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The Big 12 is full of explosive offenses, but the Frogs’ have the defensive backs to slow them

Through the first couple days of preseason camp, Coach Patterson has been pleased with the back end of his defense.

TCU Football practice (August 4, 2018)
Niko Small was banged up over the weekend, but the senior safety leads a talented group of DBs for TCU.
Melissa Triebwasser

“I don’t know that anyone is playing at the high level of Ranthony yet, but at least we have guys.”

TCU Football lost a four year starter when Ranthony Texada graduated last spring, and replacing the leadership, experience, and system knowledge of a player with 43 career starts is no easy task. But, Coach Patterson seems pleased with what he has seen so far.

One of the biggest surprises early on has been the (re)emergence of Julius Lewis, a player with a ton of potential who has yet to play a full season because of injuries. A top ten corner in the state coming out of high school, the 5’10” cornerback is looking to put together a junior campaign that changes his fortunes. Early on in camp, Coach Patterson has been happy with how much Julius is trusting his surgically repaired knee. “Julius has been a surprise. We were worried, because he’s been kind of holding back. But the last few days, he’s been a lot more aggressive. We have to get his speed back, get to where he’s comfortable so we can take the brace off.” Lewis, for his part, just wants to get back on the field and contribute, as both a player and a leader. “I like my work ethic; I feel like I put myself in a position where I know what I need to do on the field and off the field. If I start, I start - if I don’t, I need to find something else to do to contribute to the team. I feel like I know what I am doing - I haven’t been doing it as long because I have been hurt - but I know how the defense works, so I feel like I can put that on to the others. ” He likes the outlook of his defense as well. “There’s a lot of competition, we are pretty deep on both sides of the ball. Defense, we are pretty deep at every position - hopefully that will push people to be better.” Lewis has more in-game experience than any corner outside of Jeff Gladney, with 44 career tackles and seven passes defensed in 10 starts and 21 career games.

Lewis’ play isn’t the only bright spot in the secondary, a unit that is rife with talent, fast as lightning, and bigger than it’s been in recent years. Coach Patterson was complimentary of a pair of veterans, senior Tony James, a converted wide receiver with 15 tackles/two PBUs/20 career games at CB with two career starts, and junior Keenan Reed, a transfer out of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M - a bigger corner who saw action in eight games in 2017 and has made big strides this offseason. The experience of those three players, added into the reliability of Jeff Gladney - who is off to a strong start in camp as well, as well as the potential of the young corners, has given Coach P reason to be excited, as he expressed after last Saturday’s open practice. “Jeff made some plays today, Tony, and - I tell you - Keenan has come a long way. I don’t know that anyone is playing at the high level of Ranthony yet, but at least we have four guys. And, Noah Daniels, then you also have the track guy (Darrion Flowers, who is stupid fast), along with the young guys. We have more depth there, now it’s can we get better. But we have something to work with now.”

The level of play is probably not where Gary Patterson would like it to be, but the potential is through the roof. And he has a group of high-IQ, hard-working, talented players that will commit to getting into the playbook and making the defense second nature. It might take some time to come together, but if healthy, this is a secondary unit that could make things really difficult for the high-flying offenses across the conference.

And also for Kansas.

Julius Lewis knows what it takes. “Our goal going into every season is to beat the opponent by one point, so as long as we can do that, I feel like we will have accomplished our goals.”