The Sports Xchange


Usually, Gary Patterson concerns himself with limiting points.

The TCU coach has long been considered a defensive mastermind, and since joining the Big 12 the Horned Frogs have been strong on that side of the football.

Still, they lost games. In two seasons they went 6-12 in conference play, including a 2-7 mark last year when TCU saw an eight-year string of bowl appearances snapped with a 4-8 finish.

That made it clear to Patterson that the offense needed to be revised. With that intent, he hired two coordinators with experience running the spread for Texas schools, Sonny Cumbie from Texas Tech and Doug Meacham from Houston.

"It gives us an opportunity to level the playing field as far as being able to throw the football," Patterson said. "It's about scoring points."

Maybe a small disclaimer is in order. It wasn't as if TCU was not competitive last season. Six of its defeats were by margins of 10 points or less, including a 41-38 nailbiter against eventual Big 12 champion Baylor in the last game of the season.

In all likelihood, the quarterback leading the changeover will be a senior transfer from Texas A&M, Matt Joeckel. At the beginning of fall camp he was contesting Trevone Boykin, a QB with considerable experience over the past two seasons backing up Casey Pachall. If Joeckel wins the job, Boykin will likely move to wide receiver after snagging 26 receptions last year when he wasn't playing quarterback.

TCU has experience among its skill players and can choose between a variety of backs and receivers. B.J. Catalon possesses the most experience among rushers after leading the Horned Frogs with 599 yards last season. Josh Doctson and David Porter return as TCU's top receivers.

One important aspect about a faster pace is the ability to maintain the football, a quality TCU lacked last year when it committed 30 turnovers.

"That's like the No. 1 thing that we have to focus on is ball security," said Sam Carter, a senior safety who produced 11 takeaways the past two seasons as a starter for TCU's defense. "If we're going to be moving fast, we have to keep control of the ball. If not, that gives the other team more chances to score. Our No. 1 goal has to be to control the ball, keep the ball."

Hmm, spoken like a defensive guy. The kind of guy Patterson has always been, and will continue to be overseeing a defense that returns eight starters off a unit that led the Big 12 with a 355.3-yard average.

The Frogs lost the 2013 defensive player of the year in the Big 12, cornerback Jason Verrett. In addition, the 2012 defensive player of the year in the Big 12, end Devonte Fields, was dismissed from the squad. Still, enough talent, and experience, exists for the defense to win the scoring battles Patterson anticipates.



SPOTLIGHT ON SEPTEMBER: The nonconference portion of TCU's schedule appears to be set up for a good start. The Horned Frogs have those three games spaced over five weeks. Included is a home game against Minnesota, the darling of the Big Ten a year ago, and the annual Iron Skillet showdown against cross-town rival SMU. If TCU is to make its much-anticipated move up the Big 12 ladder, wins in those matchups would be the first order of business. SMU returns just 12 starters off a 5-7 team, though Minnesota could surprise again by 15 returning starters.

KEYS TO SUCCESS: With TCU, the first priority is always defense. It is the staple Gary Patterson established as coach, and the group he oversees in practice. With eight of 11 starters back on that side of the ball, the Horned Frogs are well-equipped to battle the high-powered attacks prevalent in the Big 12. Five home conference games will only stir that defense to play better. In particular, the secondary is exceptionally solid, despite the loss of CB Jason Verrett. TCU ranked second in interceptions (19) and third in sacks (32) last season. The defense will be tough to budge.

AREAS OF CONCERN: Since joining the Big 12, the Horned Frogs have had difficulty keeping pace with other offensive attacks. They return a starting QB, Trevone Boykin, yet he may be more suited to play receiver with Matt Joeckel transferring in from Texas A&M. The run game often seems to short circuit with the use of different backs. Continuity is an issue on the offensive side as TCU constantly searches for answers. That could again be a problem this season if strengths do not surface early in the year before the Frogs open conference play Oct. 4 against Oklahoma.