Gary Patterson’s defense always needs a voice or two on the field to be a veteran presence. This season it sems like there are a handful of guys who could fill that role: Innis Gaines, Jeff Gladney, Julius Lewis, Ross Blacklock, to name a few.
But it appears as if junior linebacker Garret Wallow is also throwing his hat in the ring for that on-field general role.
Being a leader for Patterson’s defense is as much about on-field abilities as it is off-field guidance of the rest of the team.
To the first part, Wallow has it down. He looks like he’s going to challenge for the single season tackles record this year, after finishing TCU’s season opener with 13 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss and a sack. Both led the team on Saturday night.
But Wallow also recognizes that there’s a big need for improvement, and he doesn’t seem to have an issue with being one of the guys that says it out loud.
“It was a good experience for us as a team. I definitely feel like we have a lot of places to go, a lot of growing to do,” Wallow said in post game on Saturday night. “Like I told my guys down there I’m proud of how we played tonight. When you come in tomorrow, for tomorrow’s practice, come ready to go, ready to get better for these next two weeks.”
Wallow mentioned that the early bye week, seen by most fans as a downer, is a good thing for a young team.
“It’s going to be big time for us to keep growing as a team, to keep building that chemistry.”
Of course, he’s talking about a defense that didn’t make many mistakes against an overmatched Arkansas-Pine Bluff squad. The Frogs allowed Pine Bluff to gain 215 yards, including just 114 through the air on less than 50% completion percentage. They also allowed just 3 yards per carry on the ground, although that number could (and maybe should) have been a lot better against an overpowered Lions offense.
It appears that Wallow is going to be a leader through it all, as he grows more comfortable in that role.
He’s not alone in figuring things out, though. He’s got a big supporter in his mom.
“I always read this little quote my mom sends me every morning about being a leader,” Wallow chuckled, “it says ‘When you’re not a leader success is about building yourself, but when you become a leader success is about building up others.”
“That’s definitely something I’ve been trying to do, and trying to grow in that role.”
Part of being a leader is holding the guys around you to a high standard, and Wallow knows he’s got two young and talented guys playing next to him that he can do that for. LaKendrick Van Zandt and Dee Winters are both new to the linebacker position, and Patterson noted that they made several mistakes on Saturday night.
After the game he mentioned that about a third of Arkansas Pine Bluff’s offense came on mistakes made by LVZ and Dee. But Wallow knows they’re going to get better, and that they have tons of talent.
“They were confident. None of us are perfect...we have to build that chemistry between us because we haven’t played together too much.”
“They did really well for their first time out there, they did better than I did my first time out there. Those guys are very impressive and they’re doing a really good job. I’m proud of them. They’re growing, they’re stepping up to the plate and they’re taking anything that comes their way and handling it the right way,” Wallow said.
They’ll certainly grow if Wallow continues to encourage them and set the standard for play on the field. And as they grow and improve, so will TCU’s defense, which has the potential to be elite.
Patterson saw glimpses of that on Saturday night, in the midst of the mistakes.
“We have the potential to be what we want to be.”