By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
2011: 11-2 overall, 7-0 in Mountain West Conference, won Poinsettia Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 6, defense 5.
TCU got an early start and wrapped up spring practice in early April. The schedule had little to do with the school's moving to the Big 12 but it was appropriate. Especially in football, the Frogs have earned their invitation to return to the adult table. But just because TCU is changing conferences (again) it doesn't mean it's time to ease up on the work load.
"But I believe we're going to have a chance to be better than we were a year ago -- substantially -- if we can stay healthy," said TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose team finished 11-2 and won the Mountain West Conference. "We have high expectations, but we're very realistic, which is what we've always done."
When TCU was left out of the first significant rounds of realignment in 1994, that wakeup call led to significant facility upgrades and financial commitment. The move to the Big 12 is well-timed as Amon Carter stadium is in the midst of a $164 million upgrade. Also, the Frogs will be enjoying a thoroughly modernized locker room.
"All that doesn't make any difference if you don't win," Patterson said. "So my goal is to grow up the best football team I can and win.
TCU has done a lot of that recently. The Frogs have won at least 11 games in six of the last seven seasons. No other team can claim that. In 2010, TCU went 13-0 and defeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The 2010 team led the nation in defense, capping a three-year run as the stingiest FBS team.
The defense faces major retooling at linebacker and in the secondary. In its two losses, TCU was burned by Baylor and SMU for a number of big pass plays.
The Frogs' offense, though, appears ready to compete with the high-octane attacks around the Big 12. In his first season as a starter last year, junior quarterback Casey Pachall was outstanding. He had 25 touchdowns with just seven interceptions while establishing school records for completions and yards passing.
Three productive running backs return along with three of the top four receivers from last season. LaDarius Brown, a 6-4 redshirt freshman, could also make an impact at receiver.
"The thing I really like about this current group is that it seems like they have a lot of fun playing," Patterson said. "It's interesting because we were so young and a lot of kids grew up. But we'll have to be better than we were a year ago to become 11-2 again. We have an opportunity to do that, to be better. Now, can we live up to that? I don't know."
Safety Tekerrein Cuba, safety Johnny Fobbs, linebacker Tank Carder, linebacker Tanner Brock, defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey, offensive lineman Kyle Dooley.
Wide receiver LaDarius Brown, wide receiver/tight end Griffin Gilbert, defensive end Devnote Fields, defensive back Sam Carter, defensive back Jonathan Anderson, defensive back Elisha Olabode, defensive back Trent Thomas.
The battle to back up junior quarterback Casey Pachall won't be resolved until preseason practice starts in August. Barring injury, the decision will be between Matt Brown and Trevone Boykin. True freshman Tyler Matthews is likely to redshirt. "You'll get through the teaching stage and into the should-be-doing-it stage," Patterson said. "We'll have had two big scrimmages by that time and we'll have to decide on one; we won't have any other choice."
David Johnson moved from nose tackle to defensive tackle to replace D.J. Yendrey, who was dismissed from the team in February. That's one of a number of moves and position battles on the defensive line. Ross Forrest, who started nine games last year, is being challenged by sophomores Cliff Murphy and Matt Anderson. Sophomore Chuck Hunter, junior Ray Burns and senior Jeremy Coleman are competing to take over for Johnson at nose tackle.
"Oklahoma State won the Big 12 with takeaways and by scoring a lot of points. You can do it like that. I've always said that you win games running the football, and you score points by throwing it. "But you've also got to play great defense. And when I say great, going into the Big 12, I mean what you've got to learn to do first is make people kick field goals."
- coach Gary Patterson
"Going into the new conference, we're not going to try to be arrogant or have entitlement. We're going to be a hard-nosed football team that wins ballgames and a university that represents the right thing. The biggest mistake we could make is to think we're different now that we're in the Big 12. ... We need to be what we are. As long as won't forget that, we'll always be a competitive program."
- coach Gary Patterson
"As far as communication, we're so far ahead of what we were a year ago. Most of our safeties were true freshmen. They're all here now and they're a little bit older, so there's a lot more accountability on all levels. ... They made the offense earn everything."
- coach Gary Patterson on his secondary
|Sept. 8||Grambling State|
|Sept. 15||at Kansas*|
|Sept. 29||at SMU|
|Oct. 6||Iowa State*|
|Oct. 13||at Baylor*|
|Oct. 20||Texas Tech*|
|Oct. 27||at Oklahoma State*|
|Nov. 3||at West Virginia*|
|Nov. 10||Kansas State*|
|Nov. 24||at Texas*|