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TCU Football Practice Update: Scrimmage reveals “some good, some bad”

Gary Patterson met with the media Friday, updating us on injury news, key position battles, and more.

TCU Football practice (August 4, 2018)
Gary Patterson keeps an eye on his defense during an early August practice.
Melissa Triebwasser

Gary Patterson is always good for a quote or two, and his best of Friday had nothing to do with TCU Football.

At the end of practice, Coach P mentioned that he and the team were tired, and that he was “getting too old for this”, with a smile, of course. When challenged with a question about how he can be getting too old with Bill Snyder having just signed an extension (one that takes him through 2022, same as GP), he answered with a typical Patterson smirk “That’s Coach Snyder, he’s tougher than I am.”

Overall, it was a fairly happy GP coming off of yesterday’s first scrimmage of the preseason, despite the tiredness of his team. “We were tired. Seven straight days. We came back today, this is the only practice we will have. We needed more energy, we were tired.” The Frogs will be back on the football field tomorrow, for work that Coach Patterson thinks will be of more value. “Tomorrow (Sunday) will be a better evaluation scrimmage. Yesterday we saw who could block and tackle, as usual in the first one, there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad, and they all saw it. So we will go from there.”

Part of the goal of the first two weeks of camp, of course, is answering some of the questions at various position battles across campus. The Frogs have plenty of unanswered questions, but there is some clarity coming along the offensive line and the defense, as players prove they can meet the high expectations set by the coaching staff. The unit with the most turnover, of course, is the offensive line - but it seems that group may be ahead of schedule, despite an injury to Casey McDermott Vai, one of the contenders to start at guard. “We’ve been pretty happy… to be honest with you, our offensive line has come a long, long way. Even our twos inside. I still think we have work with our two tackles. Anthony McKinney has made a lot of progress. We weren’t able to (make a lot of progress) in the spring because all of our ends were out. Now, everyday you get a chance to work on good, and good helps you.” Coach Patterson went on to address the depth and how quickly some of the new players are getting up to speed - something that having a likely starter out if the benefit of. “The first team group, very happy with as a general rule. Casey is going to be out another week and a half, two weeks, but we are expecting him back before the first game. We don’t change what we teach, whole-part-whole, so you throw it on the board and see what works. Now you’re just getting better. Today we got better, because we were able to teach a whole bunch of stuff - now we are teaching technique, not just defense. How you fit, how you sit.”

TCU’s defensive-minded head coach seems to be cautiously optimistic with what he will be rolling out week-to-week, with some young players standing out early. The competition to start across from Jeff Gladney in week one has been especially good, with several players vying for the job. Patterson let us know Friday of one significant addition to that unit - redshirt freshman Michael Onyemaobi, a big guy (6’1”, 196) who it appears is poised to take snaps at both his listed position of safety, and now cornerback. He and fellow redshirt freshman Noah Daniels are guys that have stood out through week one. “Really, Noah has had a great camp. Even Onyemaobi is doing great - we moved him back to corner. Yoyo (Onyemaobi) has been playing great.” As far as safeties go, Patterson dropped in some bad news, noting that true freshman Atanza Vongor is likely out for the season with an injury that he was not able to specify at the time. The South Grand Prairie product was expected to compete for snaps in year one, so his loss is certainly a blow to the depth of the last line of defense. But, that has allowed other players, namely Ar’Darius Washington - an undersized, but insanely fast true freshman - to step up. Innis Gaines continues to hold the starting role, and Ridwan Issahaku is making good progress after missing the spring with an injury.

The defensive line is expected to be stout, and possibly the deepest unit on the team. Everyone knows what senior Ben Banogu brings to the table, but younger vets like Ross Blacklock and Corey Bethley are expected to take big leaps in year two. But L.J. Collier is a name that a lot of people are watching closely, to see if he can fill the big shoes of Mat Boesen, who had 12.5 sacks a year ago. “He’s got a chance. They’re (Banogu and Collier) just different - L.J. is a power rusher, Ben is a speed rusher. At 280, he ran a 4.7 for the pros in the spring. Now he’s at 268. He’s only used to playing about 20 plays a game. The whole thing has been getting him where he can play - last year, he only played third downs. Now you see if he can still play on third downs like if he was coming from the sidelines.” Patterson also mentioned that Ty Summers will play some defensive end again in 2018, a move they make for teams that are a little faster and/or run a lot of read plays.

Patterson talked at length about the linebackers, and what moving Chad Glasgow from safeties to that unit has done for the group as a whole. In short, it’s been a huge benefit. “Moving a guy from safety to linebackers. Linebacker guys, as a general rule, are really front guys, so coverage is a different animal. When you move a secondary guy to linebacker - and Chad played linebacker in college - so he has that element and he has the coverage element. Really helps linebackers understand principals. It takes so much teaching for our safeties, so he has brought that attention to detail to the linebacker position.” When asked specifically about Jawaun Johnson, GP was pleased - but made sure to mention some other players that have impressed to this point as well. “Jawaun keeps getting better. Really, all of them are. Alec Dunham, even the young guys Ben and Jacoby. Chad’s really done a great job bringing those guys along.”

Lastly, special teams came into question, namely the kicking game. But for those of you who have been asking about the long snapper, we got some good news there, as well. “Cole (Bunce) is the starter right now. (Antonio) Ortiz has really emerged - the freshman who is the snapper. He is really fast. Exactly what we thought he was when we recruited him.”

Ultimately, one week into the start of preseason camp, Coach P is just starting to figure out who he has and what his program can be. But the early reviews show a talented, deep unit that can certainly reach for the lofty goals of last year’s 11 win team.