In my humble opinion, there are two essential magazines a college football fan in Texas must read in the preseason to be reasonably informed. One is Dave Campbell's Texas Football (the other is Phil Steele's stat-dump). Recently, Greg Tepper, an editor at DCTF, spoke with Frogs O' War about the rise of TCU football in the Metroplex, its media, recruiting, and the Big 12.
Frogs O' War: Is TCU the tightest-lipped program that DCTF covers? What are DCTF’s best sources of information for the Horned Frogs?
DCTF: While the Frogs certainly like to play things close to the chest, the tightest-lipped program we cover has to be the University of Texas. The Longhorns’ information is accessible, but they do an excellent job of making sure they control the information and access. As far as our best sources, both the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News do a good job keeping us apprised, as well as a variety of blogs and social media outlets.
FOW: DCTF has had very nice things to say about TCU in recent years; when, in your estimation, did TCU begin to warrant flattering attention, and why?
DCTF: Well, the funny thing about winning is that it gets everyone’s attention, and there aren’t many programs that have been as successful as the Frogs over the past decade or so. I can only speak for myself – I’ve been with DCTF a little over a year – but I’d say the first time TCU really began re-entering the collective consciousness was 2002, with the 10-2 Liberty Bowl team. [more after the jump.]
That’s when the entire college football world first looked at Gary Patterson and said, "You know, the Frogs might have something here." Since then, it’s been bigger and better, capped off with that sensational Rose Bowl victory.
FOW: What has TCU done that SMU can’t?
DCTF: Oh man, this question could get me in trouble. I, for one, think the SMU program is on the rise. I think June Jones is building something very strong, potentially special, on Mockingbird Lane. That said, I’m not sure SMU could capture the heart-and-soul of the city in which they reside quite like TCU has captured Fort Worth. There are a number of reasons for that – size of the town, professional teams, etc. – but TCU is Fort Worth, and Fort Worth is TCU. I’m not sure SMU could have that relationship with Dallas, at least in the foreseeable future. Beyond that, TCU has been able to build a high-caliber athletic program around football and baseball, which is tough for SMU since they don’t play baseball. [/dances through raindrops]
FOW: Did TCU’s recruiting level off in 2009? If so, is the talent level in Fort Worth, if sustained, sufficiently high to warrant hope that that Frogs can win the Big 12 every once in awhile?
DCTF: Short answer: no. I don’t think TCU’s recruiting has leveled off. I think there’s another step. You look at the recruiting class the Frogs just pulled in – guys like Devonte Fields and Griffin Gilbert and A.J. Hilliard and Joey Hunt, guys everyone was after – and you think about what could be with a couple more BCS game appearances. No, I think the sky is the limit for TCU recruiting-wise. More than anything, this is about Gary Patterson targeting his kids, which are not necessarily always everyone’s kids. His players tend to transcend their arbitrary star rankings, and he has a unique knack for picking them out. Now, if he can add in the superstar recruits with "his" recruits, you’ve got a mold for sustainable, elite-level success. But let’s, for the sake of this question, work under the assumption that recruiting remains static for the next decade or so, with a very good but not stupendous class every year: I think TCU can compete in and win the Big 12. I don’t see any reason why they can’t. I’ve long thought that the "they can’t handle the week-to-week grind of an AQ conference" argument is baloney. The bottom line is that TCU has the talent and the coaching to compete with – and beat -- the best, period.
FOW: Is TCU one more mediocre year in Austin away from losing Gary Patterson?
DCTF: No, for a couple of reasons. Number one: I don’t think Mack Brown is going anywhere. I think the Longhorns could go 5-7 again this season and Mack Brown would be right back on the sideline in 2013. He’s got the best gig in college football, and he’ll leave it on his terms. And in reading his comments in the offseason, he seems revitalized, like he’s ready for at least a few more years. Number two: Gary Patterson isn’t going anywhere. Gary Patterson is happy and content and comfortable and well-compensated and building something. I think the University of Utopia could back a dump truck full of money into his office, and he’d only consider it.
FOW: Has TCU gotten in over its head, joining the Big12? (similarly, did TCU leave a good gig—top non-cartel program in the country, usually netting an auto-bid as an at-large to the BCS, for a humdrum existence as a mid-tier Big12 team?)
DCTF: I don’t think so. I think TCU has performed like a Big 12-caliber school over the past ten years, and now they’re where they can better compete. The second part of your question is interesting, since if you think about it, the Frogs did enjoy a strange little niche of college football, becoming the Little Engine That Always Could And Usually Did. There is value to that position, but essentially, you’re asking if a mid-level Big 12 existence is better than a top-level non-AQ existence. I’d say those are, at worst, a push. And I, personally, don’t think TCU will be a mid-level Big 12 team.
FOW: Can TCU start winning recruiting battles against Texas, OU, and LSU for the best metroplex players?
DCTF: Can they? Sure. They already have with players like Devonte Fields (if you can’t tell, I think Fields could be super-special). But it’s going to be a building process. You can’t just throw a conference logo in a recruit’s face and expect them to all of a sudden ignore every other thing your program is about. This isn’t video game recruiting; lots of things matter. I’m not sure that, in the first few years, TCU is going to start getting their slice of the pie from the UT/OU/LSU recruits, but I do think they can start to chip away at them, picking up one or two a year until it becomes three or four a year. It’ll be a process, but you’d be amazed what success on the field will do.
FOW: Which Big12 school will beat TCU first in 2012?
DCTF: I don’t want to give away too much of what’s in the magazine (pre-order now on TexasFootball.com!), but it rhymes with Crest Birginia.
FOW: How vulnerable is TCU with the loss of Ed Wesley, DJ Yendrey, Nykiren Wellington, Carter Wall, Ty Horn, Tanner Brock, Deryck Gildon, and Devyn Harris, and which of these losses most damage the Frogs’ hopes in 2012?
DCTF: They’re vulnerable in the sense that one of the things that Gary Patterson has always prided himself on -- quality depth – is hurting very badly right now. Losing Brock hurts from a leadership perspective and a playmaking perspective, plus the fact that the linebacker spot wasn’t the deepest part of the team anyway. The loss of Gildon is kind of the same way. Losing Wesley hurts, but at the same time, if there was one place the Frogs could afford to lose a player, it’s running back. Waymon James is more than capable of stepping up and filling the role. The bigger issue isn’t now, but rather when someone in those spots gets hurt later in the year. That’s when the Frogs are vulnerable to all of this.
FOW: Can Gary Patterson field a formidable defense given all these losses?
DCTF: He’s Gary Patterson, of course he can field a formidable defense. This just made it a little tougher.
FOW: Is TCU’s offensive line in trouble?
DCTF: Now this is what I would be much more worried about if I were a TCU fan. This is a young offensive line, and the depth is not particularly great, especially with the loss of Wellington and Wall. I think the offensive line is good enough to keep the offense afloat. I think. But I’m a lot less confident in their ability to hold together than I am in, say, the secondary or the quarterback spot or the linebacker spot or the running back spot.
FOW: Is Casey Pachall the best starting quarterback in the 2012 Big12?
FOW: Is the Pachall-to-Boyce and Pachall-to-Brown the best QB-WR problem for opposing defensive coordinators in the Big12?
DCTF: I don’t think so. I think Pachall is obviously super-special, and I’m high on both Boyce and Brown, but looking at what West Virginia is going to roll out there with Geno Smith to Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, it’s going to be really hard to stop those guys, especially with Dana Holgorsen calling the shots. Call Pachall and his duo a solid second.