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“I don’t tell them they’re good.”

Worried off-season accolades might go to a pair of young player’s heads? I don’t think you need to be concerned.

TCU Football vs WVU | November 29, 2019 | Amon G Carter Stadium | Fort Worth, TX
TCU Football vs WVU | November 29, 2019 | Amon G Carter Stadium | Fort Worth, TX
Melissa Triebwasser

TCU Football sent seven players to the 2020 NFL Draft Combine, which ranks among the top ten college programs this year. But while names like Jalen Reagor, Ross Blacklock, Lucas Niang, and Jeff Gladney have been bandied about as having first round potential, it’s a pair of players still in Fort Worth making the real noise for the Horned Frogs.

Sophomore Trevon Moehrig and redshirt freshman Ar’Darius Washington have been making headlines since the regular season ended, lauded for their 2019 campaigns. The pair of second year players each earned postseason Big 12 honors this winter, with Moehrig making the first team defense and Washington being named Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. They were the two highest-graded defenders in the conference according to Pro Football Focus, who graded Moehrig out at 91.1 and Washington at 90.8, which led to PFF naming them amongst the Top 100 players in all of college football.

And they’re both underclassmen.

In 2019, Tre Moehrig accumulated 4 INTs, 12 PBUs, and 2 forced fumbles while holding opposing QBs to a 57.8 rating. Washington added a team-high five picks and two PBUs, while being rated the conference’s fifth best tackler. They made a formidable duo behind a pair of senior cornerbacks, and teams had few options when throwing the ball if they hoped to avoid Gladney Island on the outside.

But, lest you think all of these accolades might go to these young player’s heads, don’t forget who their head coach is.

When asked about whether the duo is reading their press clippings or believing the hype, Gary Patterson was sure to remind reporters who was telling them that they were so good. “I don’t tell them [that they are the best safeties in the Big 12]. You guys might, but I don’t tell them that. That was last year. This is this year. I don’t tell them that they’re good.”

Patterson, of course, is known as a bit of a hard-a**; he’s the type of coach that has his players backs every moment of every day — except when they are on the field. Between the lines, he’s tougher on his stars than he is on his backups, and doesn’t buy into star ratings or press clippings. His style has been questioned when it comes to today’s players, a group that has generally been hyped up from a young age and treated differently by a myriad of folks for being good at something. When they arrive at TCU, though, all of a sudden the kid gloves come off and the head coach is as likely to be in their face for a good play as he will for a bad one. But he sets the tone with the expectations of himself, and that’s why players like Moehrig and Washington are willing to buy in. “I tell myself, every day I play like we’re behind. That’s how I play, that’s how I want my players to play. You start thinking the other way, that’s how guys get hurt.”

Thankfully for Patterson and TCU, Moehrig and Washington are high-character, hard-working young players who lead vocally and by example. Though we didn’t get many opportunities to speak with Ar-Darius as media last fall, Trevon was often in front of the microphones — and it was easy to see why. Well-spoken, good-natured, and always smiling, Moehrig is a natural leader and a budding star on and off the field. He will be pressed into leadership at an even higher level this spring and into the fall, as the Frogs lost a trio of seniors from the starting secondary this year. “They just need to play with confidence and keep growing up. We have a lot of new players at safety, and they’re all talented. But our backups are all freshmen and they didn’t play much last year. So they have a lot of growing and learning to do,” Patterson said.

For his part, Washington has been a leader in the off-season program; the 5’8”, 179 pounder recently competed in the annual Iron Frogs Championship, where he squatted 600 pounds — more than three times his body weight. He’s committed to getting stronger, and he sets the tone in the weight room.

Moehrig and Washington will be two guys to watch this fall, and as the leaders of the secondary and the defense, TCU Football is in good hands.