me to be better and to perfect my craft a little bit more, especially that summer,” Palmer said. “And I ended up getting my first offer after my freshman year, that summer. It was a blessing in disguise I feel like.”

That’s because Palmer’s profile has skyrocketed since the dig.

His sophomore year at College Station he earned district Co-Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors for a Cougar team that reached the 5A DI State Championship. Then, when head coach Steve Huff took the job at Decatur that offseason, he brought along his running backs coach Daniel Palmer. That meant Daniel’s son, Nate, was moving too.

Decatur got off to a rocky 0–3 start, but Palmer was at the center of an 11-game win streak that propelled them to the state semifinals. He rushed for a whopping 2,250 yards and 25 touchdowns. That performance shot him up to the No.77 ranking in the DCTF Top 100 class of 2024 rankings and 37 total offers.

But TCU stood out for the relationships they forged, which is why Palmer committed on June 16 to the Horned Frogs, his father’s birthday.

“Let me start with Sonny Dykes,” Palmer said. “I feel like I can talk to that man whenever I need to. Whenever I need something, I can call him. I’ll check in on him and he’ll check in on me. We just have a great relationship and every time I get down there it’s good vibes.”

Palmer was a solid receiver out of the backfield in 2022 with 30 receptions for 308 yards and eight touchdowns, but he ran routes and snagged passes like a natural wideout at State 7-on-7. He reeled in multiple touchdowns, the most impressive of which came on a one-handed grab in the back of the endzone on a go route.

He’s focused on a state championship run with Decatur this upcoming season, but he’s already networking with fellow TCU commits from the hottest recruiting class in the country.

“When I committed, they made a group chat and they all congratulated me,” Palmer said. “So we started getting each other’s contacts and socials and we just started texting ever since then. Hopefully we can recruit some more players and build this class.”

Maybe it was a hint at an impending commitment, or maybe Ty Hawkins’ pledge to TCU on Saturday shocked him just as much as everyone else.

Hawkins’ 2022 season got off to a slow start like Decatur, but his only lasted for one half.

The 6-foot, 185-pounder spent his freshman season at wide receiver for San Antonio Johnson while working every day in practice at his natural quarterback position. In his first Varsity start against Converse Judson in the raucous Alamodome, the nerves understandably were getting the best of him.

Judson raced out to a commanding lead early while Hawkins was still adjusting to the speed of the game, but then the signal caller tossed a 33-yard touchdown on a seam route with three minutes left in the first quarter.

“It was a pretty big gap (in the score) and, I don’t know, I threw a touchdown and all the butterflies just left,” Hawkins said. “All my nerves just got out of me and it was all good. I just kept going from there.”

Johnson went into the half down 27-7. Then Hawkins took over. The sophomore showed off his dynamic speed with a 49-yard touchdown scamper early in the third quarter and then piloted the Jaguars offense to a furious comeback. With 18 seconds left in the game, he threw a touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 43-41, then hurdled a defender on the two-point conversion to improbably send a once sure blowout into overtime.

While Judson eventually won the game on an overtime field goal, the Hawkins era had arrived. He flourished in Johnson’s RPO-heavy offense, throwing for 2,166 yards and 30 TD and rushing for 899 yards with six touchdowns in a district MVP debut.

He couldn’t flash the explosive athleticism that made a Regional qualifier in the triple jump while at State 7-on-7. Instead, he sprayed the ball all over the field from the pocket. His clean footwork, precision accuracy, and the rocket right arm he’d honed on the gridiron and as a center fielder in baseball all earned DCTF high school insider Matt Stepp’s praise.

Following the presentation of Stepp’s prestigious award, Hawkins announced his commitment to TCU. At Johnson, Hawkins is granted the freedom to make a decision on virtually every play in an RPO scheme. He cited his camaraderie with new TCU offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, and the high-flying Air Raid offense he’s crafted, as reasons the Horned Frogs stood out to him.

“TCU is a crazy school, I love it a lot,” Hawkins said. “Coach Briles, the OC, we have a really good relationship and talk all the time.”

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