Gary Patterson isn’t quite ready to get the golf clubs out, though he appreciates that the national pundits aren’t giving his Horned Frogs much of a shot in the early season.
ESPN has #TCU at a 17.5% chance of beating #OhioState and 27% for #Texas. Gary Patterson’s response to that today:— Dean Straka (@dwstraka49) August 28, 2018
“I’m anxiety free. Bring on the golf clubs in March. You guys did me a favor. Nobody thinks I can win anyways, so here we go.”
Thankfully, the golf clubs will stay in storage for a few more months, as Coach Patterson enters year 18 at the helm of TCU Football. He held court once again as the Frogs prepare to enter a season that has as many questions as it does expectations.
Patterson was in mid-season form as he spoke across a variety of topics, and made media members laugh on multiple occasion. Like most, you can tell the promise of week one has him excited, something that he doesn’t take for granted. “When you quit getting excited for any games, you need to quit. When it’s not any fun anymore, no matter what you do, you probably shouldn’t do it anymore because you won’t have an edge.”
Coming off of another double-digit win season, Patterson informed reports that he is “not a good loser. If you look at our record after having a losing season - which we have only had a couple - We’ve always bounced back.” He won’t need to bounce back in 2018, with 11 wins and a bowl victory in his back pocket, but it’s good insight into his depth chart and the decisions he makes on Saturdays. The best players are going to play, no matter if they are a young guy, a fifth year senior, or a graduate transfer with a sterling reputation. That includes the linebacking corp, where Garret Wallow was a surprising starter over NIU transfer Jawuan Johnson. Based on GP’s player comp, it makes sense why. “He’s got coverage abilities, he’s tough, and he can run. He’s like Jason Phillips - you’ve got to turn him down four notches. Don’t call anything crazy the first couple snaps because he won’t know you called another defense. You’ve got to slow things down.” Johnson will play as well, and it seems the defensive-minded coach has four players that he really trusts for two spots - giving TCU depth and fresh legs. They, like the rest of the young defense, need to be ready to play, because the Frogs aren’t about a learning curve. “We’re here to win. We’ve got four guys. Jawuan, Alec Dunham, Ty (Summers), Rico (Evans) have all played. You can’t play as redshirt freshmen. We don’t train them to play as redshirt freshmen. We train them to win and to be one of the best defenses in the league and in the country. That’s why a lot of kids say they come here.”
Summers will play some linebacker as well, of course, but will open the season at defensive end as the defensive coaching staff looks to compensate for the injury of Freshman All-American Ross Blacklock. Summers and several other players have been team players when it comes to changing roles and going where they are needed, but only one is a senior trying to make one last positive impression on the pro scouts. “I think Ty is an outside linebacker - probably going to be his best position. So whether he’s going to play inside or outside, for him to show off his ability to rush the passer and to drop in coverage - he’s already shown those abilities. Also goes to show you what kind of person he is - unselfish. Same thing with Mike Epley and Brandon Bowen - you have to move guys inside to gain depth. All those things go into how to manage a season.”
Additionally on defense, TCU is leaning on another senior, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honoree Ben Banogu. Banogu isn’t worried about the accolades, and neither is his coach. “I don’t pay any attention to that. If they don’t play well, if I don’t force them to play well, it doesn’t matter what people think. The guy that was the preseason defensive player last year wasn’t that at the end of the year (That player was Dorance Armstrong, Jr of Kansas - he finished second team all Big 12). The biggest thing with Ben is not to try to be a great player, just try and make the plays you’re suppose to make. He’s got the ability that all the rest of the stuff will play itself out.”
Patterson touched on the TCU lineage in the NFL, mentioning the nearly 120 players that have played or are currently playing in the NFL. But he also mentioned those who have had success after their playing days are over, specifically mentioning David Hawthorne - who turned eight years of NFL contracts into a success catering and soon-to-be restaurant business. The head coach takes great pride in preparing the hundreds of players that have come through his doors for Saturdays, Sundays, and beyond, talking about telling his players “to be a good person and let your play speak for itself.” He also takes great pride in the way TCU players are seen by the professional coaches and scouts. “One of the coolest things that happens to players when they get into an (NFL) room and the coaches ask ‘where did you go to college?’. They say TCU and the response is always ‘oh, I’m not worried about you’. They already know that they’re tough, that they’re going to act right, they already know a bunch of things. That as much of a compliment to the program as anything else.”
With the nights getting longer and the time off nearly non-existent, Coach Patterson won’t get to spend too much time with friends over the next several months. But he will try and invest in one relationship, at least, for as long as the Frogs are playing football. “When I’m not working, my pillow - I’m great friends with my pillow at home. When I’m not working, I sleep. I like to sleep.”
With one stated goal in mind, he won’t be spending much time with that acquaintance this season. “We always have one goal - give the seniors the best season they can possibly have. That never changes.”
Here’s to hoping that there’s no rest for the weary until January (at least). Sorry, Coach.