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TCU Football’s DB recruiting strategy could pay off in 2018

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The Frogs have been stock-piling corners and safeties the last couple of years, and it appears the unit is ready to make hay.

TCU Football practice (8.4.18)
TCU Football practice (8.4.18)
Melissa Triebwasser

TCU has had no shortage of great players in the secondary over the years, as Gary Patterson and the defensive coaching staff have done an exceptional job finding talent and developing it into pro-caliber players. One does not need to look far to see a lightly-recruited player or former underrated offensive player that has made millions in the NFL after GP convinced them to man the back end of his vaunted 4-2-5.

But, upon entering a Power Five conference, the Frogs went from finding diamonds in the rough to going after top-targets - though they certain haven’t abandoned the strategy of turning over every rock looking for something the “big” schools may have missed. Just look at the players the Frogs’ have signed in the last four years:

TCU DB Recruiting

2018 Star Rating Position Height
2018 Star Rating Position Height
Atanza Vongor **** S 6'1"
Trevon Moehrig-Woodard *** CB 6'2"
Ar'Darius Washington *** S 5'8"
Hidari Ceaser *** S 5'11"
2017
Michael Onyemaobi *** CB/S 6'1"
LaKendrick Van Zandt *** S 6'1"
Noah Daniels *** CB/S 6'0"
Keenan Reed *** CB 5'11"
Kerry Johnson *** S 6'1"
2016
Markell Simmons *** S 6'1"
Innis Gaines *** S 6'2"
Vernon Scott *** S 6'2"
2015
Niko Small *** S 5'10"
Jeff Gladney *** CB 6'0"
Julius Lewis *** CB 5'11"

It’s a subtle, but crucial difference - especially in the height department. The Frogs are going after bigger, more developed, players these days, and it’s paying off, according to Coach P. “The younger players are bigger bodies, and consequently, the bigger bodies aren’t as banged up. Vernon’s (Scott) not banged up, Tre’s (Moehrig-Woodard) not banged up, (Noah) Daniel’s not banged up. One of the things we’ve done in recruiting, our team looks longer and looks bigger than what it did a year ago. At safety, you redshirted three and then you bring four in. And three out of those four you brought in are all over 6’. Ar’Darius (Washington) - which he was offered by LSU - he’s the shortest of the group. Seven guys are here on this campus that you didn’t have running down on special teams a year ago. So, we know the guys that we can keep out because they have had enough reps, so they can get healthy while the young guys get better.”

Vongor is out for the season after suffering a non-contact injury early in camp, but several other freshmen/redshirt freshmen should see playing time this fall. Both Noah Daniels and Michael Onyemaobi are players that Patterson has mentioned each time he has been asked about the secondary, and both seemed primed to take meaningful snaps for the defense, and possibly even start. Daniels has been so good that GP has him playing safety and corner in the interest in maximizing his usage. Moehrig-Woodard also seems to be a Coach P fave, not just for his play, but his personality. “He’s just a great kid. Works hard.”

While the secondary battles injury issues - just like the rest of the team has - the young players picking up snaps from banged up veterans have really shined. “Jeff’s (Gladney) been out for about a week. Julius has been working, Noah Daniels has really come on, Tony’s (James) been out. Moved Yoyo (Onyemaobi) over to corner and he’s really been doing a decent job. He and Daniels give us bigger corners, so, our depth is a little bit better there. Tre Moehrig has really done a good job at free, Ray’s moved to weak safety because Markell (Simmons) has been out. The key to the story is, you don’t ever hold anything against anybody so you find out who steps up to the plate.”

For Coach Patterson, patience, and letting things develop is the key. “Be careful about trying to write the ending of the story yourself. Let the story unfold and help the story along. So that’s what I am trying to do as I get more mature in my old age - help the story along.”

He’s been helping players, and TCU’s story, along for almost two decades, and Frog fans should certainly be excited for this next chapter.