TCU Football took to the practice for the first time Friday afternoon, and on day two, the media was invited to watch. Though it’s early - and Gary Patterson said on multiple occasions that he doesn’t judge anything until after the fifth day - there were still a few things that stood out over a very efficient couple hours.
Here are some quick takeaways from Saturday’s session.
- I have been a coach for over 20 years, and I felt like I understood how to run an efficient practice. but OH MY GOODNESS what Patterson and TCU Football do is some next level stuff. Every second of 24 periods worth of work was scripted down to the second - to the point that when one of the assistants tried to coach a guy up during a water break it was quickly shutdown by Patterson screaming “WE ARE ON A BREAK” until he stopped. The coaches, the players, the managers - everyone is rolling the entire time and it seems everyone is on the same page. And the veteran players were locked in an engaged in making sure the younger guys knew what was going on, too.
- This team is dang fast. On offense and defense, even the big dudes are flying around. The speed on defense is noticeable; Jeff Gladney and Julius Lewis are known to be blazers, and the secondary is full of sub-4.5 guys. But even the linebackers are quick, led by high school safety Garret Wallow and finally healthy Montrel Wilson. And the defensive line? The first steps of Corey Bethley and Ross Blacklock are elite, but the speed at end isn’t anything to snub your nose out either. Though GP said that “we aren’t yet where we were” - referring to NFL first rounder LJ Collier and second rounder Ben Banogu - there are some strong candidates to make some noise with transfers Shameik Blackshear (sporting Collier’s 91) and Parker Workman, redshirt freshman Ochaun Mathis, and freshmen Colt Ellison and Adam Plant - who Patterson says needs to learn to player lower, but “has ability”. Earl Barquet moved inside, giving the Frogs “a faster three technique, which is going to be a really good move [for TCU].”
- Patterson credits a lot of the speed on offense for helping the speed on defense, and in one on one drills, it was obvious how tough it is to cover guys like Jalen Reagor, Taye Barber, Derius Davis, and the host of running backs. As such, the corners flip every day, so that “everybody gets Reagor work”. Julius Lewis and Jeff Gladney both had to step out of practice at points, and Lewis was in a green jersey all day. Innis Gaines looked strong coming off of injury though, stepping in front of a ball during one on ones for a pick and being physical when given the opportunity.
- Speaking of running backs, while Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua look like experienced seniors in the backfield, true freshman Darwin Barlow has caught the eye of the head coach. “To be honest with you, we are really excited about Barlow. He made a cut yesterday that was unbelievable.” Patterson was quick to remind folks that he’s still every bit the freshman - “he’s still a lost puppy when it comes to where he needs to be and where he needs to go and all those kind of things” but that he has certain skill that tends to show up in practice. “When you put the ball in his hands, he’s pretty good at what he does. He looks the part, let me say that to you.” With the first scrimmage coming up Saturday, Patterson is excited to see his young buck got to work. “I am pretty interested to see what the threes look like trying to tackle him, I can tell you that,” he said with a chuckle.
- Let’s talk about the quarterbacks. With a bunch of new guys at the position, Patterson wants to get at least five practices under their belts before he starts to make judgements. But it’s obvious that trying to get seven guys reps doesn’t make anyone better. Watching drills without a rush, you don’t get a great feel for what a guy will do in a game, but there were a few things that stood out. Delton looked strong in the short and intermediate throws, but struggled with the deep ball, under throwing a few receivers in one on ones. Duggan throws the best down the field, but looked indecisive at times - as a freshman does. Collins made the plays you expect him to make but didn’t seem to take a lot of chances, and Rogers looks like a guy who doesn’t look fully healthy, with his body language seeming to indicate that he’s still working through some things physically. Those are the four guys really competing to make it to three, though it’s worth mentioning that Baldwin was pretty impressive despite having just come off of injury, as well. The biggest issue is how long it takes to get the ball out of their hands - post practice, Patterson mentioned “that they’ve got to throw them open. They can’t wait until they’re open, that’s not how great ones do it. So we have got to throw them open.”
- Despite having a ton of freshmen and redshirt freshmen on this team, Patterson and his staff aren’t coaching them like they’re young. Voice already in mid-season form, GP was all over the place, getting after rookies, getting after vets, and keeping the intensity locked in at all times. And that energy carries throughout the team. Watching Zarnell Fitch get after it with the D-Line, seeing Kenny Hill alternating between keeping things loose with the QBs while also getting in their ear to work with them, and watching the veteran players encourage the young guys when they’re on the wrong end of a coaches ire and help coach them up on the sidelines, it’s obvious that this is a really motivated group. One TCU official said it best “I really like this team. I really like these guys.” There’s something potentially special about this group, but they have a lot of growing up to do between now and August 31st, but the tangibles and intangibles are there.