If you harken back to the early days of TCU Football, the B.P. times - as in, before Patterson - it’s hard to find too many names on the defensive side of the ball that withstood the passing of time. Sure, there were some bright spots, high draft picks, and long NFL careers, but how many former Frogs can you name on the defensive side of the ball that played before 2000 - not named Bob Lilly or Larry Brown?
But, since, the dawn of the Patterson era, defense has clearly become the calling card in Fort Worth, with 21 of the 45 drafted players since 2001 coming from that side of the ball. TCU has sent countless others to NFL camps, as well. And it seems as if the defensive line is especially on the uptick, as the Frogs have dominated the first team All-Big 12 selections at that position the last several years, including placing both of their d-ends on the list in both 2017 and 2018.
Gary Patterson was asked about the emergence of the rush ends in his system, specifically the play of LJ Collier and Ben Banogu this year. “We have been fortunate, the last three years - going into the season, we had 85 total sacks [by returning players] so we have been able to create a lot of pressure. This year, we only had 30, but a lot of that had to do with me, who we played, and how we had to play defense - I kind of stymied that a little bit. But, both of them (Banogu and Collier) play with high motors. They are different players - one is more of a speed guy, one is more of a power guy - but they are guys that like to play the game.”
Banogu has been a special player in his two years on the field for the Horned Frogs, making the All-Big 12 team twice, being named Defensive Newcomer of the Year, and accumulating 16 sacks in 26 career games, despite facing double teams on nearly every snap. The transfer out of Louisiana Monroe was lightly recruited after suffering a knee injury late in his career at Prosper High School, eventually choosing ULM over Montana State as a two star prospect. After a redshirt year, he recorded 45 tackles, 5.0 sacks, and 14.5 tackles for a loss in his first season on the field before electing to transfer closer to home, choosing to join TCU. LJ Collier has a similar story, a three star recruit who had just two offers out of Munday High School, TCU and Texas Tech. Collier has gone on to accumulate 13.5 sacks across 41 games, playing in at least ten each of the last three seasons. Each a ‘diamond in the rough’ type player, whom Patterson called “typical TCU guys”, they have been leaders both on the field and in the locker room, epitomizing the culture of the program GP has built. “[They are both] guys that people really don’t know much about, but they both really like to play the game, like to be coached, and they play hard. And anytime you do that, coaches are happy.”
Both seniors, Patterson has been clear that honoring guys like Collier and Banogu, among others, is his - and his team’s - top priority for the bowl game. “The best thing about bowl games, you get your seniors an opportunity to play one more game. You always try and give your seniors the best present going out - playing one more ball game. Any time you get into a game that’s going to be hard-hitting and it’s going to be a close ball game, everybody gets excited about it. Whether it’s high scoring or low scoring, everybody is trying to go out there and win by one.” He wants to send the kids that have poured into the program out with a win, and to reward them for a hard-fought season, that was mostly won in the trenches. “Even in the Big 12, we have had to win three ball games that were less than 20 points - just like the Pac 12, it’s hard to do that. That says a lot about both programs, that they were able to do that.”
For these two seniors, who have led the way all season, ending with a win is the goal. In what many expect to be a hard-fought, lowing scoring game, the two ends will have a lot to do with that.