Spring football is underway and there are plenty of reasons why Texas Christian fans should be excited for the upcoming season. The Frogs’ 2009 stellar recruiting class features some of the best talent in the country and there will be plenty of commodities, especially on defense. And with TCU head coach, Gary Patterson entering into his ninth season as the Horned Frogs leader, one can understand why he has a lot to smile about these days. I recently interviewed Patterson about spring practice, his new players and the upcoming year.
EWC: Let’s go inside the huddle and get an update on the Frogs spring practice so far. What has been the focus and the key positions that needed to be addressed?
GP: Our first five practices were about getting back to basics. We had a great offseason program and worked really hard. We need to grow up in some positions, as we have only 13 seniors. We are a relatively young football team, but have a lot of returning starters on offense. One of our points of emphasis is finding a center and another tailback. But I would say overall, we’re really excited with our progress and will start from square one, get back to teaching and build from there.
EWC: We need to shine the spotlight on your returning junior quarterback, Andy Dalton. High expectations will be placed on him this season. How has his game evolved in the offseason?
GP: Andy is a young man that vastly improved from his freshman to his sophomore season. The biggest thing that I’ve been talking to him about is taking on a larger role, and on this becoming his team. The offensive personality needs to fit the quarterback and if you want it to be tough, your quarterback has to be tough. The way you look at things as a coach, your quarterback needs to have the same approach. So with him going into his junior year, he needs to take the reins because I think good things will happen to him. I personally thought he did a tremendous job a year ago. I can promise you, it will be a lot of fun to watch him. And, especially this season, when we have an older guy that already knows the offense.
EWC: The Frogs’ 2009 recruiting class features a number of talented players and several four-star signees. Talk about this year’s group.
GP: Yes. The kids we signed are great. We filled our needs with who we wanted. Right now, we have three young men that are on campus and playing spring ball — wide receiver Josh Boyce, linebacker Tanner Brock and quarterback Casey Pachall. All three of these guys were highly recruited and are already here in school. They fit into our program very well. If the rest of the class is the same, this will be an exciting time at TCU.
EWC: It’s interesting, 10 of the guys you signed played either tailback or quarterback at some point in their high school career. Is this the type of players you usually recruit — ones with the combination of speed and athleticism?
GP: Yes, it always has. Usually the quarterback and tailbacks have been the best players. They want to get the ball in their hands. A couple of years ago, out of our top 12 defensive lineman, seven of them had been tailbacks in high school at some point of their career. They can run a little bit and probably were one of the better players on their team. Plus, they’re able to deliver a hit, and take a hit. That is a big part of our philosophy here.
EWC: How would you rank this year’s recruiting class?
GP: Number one, whether it gets a high ranking or a low ranking, I’ve always felt like they were paper tigers. But yes, I would say this is one of the highest-ranked classes that we’ve ever had. I think back to when Bo Schobel and Bobby Pollard were in the same classes that were recruited in ’99 and that redshirted in 2000. These were guys that were a part of a great recruiting class here at TCU. They both ended up playing in Super Bowls. We also had LaMarcus McDonald who was a tremendous defensive player and ended up being the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. That was a great recruiting class, too.
EWC: We’ve highlighted some of the new players. Can you update us on the staff changes, specifically with the offensive coordinator position?
GP: We added Rusty Burns in February. He joins the TCU coaching staff as the wide receivers coach. Rusty has been a coordinator for 15 years. He has really fit well into our system and gives us a lot of knowledge. We like that he presents to our staff a number of new ideas. Then from within, we promoted Justin Fuente. He was a coordinator before at Illinois State and is making an easy adjustment to being the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. And Jarrett Anderson, who is a guy that grew up in the ranks and will also serve as a co-offensive coordinator and work with the running backs. Both are highly intelligent and two of our better recruiters. What I’ve seen so far, it’s been a group that is working well together, and has great chemistry. They’ve come up with some really great ideas. I’m excited about how they’re handling things.
EWC: Finally, talk about the upcoming 2009 schedule. You’ve penciled in a couple of big road trips with teams out of the ACC. Why Clemson and Virginia?
GP: Virginia is a young, but vastly improved team. Clemson is a high profile team that we thought would be very tough to play. Plus, they really came on late in the season last year. They had one of the better defenses in the nation and one of the best tailbacks. We understand that this will be a stiff test. Then we’ve got Texas State and SMU. I’ve always felt that we need to play quality non-conference opponents — especially teams out of the Big 12 like Oklahoma, Texas, and Baylor. I thought this would be a good opportunity for our program to jump out and play somebody new. And, it’s good to get on the east coast where there is a lot of coverage and television sets watching and with a lot of notoriety.