Few major conference coaches do a better job of identifying diamonds in the rough than TCU’s Gary Patterson. It started early in his tenure in Fort Worth, when GP was forced to look in every small town and turn over every rock looking for the type of athlete that could play in his then unusual 4-2-5 defense and was willing to be a part of a nomadic program that at one point was a part of three different conferences in a five year span. Patterson became adept at turning offensive sleepers into defensive stars, signing a slew of small school QBs and running backs and turning them into all conference defensive ends, linebackers, and safeties.
Though the Frogs now recruit with the power of the Big 12 behind them, something that has enabled them to compete nationally for the top prospects in the country, GP still loves to find the hidden gems. It’s almost funny how often TCU will offer an unheralded kid, only to see every major program jump on them soon after.
Though the class of 2017 is one of the highest rated in Frogs’ history, loaded with star power and top-ranked players, there are still several sleepers on the list that will follow in the footsteps of players before them - guys like Sam Carter, Derrick Kindred, Andy Dalton, Trevone Boykin, Josh Doctson, Ty Summers, KaVontae Turpin, and more. Here’s our best guess for players to keep an eye on over the course of the next 4-5 years.
Garret Wallow (John Curtis, LA) - Safety
Wallow is a HARD hitter. The 6’2”, 215 pound safety grades out as a three star prospect, garnering a national ranking in the 800s and a positional ranking in the 60s. Though he holds 20 offers, half from Power Five conferences, he’s not the kind of player on paper that gets fans excited. He doesn’t have the elite speed that most programs look for in a player that will roam the defensive backfield, but he is a heady player who has exceptional instincts and a knack for being around the ball.
With a frame similar to linebacker Ty Summers (a former high school quarterback), Wallow could be a candidate to move down to the middle of the defense, or potentially play a Sam Carter type role as a secondary leader and play-caller. Either way, he’s the ‘coach on the field’ type that could help galvanize the back end of the defense when his number is called.
Ni’jeel Meeking (Union Parish, LA) - Athlete
6’3”, 4.47 speed, two star ranking.
Union Parish High School has only 570 students in Farmerville, LA, a town of less than 4,000 people overall. The football program isn’t a power, and Meeking played a little of everything over the course of his three years on varsity, including quarterback as a senior. He doesn’t have eye-popping stats, but his rating may reflect a lack of exposure more than a lack of talent.
TCU has signed a plethora of wide receivers in the class of 2017, and Meeking will have an uphill battle to steal snaps from players like Omar Manning, Jalen Reagor, and Kenedy Snell. This might signal a move to the other side of the ball for the lanky speedster, who fits the bill perfectly at safety - which he did play some of in high school.
Wherever Gary Patterson chooses to use him, Meeking has a bright future at TCU. He’s likely to redshirt this fall, but watch for him to make his name in spring practice a year from now.