We got our second session with Gary Patterson Saturday, since the opening of fall camp eight days prior. Patterson met with the media for fifteen minutes following the Frogs’ first scrimmage of August, waxing poetic about punters, the deep ball, and just about everything in between.
Here are some of the top takeaways from today’s session and the first eight days of camp.
- TCU suffered their second season-ending injury last week when cornerback Noah Daniels went down with an undisclosed injury. While Patterson says that his team has stayed “relatively healthy”, several players fall into the banged-up or lightened load category. A handful of notable players missed Saturday’s scrimmage, including Parking Workman, Shameik Blackshear, and Adam Plant on the defensive line. The unintended consequence of this, of course, is extra work for the young guys - Colt Ellison has especially benefitted, running with the first team most of the first week of practice. All three d-ends are expected back early this week. Patterson’s line of the day may have been in describing Blackshear’s injury, “Blackshear got an inflamed leg injury, so you got to get it un-flamed.”
- Also dealing with injuries is the secondary, who lost Noah Daniels for the season a few days ago. The Frogs will be relying heavily on seniors Jeff Gladney and Julius Lewis, but losing Daniels affects the depth. Lewis was a guy that Patterson said could have moved to safety, where TCU is looking for another player to step up. Keenan Reed could slot back in at corner, and juco transfer Tony Wallace should be back healthy soon. Freshmen Tre’Vius Hodges Tomlinson, Kee’Yon Stewart, and Donovann Collins have been impressive early, and redshirt freshman Hidari Ceasar is in the mix, too. But, it’s basically a revolving door during two-a-days, according to GP. “Every day it changes - every day is like a month. Somebody that goes today isn’t going to go tomorrow, so the next guy has to get better. But we’ve been happy up to this point. Not overly excited - we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
- Speaking of competition, there’s quite a battle going on at running back. While Sewo Olonilua has yet to carry the ball in fall camp as his load is being managed (nothing to do with his pending case) he is working in the passing game and certainly looks the part. After being excited about Darwin Barlow early, it was another true freshman that made the biggest impact in Saturday’s scrimmage, when a true freshman linebacker made a mistake. “Daimarqua [Foster] had a big, long run today against the threes, Dylan Jordan - you know, he just got here, didn’t go through the summer time - he stepped out of his gap. They’ll all learn.”
- Last week, y’all were worried about Emari Demercado, the juco transfer who saved the Frogs’ running game last season. Patterson spoke on him as well, saying about him “he’s about as valuable as anyone on the team.” Though Demercado is going to have a hard time finding snaps as a running back, he’s become a key member of special teams, being the off man on kick-off returns, playing on punt teams, and serving as a runner on kick-offs. He will play a huge role for the Horned Frogs in 2019.
- Speaking of special teams, with the loss of Cole Bunce to a season-ending injury suffered on his way to reporting, kick-offs have become especially perilous and the kicking game has one less competitor. Surprisingly, though, Patterson seems pretty okay with how things are going so far. “Kicking - up until yesterday, our kickers - Jonathan Song did great. Wasn’t happy with yesterday.” Then, he started talking about the punter, and his whole tune changed. “Really happy with our punter, to be honest with you. Did a lot of work in the summertime, light years since the spring. Unbelievable.” The Frogs will be chasing every yard in the field position game and every point in the kicking game. “I think we have a chance. If you’re going to win on the road, that means you’ve got to win close games. You’ve got to score every point.”
- On beer in the stadium, Patterson only cares about one thing: “I want a home field advantage.” And if selling beer keeps folks in the stands, then “I’m fired up about it.” Patterson was quick to remind us that “it’s my job to win games” and that his opinion is only part of the equation, since “they’re not giving us any of it.” But he wants people to get there early, stay late, and be loud. The east side expansion should help is well, as the shadow cast by the new suites and loge boxes brings all kinds of shade to the stadium, even in peak sun hours. It’s so nice up there, GP may trade-in his sideline position. “I might sit up there!”
- “I told you, when I write my book, my first chapter is what? ‘A perfect day’ - empty. Nothing, zero, blank.” Patterson remains as unsatisfied as ever 22 years into fall camp season, always chasing the perfect day. “If you’ve been around me, I’m never happy. But with how many young [players we have], our freshmen have progressed quite a bit, to be honest with you. We’ve come a lot farther - we did a nice job in the summer time, we’ve moved forward.”
- I know you’re all going to be upset if I don’t mention the quarterback battle, but there isn’t a ton to mention. Mike Collins is currently in a walking boot with an undisclosed injury of an undetermined severity. Patterson did mention that “we’re throwing the deep ball better than we ever have probably since ‘14”, partially due to the quarterback play and partially due to the speed of the receivers they have around them. But the group has worked hard to ensure that the Frogs will have someone behind center that gives them a chance to win. “I’ve been happy with all the quarterbacks - the way they’ve acted, the way they’ve competed, the way they’ve done things.” He continued to rave about Alex Delton’s maturity and leadership, saying “he’s been unbelievable here”, while mentioning that Max Duggan has done some really good things and Justin Rogers is improving daily. “He’s still in the process of seeing the rush a little bit”, and while he isn’t at full-speed, he’s moving around better than he has and still has the arm that made him such a hot prospect on the recruiting trail before his injury.
- Patterson ended his time talking about being tired and on the “60 year old schedule”, but still has the same love for the process and the program that has kept him here for two plus decades. “I’m not really sure when I’m asleep or awake right now. I’m looking forward to tonight’s sleep because we don’t have practice tomorrow. This getting older and doing this stuff isn’t quite as easy as it used to be.” He won’t take the struggle for granted, though. “How many coaches have been a head coach over ten years? It’s freaking hard. It’s like staying married - it’s the most unnatural thing to do. You guys know that’s true,” he ended with a chuckle.