Keep growing up – that’s the undeniable message TCU head coach Gary Patterson has through the first ten days of fall practices. The Frogs are extremely young at several positions thanks to a variety of injuries that have occurred thus far.
But, that hasn’t stopped his team from progressing.
Patterson told the media a few days ago that among his twenty-two starters on both sides of the ball, that at least fourteen of them are either freshmen or sophomores. Luckily, those young players have stepped up at key positions.
“Right now it’s about growing up the young guys, that’s what our job is and they’ve been doing a great job,” Patterson said. “Same thing at linebacker, A.J.( Hilliard) is running with the two’s because of default but him and Paul (Dawson) have come a long way. Right now we only have one starting linebacker because you got Hasley and Heiss coming back. We’ll just keep looking at it.”
Wednesday’s scrimmage was defined as good by the coach, noting that the defense showed great improvement with better tackling and coverage.
“We tackled a lot better, we’ve got to keep playing and keep going,” he said. “We’re tired right now, they’re trying hard but they’re tired right now. We’ve got a hard one in the morning and then a walk through; I told them we have to make it until noon on Saturday.”
Patterson says the biggest change so far has come from his secondary, calling it a big improvement from a year ago, particularly at the safety positions.
“Defensively, the secondary I think we’re better than a year ago,” Patterson said. “We’ve got to keep getting a better pass rush; Stansly is playing better than he did a year ago. We’ve got to keep rotating at defensive tackle. Linebacker wise, we’ve got to keep adding depth, it’s going to take by committee. Safety wise, I’m really excited about Jordan Moore. He’s more of a track guy that’s learning how to play football but very, very athletic. Jonathan Anderson is being pushed by a couple of guys; Zach Jackson and Trenton Thomas.”
To add more versatility at safety, Patterson moved redshirt freshman Chris Hackett from free safety to weak safety on Thursday but the move isn’t permanent.
On offense, the line is “a moving object” and a unit that needs to show improvement along with a depleted group at tight end which lost Stephen Bryant for the season with a shoulder injury. Both units need to be more physical according to the coach.
“We just got to keep getting better, we’re only going to be as good as our weakest link and we’ve just got to keep growing up our tackles and tight ends; we’ve got to get more physical there,” he said.
Patterson did say one positive along the offensive line has been the emergence of Eric Tausch working at left guard. True freshman Aviante Collins also worked with the first team at left tackle on Thursday.
A BACKUP EMERGING?
The battle for the backup quarterback position between Matt Brown and Trevone Boykin is ongoing but Patterson said one of those players displayed some separation in their scrimmage on Wednesday.
“Trevone and Casey were the two (that stood out). Matt didn’t have a good scrimmage and neither did Tyler but it was just his first one,” he said.
KINDRED A FIRST
Praise for true freshman Derrick Kindred continued to come from Patterson after Thursday’s practice. The head coach says Kindred, who is 202-pounds by the way, has picked up the position faster than any other freshman he’s coached in his fifteen years at TCU.
“In and out, him and Sam (working with the first team defense),” he said. “Sam had a hip flexor so Kindred worked at it for three days but Sam played in the scrimmage yesterday but they traded with the one’s and two’s. It’s the first time since I’ve been here that a freshman has ever played the strong safety position, early and played it well. It’s a tough position to learn.”
OBERKROM NOT LACKING STRENGTH
Patterson told the media if they wanted to see the strength of freshman kicker Jaden Oberkrom’s leg, go find special teams coach Dan Sharp to see further proof. Patterson marveled at one particular kick Oberkrom nailed; a 61-yarder that hit the players entrance tunnel; with a full rush coming at him. Patterson says both Oberkrom and Ryan DeNucci have kicked the ball well in camp. However, he says his team has never had a kicker with Oberkrom's leg strength.
“The ball came down in the tunnel from 61-yards so it was about 71-yards,” he said. “It was during offense versus defense. We’ve never had that kind of leg before. But I’ll be honest with you, DeNucci has kicked well also. He’s kicked alright but he doesn’t have the leg Jaden has but he’s kicked well also.”
Punter Ethan Perry has boomed several long punts in fall camp but Patterson says he needs to prepare himself mentally to perform with more consistency.
“Cale (Patterson) has been more consistent, Ethan has got to get himself mentally ready to come out here every day. That’s the problem you have with freshmen.”
YET ANOTHER FRESHMAN EMERGING
If there hasn’t been enough discussion about the freshman impact, go ahead and add another name to the ever growing list; Deante' Gray. Originally committed to Stanford before changing his mind to attend TCU just days before signing day, Gray has made a splash at corner in the last few practices according to Patterson.
“The guy that’s really coming along is Deante' Gray,” Patterson said. “He’s had a couple of picks the last two days and they can’t run by him. He’s gaining confidence right now. He’s a smart player, he was going to Stanford so when you put smart with fast, you give yourself a chance. Every day you’re going to learn a little bit more, I’m really excited about him. We wanted to play him at wideout and because Travoskey Garrett not being able to play this year because of his knee we had to move him to field corner and he just keeps getting better every day. It’s really been amazing how much better he’s gotten in a few weeks. In fact we put him with the one’s a couple of times yesterday and today.”
Michael Thompson, Danny Heiss, Joe Hasley and Ross Forrest all remain sidelined with injuries.
The Frogs will close practice on Friday and scrimmage on Saturday which will be open to the media the last 15 minutes.
Former Florida receiver Ja’Juan Story was on campus to watch the Frogs practice. The former four-star receiver out of high school is considering a transfer to TCU.