By Wendell Barnhouse
FORT WORTH, Texas - Gary Patterson knows all about the adjustments to new conferences.
In his first full season as TCU's coach, the Horned Frogs went 6-6 in their first season in Conference USA and followed that up with 10 wins and 11 wins the next two years. TCU then moved to the Mountain West Conference in 2005, winning the league title the first season and compiling a 30-8 record in its first three seasons.
The transition to the Big 12 Conference heads into Year Three with the Frogs carrying an 11-14 record in two seasons after reaching the top rung of college football's league ladder.
"Everybody wants to talk about, 'TCU hasn't won in the Big 12.' Well, not with these last two teams," said Patterson, who was the Frogs' defensive coordinator when they played in the Western Athletic Conference prior to C-USA. "I don't lack any confidence in what we're doing, what we're trying to accomplish. I said three to five years. We're now in Year 3. We'll see how we do this year."
In the two seasons prior to joining the Big 12, TCU went 13-0 (with a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin) and 11-2. Patterson believes this year's team has the kind of depth, talent and experience the Rose Bowl team had.
"When people ask me, 'Are you glad you changed?' I say yes, because TCU is in a far better place," Patterson said. "We get a chance to have a true champion. Financially, media-wise, nationally - everything that goes along with it. As a coach, you wouldn't want it any different. Did my job get tougher? Yes, no doubt about it."
Patterson decided to revamp TCU's offense to keep up with the fast-paced, high-scoring attacks his defense tries to slow down each week. Co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham (Oklahoma State) and Sonny Cumbie (Texas Tech) both have experience with no-huddle schemes that emphasize pace of play.
"We ask a lot of the quarterbacks, play fast, think fast," said Cumbie, who will serve as quarterbacks coach. "The biggest deal is the quarterback's communication to the offensive line and them echoing it down the line. You're asking them to do all of these things before the ball is even snapped and try to take a picture of what the defense is doing. It's a hard job."
The main question going into Saturday's season opener with Samford is: who will play quarterback? For now, that answer could be two players – senior Matt Joecel, who transferred from Texas A&M and has one season of eligibility, and junior Trevone Boykin, who has been a part-time starter the last two seasons.
Joeckel has experience running a no-huddle offense and Boykin also has proven to be one of the team's top receiving threats as he's split time between QB and WR the last two seasons. Patterson has hinted that the battle to be the starter could continue through September's three nonconference games that are sandwiched around two bye weeks.
"As I've told people, your starting quarterback for the first game may not be the starting quarterback going into the Oklahoma game, which is the first week of October, because you're going to have two off weeks to develop players," Patterson said.
Coach: Gary Patterson, 14th season.
2013: 4-8 overall, 2-7 in Big 12.
Bowl: Did not participate.
Returning starters: 6 on offense, 9 on defense.
Key players: Junior QB Trevone Boykin, senior QB Matt Joeckel, senior WR David Porter, junior WR Josh Doctson, soph. WR Ty Slanina, junior C Joey Hunt, senior DT Chucky Hunter, junior DE James McFarland, senior LB Jonathan Anderson, senior S Sam Carter, junior K Jaden Oberkrom.
Three Points To Ponder
1. If the offense will run more plays, there will be more play-making opportunities, particularly for the wide receivers. Last season, TCU didn't have a player rank in the top 10 in the Big 12's receiving categories. Junior Trevone Boykin is the third-best receiver returning – and he could end up as the starting quarterback. The receiving corps has size and speed but is lacking in experience and production.
2. Patterson wants a productive offense but he doesn't want 60 passes a game. TCU was ninth in rushing offense last season so the Frogs want to boost the run game as much as the pass game. Juniors B.J. Catalon and Aaron Green are talented. Catalon averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season but only had 107 rushing attempts.
3. Points one and two aren't worth pondering unless the offensive line jells. Senior center Joey Hunt is the only certain starter for a unit that didn't perform well last season. Junior Halapoulivaati Vaitai and senior Tayo Fabuluje are expected to be the starting tackles while the starting guards have yet to be determined.
Junior Trevone Boykin on the team's new offensive scheme and what role (quarterback or wide receiver) he'll play in it:
"We have to keep the turnovers down. That's what hurt us last year. We have to play smarter and just play better. I want what's best for TCU, I want what's best for my school. I'm going to try my hardest to earn the job, but at the end of the day, I want the best quarterback out there."
Numbers To Note
In nine Big 12 games, TCU committed 26 turnovers, the most of any conference team. … TCU finished 26th in the nation in punt returns last season and fourth in the Big 12, averaging 11.5 yards per attempt. Sophomore Cameron Echols-Luper took over as the Frogs' return man halfway through the season and led the Frogs with 187 yards on 14 attempts, including a long of 51 yards. … Last season, TCU had 17 interceptions and 14 touchdown passes in 419 attempts. … Six of TCU's eight losses last season came by 10 or fewer points. … Since 2005, TCU's 88-27 record is the tops in the state. (Texas is second at 88-29). … TCU's seven Big 12 losses matched the total number of losses the Frogs had from 2005 through 2011 as a member of the Mountain West Conference.
|Sept. 27||at SMU*|
|Oct. 11||at Baylor*|
|Oct. 18||Oklahoma State*|
|Oct. 25||Texas Tech*|
|Nov. 1||at West Virginia*|
|Nov. 8||Kansas State*|
|Nov. 15||at Kansas*|
|Nov. 27||at Texas*|
|Dec. 6||Iowa State*|
* - Big 12 Conference game.