Who was the breakout player for TCU last year? That's almost an impossible question when you really think about it, so I won't bother trying to narrow it down to a single guy. What's undeniable though is that Deante' Gray was one of them. We all had high hopes for Gray back in 2012 after he took a punt return back 70 yards for a touchdown against Grambling State the first time he ever touched the football as a Horned Frog.
After that he kind of faded back into the mist and he didn't have a single reception that season. In 2013 he was, in part, a victim our our inconsistent quarterback play, but he still showed excellent explosiveness turning only eight catches into 156 yards (19.5 yards per catch average). Last year, he finally did what we had all been expecting him to do since that opening game of his freshman campaign. Second on the team in receiving touchdowns, he made eight trips to the end zone and totaled 582 yards on 38 catches (16.2 yards per catch average). With Doctson and Listenbee on the outside, Gray thrived in the slot and made defenders look silly trying to tackle him in the open field. Those numbers undoubtedly would have been higher too had he not missed two games due to injury.
Heading into his senior year, Gray's health remains a concern. While the foot injury that kept him off the field in the latter part of last season is all healed up, he missed most of spring ball after sustaining a non-contact knee injury. Initially, reports were very positive and the assumption was that Gray would be back in time for fall camp. Over the weekend though, Gary Patterson changed his tune, telling the Fort Worth Star Telegram:
"I don’t know. You know how these things go," he said. "It could be not for the whole season. Could be he plays the first game. I don’t know what it’s going to be."
I really hope that this is all just posturing. Patterson is known to be vague about who will play/start going into the season because he likes opposing defenses to have to waste time preparing for multiple contingencies. Still, Gray isn't practicing right now, and that is cause for concern. If he can't make it back in time for Minnesota that would be a big blow. With the Gophers rolling out two All-Big Ten cornerbacks in Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray, our ability to attack the middle of the defense could be a big factor in the game.
Sporting number 20 on the other side of the ball is high school safety-turned-linebacker Montrel Wilson. As I mentioned, Wilson was a nice in-state recruiting victory for the Frogs. A three-star prospect out of Keller Fossil Ridge High School, Wilson committed to Baylor back in June of 2014. Luckily for us, that only lasted a few months as he decommitted in October and eventually signed with TCU in December of last year. As a senior he was named first-team All-District 5-6A at safety. He recorded 115 tackles and three interceptions while leading his team to a playoff birth.
Montrel came to TCU to play safety, but it looks like Gary Patterson has ascertained some talents in Wilson that can help the Frogs at a position in need of more depth. In the second fall practice of the year, Wilson moved from safety over to linebacker. At 6'3", 205 pounds, Wilson has the frame to make a big impact at that position and Patterson seems high on his potential. We've all seen what Gary can do when a player is willing to buy in and make a position change, so if he is optimistic, we should all be excited to see how Wilson develops in his new role.
20 days to go. Who's ready?