The Frogs are 3-4, and it always seems like when it rains it pours. Now, the injuries are starting to pile up, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
The Frogs lost All-American defensive tackle Ross Blacklock prior to the season, which was a huge blow to the defensive line. The secondary has been playing without Niko Small for the last several weeks, and he was out again against Oklahoma on Saturday. Earlier in the week, Patterson noted that Innis Gaines was probably out for the season.
Those are three veteran, talented players that TCU expected to be around, and it’s three spots where young guys have to get ready to play. Now, the Frogs are banged up at cornerback as well. Julius Lewis and Jeff Gladney both suffered injuries against the Sooners Saturday, and it appeared as though Markell Simmons was banged up a bit too.
Garret Wallow, who didn’t start because he was banged up, played a significant amount of the game at strong safety, simply out of necessity. Jawaun Johnson started in place of Wallow at linebacker.
“He got the start because Garret is banged up,” Patterson said, “and Innis is gone and we needed a number two strong safety. [Wallow] moved to strong safety which he hadn’t worked there in forever. He played strong safety most of the day, more than he did linebacker.”
Of course, the mentality has to be such that the next guys come in and take care of business.
“Next man up,” said Ty Summers when asked about it after the game, “It’s frustrating, I feel bad for those guys, I would hate to be in that position...I feel for them, but at the same time it’s next man up. So you can never just settle and say ‘ok, we messed up here because we have a new person in there.’ Everyone practices the same, everyone puts in the work, everyone watches film, and so when it’s your turn, you have to go out and make plays.”
One player who has stepped up in a big way is true freshman Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, who started in place of the injured Gaines on Saturday. Patterson praised the safety afterward, but pointed out that he’s still growing up, too.
“He did good except you’ve gotta play every play...It’s just a learning process,” Patterson said, “He’s gonna be a really good player. He’s the one guy today that ran down Kyler Murray any time he had the opportunity to run down Kyler Murray. The game was not too big for him.”
Ultimately, four of TCU’s week one starters in the defensive backfield have suffered injuries, with Ridwan Issahaku being the lone guy to stay healthy. It’s never going to be easy to play defense in the Big 12, but it becomes significantly more dififcult with 2⁄3 of your starting safeties are out, and both starting cornerbacks are less than 100%.
Patterson noted all the shuffling in his post-game press conference, saying that it definitely makes things more difficult, but that you can’t really prepare for it in practice.
“We try not to [rotate guys in at different positions in practice]. You don’t go ‘well I wonder who is going to get hurt this week.’ We just have to be smart. We’ve got to manage five more ball games.”
Of course, the injury situation isn’t as bad as it has been in past years, such as 2015, when TCU was forced to play 30 true and redshirt freshman due to a significant number of injuries. Of course that team won 11 games, including a come-from-behind win over Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.
This team is facing the question of whether or not they’ll be bowl eligible, and Summers indicated that it’s on the team’s mind moving forward.
“We’ve gotta keep our head up, the season’s not over. At this point we’re really fighting to make sure that we can find a way to get six wins. That’s really the first bar we’re trying to reach. That starts with Kansas this next week.”