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Skywriters Tour: TCU Seeks Boost From New Scheme
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Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 25 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference.

By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com 
Big12Sports.com Correspondent


FORT WORTH, Texas - Change is constant and inevitable. Gary Patterson knows this.

“There’s no such thing as staying the same, you either get better or your get worse,” the TCU coach said Sunday as his team prepared to start practice to prepare for the upcoming season.

Over seven seasons from 2005 to 2011, the Horned Frogs lost a total of 13 games. In the program’s first two seasons in the Big 12, the losses have totaled 14, including last season’s 4-8 season that prevented a bowl trip for the first time since 2004.

“One of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life was making a change,” Patterson said. “I was with a staff that got us to the Rose Bowl (in 2010, a team that finished 13-0) and it had worked for 20 years.”

Patterson hired Doug Meacham, who spent several years at Oklahoma State, from Houston and Sonny Cumbie from Texas Tech to take over as offensive co-coordinators. Meacham will be the play caller while Cumbie will work with the quarterbacks.

One of the goals is for TCU’s offense to play at a faster tempo to match Big 12 foes like Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Last season, the Horned Frogs were eighth in scoring and ninth in total offense in Big 12 statistics.

“If you watched us in the spring, we played fast on offense but we’re wanting to play even faster,” junior quarterback Trevone Boykin said. “It’s a lot more fun to play fast and you see the defense worn out when you’re rolling. We want to score a lot more points.”

Who will be the starting quarterback is unclear. Patterson said the five QBs on the roster start training camp as equals. And with two off weeks in the first month of the season, he said that there’s a chance the starter for the nonconference opener with Samford on Aug. 30 won’t be the same as who starts the Big 12 opener against Oklahoma on Oct. 4.

Boykin started the bulk of games the last two seasons but he also has proven to be a capable and productive wide receiver. Senior Matt Joeckel, a transfer from Texas A&M, has experience operating the offense TCU has installed.

“I know this is my last shot, my last year to play,” Joeckel said. “At A&M, playing fast was something that was really stressed. To play fast as a quarterback in this offense, you have to be a master and do that it’s about repetitions.”

TCU averaged just under 69 offensive snaps per game last season. Meacham doesn’t have a set number he wants to see but one thing is clear: the Frogs won’t be throwing it 50 or 60 times per game. Patterson wants the running game to be more productive; TCU was ninth in the Big 12 in rushing last season.

“I believe in running the football,” Meacham said. “When I was at Oklahoma State, we led the league in rushing. We’ve got so much skill at running back they’re going to get a lot of touches running or catching it.”

Cumbie calls tailback the strongest position going into fall practice and says that junior B.J. Catalon needs to get at least 20 touches a game.

When asked if the point of the new offense was more plays equals more points, Patterson offered this bit of clarity.

“The point of this offense is to win,” he said.

Schedule Talk
There are two quirks to TCU’s schedule. First, the Horned Frogs will play just two games outside the state of Texas (at West Virginia on Nov. 1 and at Kansas on Nov. 15). Second, both of the team’s bye weeks come in September. TCU plays its opener, takes a week off, plays Minnesota, takes a week off, then plays SMU.

Patterson points to the home game with the Gophers on Sept. 13 as a pivotal contest. Minnesota was 8-2 last season before finishing 8-5. Patterson is good friends with coach Jerry Kill and the Minnesota coaching staff has made several off-season visits to Fort Worth to study the Horned Frogs’ defense.

“They’re out to prove the same things as we are, they’re trying to build on last season,” Patterson said of Minnesota.

Short Yardage
* Patterson has said he was thinking of making changes to his offense for the last two years. Sunday he said one of the reasons to hire Meacham and Cumbie was recruiting. “We needed to start keeping some of the top receivers and quarterbacks in the state,” he said. “Our commitments for the next two years show that. Meacham and Cumbie have recruiting ties to Texas and we’ve added them to a staff that evaluates talent as well as any in the nation.”

* Trevone Boykin on TCU failing to qualify for a bowl game last season: “Watching bowl games and not playing in bowl games is not what we’re used to around here. For me, it was the worst feeling. No disrespect to the teams that played in bowl games but there were some of those teams I thought we could play with.”

Skywriters Tour, Year Seven
So what is the Skywriters Tour? It was born in a previous era of college football … and media/communications. In the late 1960s and 1970s, sportswriters and broadcasters would gather in a central location and embark on an annual conference-wide tour, traveling from campus-to-campus to cover preseason practices and conduct interviews with coaches and players. The tour provided fans with unprecedented daily coverage from each school by moving the group between campuses by charter bus or air service and thus was dubbed the Skywriters Tour. Since 2008, the Big 12 has revived the tradition and staged its own preseason campus tour to preview the football season.

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