TCU Football has begun spring practice, and three days into it, the reviews from Gary Patterson are overwhelmingly positive.
With a caveat.
“I will tell you this, this is the best practice since probably 2014. Intensity-wise, with pads, first day. I don’t know what that means, but it’s a good start. I don’t know if it’s just because we’re so young and don’t know any better.”
This is a young TCU team; the Horned Frogs sent seven players to the NFL Combine and graduated a host of seniors on both sides of the ball. The only healthy scholarship quarterback on the roster has been on campus for just over a year, and the best players on the team are a pair of second-year guys. There are holes all over both sides of the line and even the coaching staff has a completely new look.
So, maybe they don’t know any better.
And maybe that’s a good thing.
On Max Duggan:
Max Duggan is still technically a freshman; the early-enrollee a year ago might be a sophomore by academic hours and has nearly a full season as a starter under his belt, but you can bet GP will hold onto that freshman designation for as a long as he can, if for no other reason than to keep the media away from him. The only healthy scholarship quarterback taking reps this spring, the onus is on the young player to get better. And it sounds like he will have plenty of chances to do just that.
“He needs the reps. To be honest with you, he’s taking more than just the ones. He was a freshman last year, he needs the experience,” Patterson said.
The goal for Max and any young player in the spring is simple: get better. That’s what Patterson is focusing on with his quarterback. He wants to see the simple things executed well. “Run the plays. Win more than we lose. We have to learn how to play catch better. Great throwing teams can just play catch. We have to work on doing these better, catching the ball, just playing catch than we did a year ago.”
On the Offensive and Defensive Lines:
TCU’s key to success will lie in the trenches; the Frogs’ inability to generate a pass-rush last season was detrimental to their defensive efforts and inconsistent line play certainly delayed Duggan’s development. As such, Patterson and TCU targeted the trenches. According to the head coach, the Frogs currently have five players vying for two offensive tackle positions, including senior Austin Myers and graduate transfer TJ Storment. Storment has stood out early, not just for his play on the field but the way he’s handled himself. Patterson called the early returns “great”, adding “he’s got a lot of leadership qualities also.” Defensively, the hunt for pass rushers remains on, as the Frogs search without returner Ochaun Mathis, who is currently out with an injury. In Mathis’ absence, a couple of young guys have stood out. “Ochaun isn’t out here this spring, so other guys have to grow up. Khari Coleman and Pat Jenkins, already as freshmen, have shown some signs of why we recruited them. We are excited about that.” Patterson added that they weren’t trying to replicate the success of guys like Ben Banogu, LJ Collier, May Boesen, and others, but rather “just try to develop guys so they become good.”
New Look Coaching Staff:
TCU has a lot of new faces behind the scene as well as some returning friends, as the Frogs did some shuffling amongst the staff as well as added three from outside — including a familiar name.
Doug Meacham’s return seems to have had a positive effect, as has new running backs coach Bryan Applewhite, who has instilled a toughness. Patterson praised the toughness of his two young backs and returner Emari Demercado, while lauding their new coach. “That’s why I hired coach Applewhite — he’s kind of a running back with a defensive mentality.” He mentioned that adding Jerry Kill, who is serving an advisory role, basically gives the Frogs a head coach of the offense, and have credit to Doug Meacham for bringing energy to the staff and the practice fields. Malcolm Kelly was also talked about multiple times; it’s obvious that GP sees the second-year staff member as an up and comer with a bright future, and it appears that the former Oklahoma wide receiver is being given an increased role this spring. Patterson referenced the fact that four different coaches are scripting plays — Meacham and Kelly, and likely Cumbie and Kill. That’s a pretty great strategy, especially early in spring ball, as it forces the defense to adjust to different styles while also figuring out who calls the right kind of game for this group.
Performances at the Combine:
Patterson has often made it known that he isn’t a fan of the personal trainers, individual coaches, and performance groups that litter the athletics landscape. He reiterated those feelings when asked about how the seven former Frogs (Jalen Reagor, Ross Blacklock, Jeff Gladney, Cordel Iwagwu, Lucas Niang, Darius Anderson, and Sewo Olonilua) tested in Indy. “I think we did some good things, but I think all of our guys could have tested a lot of better. If that’s what they did the last couple months, they should have stayed here. They paid guys a whole lot of money to not make them better.” College athletics is a lot about control, and I think that most coaches expect that they could do a better job preparing guys that they know well and have worked with almost daily for years. It probably also has something to do with the criticism Patterson and his staff have taken from some of these specialists over the last few years, who have been vocal when “their guys” aren’t getting the reps/touches they think they deserve. I think his heart is in the right place, though. “We’ve got plenty of guys that have trained here, and we don’t charge them. It’s the sexy thing to do, don’t you know:? I have to go to San Diego, I have to go to Florida, I have to go to all these places because these guys can make me better. Come on.”