Depth chart risers this spring are scattered all over the field. The first comes in the most unlikely spot—runningback. How could TCU have any room for a new player at runningback, with Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker, and Waymon James returning? It’s about performance on the field, and early-enrolled true freshman B. J. Catalon is far outpacing expectations. Multiple coaches said, at the signing day event, that Catalon is uncatchably fast. CGP says he is an animal in the gym, and a good student. During spring drills, the coach reported,
"B.J. Catalon, here you got a freshman running back that benched 380 or 390 and squatted 580. He’s only been here six weeks and he ran in the high 4.4s or low 4.5s. He looks like a little Waymon James, only he’s faster. Maybe not as physical right now as Waymon is, but he’s faster."
Look for Catalon on special teams early and often. The freshman isn’t the only Frog tailback impressing, however. Matthew Tucker ran a 4.47 at 225-pounds, and looks primed to have an immense senior year, rotating with James and Wesley.
Another early enrolled newcomer, JUCO junior corner Kevion Gamble (5-8, 180), had a great spring. Patterson said the loss of Travaras Battle-Smith meant TCU needed an experienced corner, and that was Kevion Gamble’s opening. His adjustment to TCU’s frantic practice pace was not easy. "Gamble is probably the most lost guy out here because we don’t take slow reps. You may have just done something wrong and now you got to go do another play right now. It’s just what we do." Within a few weeks, however, Patterson’s tune had changed. "Keivon really started to come along as one of our corners and if he can be our fifth corner and push to be our fourth corner then we’ll be a better football team in the fall." With the continued emergence of Travoskey Garrett, and a good spring by returning corner Kevin White, the Frogs suddenly appear deep at corner.
Free safety Chris Hackett figured prominently in the last post about spring ball. What Hackett hasn’t done, however, is oust junior Elisha Olabode from the starting spot. Patterson says, "Elisha Olabode has come a long way and so has Hackett behind him. Those guys are like our generals." When Coach P is happy with his first and second free safety (and corners), expect a good year from the secondary.
Patterson is less rosy about the weak safety position. Jonathan Anderson (6-3, 208) was occasionally brilliant last season (including a jaw-dropping 17-tackle performance against BYU). But walk-on Geoff Hooker outplayed him in spring enough to furrow the coach’s eyebrow. "I am not happy with that position yet at all. I’m not happy with either of them right now," Patterson said. "Quincy [Aldridge, 6-2, 195] will be back, and so you will add four more safeties and a couple of those guys will push for that position."
Two walk-ons from Aledo, Joel Hasley and Danny Heiss, were consistently playing second-team linebacker in the spring. Patterson does not expect this to be the working model in the fall. "Deryck didn’t play very well today, Danny and Joel did okay," he said. "It’s always tough because our second offensive line is not where it needs to be yet. It’s all relative to who you play against." Linebacker is the only position on the team where the Coach expressed hope that an incoming freshman can fill the need immediately.
"We’ve had six linebackers the last four or five years go to the NFL so how do develop the next guy. That’s what our job is. Hopefully A.J. Hilliard can come in and help us in that department."
At o-line, two tackles were out much of the spring with injuries—Tayo Fabuluje (6-7, 315) and James Dunbar (6-6, 305). Tayo ripped down a basketball goal when he dunked after Christmas; he has such a long wingspan that he can spread his arms and legs and climb up the walls in a normal size hallway. Patterson reports the tackle has plenty of frame to gain more weight without losing speed. Bobby Thompson has filled out too. The tackles are huge on the Frogs roster, Fabuluje, Dunbar and Wellington are over 6-6 and average over 300 pounds.
"It’s about the two’s and three’s and one of the big surprises already has been Eric Tausch. He’s been starting at tackle since Tayo’s been gone. Him moving and knowing that he’s also a backup center pushing for a starting role," Patterson said. "If you can find five starters now you’ve got six. To make it through the season you have to have eight at least. That’s our biggest push right now is to get there."
TCU has an embarrassment of riches at wideout; the last post about spring ball highlighted LaDarius Brown. But look for Brandon Carter to play a bigger role in 2012. Carter is bigger than he was as a true freshman, adding muscle. Early-enrolled freshman Kolby Listenbee (6-0, 175) is going to play, says the coach. "He’s a lot like the young safeties in that he’s learning every step as he’s doing it. He’s learning and he can really run."
Also back for 2012, but not on the field, is safeties coach Chad Glasgow.
"Having Chad back is like nothing changed here. From coaching special teams and everything we do on the field, we don’t have to teach anybody anything. Everybody knew where their spot was, where they needed to go. We just need to get better. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re not where we used to be. This freshman group, what they were like in two-a-days last year to what they were like on the second day of spring (practice) is totally different. I’m talking about Hackett and Bailey and Bird and all those guys."
Can Frog fans expect any change in offensive play calling? Pattersons says no. "Coach Anderson is the lead guy. It’s really the same stuff. We’ve got three senior tailbacks and things we’re trying to get done. It’s about the same, offense really hasn’t changed much."