Big 12: Deante' Gray

FORT WORTH, Texas -- For years, TCU stuck to an offensive philosophy built around trying to out-physical foes and trick them with play action. That style won the Horned Frogs five conference titles while in the Mountain West and Conference USA. They have not won many Big 12 games.

After two years in his new league and a 6-12 record in Big 12 play, TCU coach Gary Patterson knew it was time for a new approach.

[+] EnlargeGary Patterson
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsTCU coach Gary Patterson brought in new coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie to change the team's offense.
“We’re going to a style of offense that I thought evened the playing field,” Patterson said.

He went out and landed a pair of offensive coordinators who know Big 12 ball to design a hybrid Oklahoma State-Texas Tech scheme that Patterson says will still have “some of the old TCU” in the run game.

But this is the new TCU. No playbook, no huddle, no looking back.

The struggles of 2013 weren’t the lone motivator for Patterson’s change of plans, but the evidence was hard to ignore. Last season, TCU’s offense hit 10-year lows in points per game (25.1) and yards per play (5.03) and 10-year highs in turnovers (30) and three-and-outs (49).

The Horned Frogs had an offense that averaged 8.8 points in the first half of games, behind an offensive line that Patterson admits got “pushed around” at times due to injuries and departures. You can’t keep up with high-speed Big 12 offenses that way.

Another motivator? Patterson’s belief that a seemingly unexciting Horned Frogs offense wasn’t helping his cause in recruiting.

“I had watched too many skill players leave the city. Right now, they don’t know what this offense is about,” Patterson said. “Right now, they think TCU has a defensive coach. But to be honest with you, I have no problem winning 45-31.”

He’s putting his full trust in Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie to build up the new-look offense, so much so that Patterson says he’s taken a hands-off approach to the transition. He just tried to defend it in spring practice, and that wasn’t fun.

Meacham spent eight years learning and teaching one of the nation’s finest spread offenses at Oklahoma State, then left to run his own at Houston in 2013. TCU’s new playcaller has already served as an OC at five other schools in his career.

He’ll collaborate with Cumbie, a Mike Leach disciple who coached the past four years at Texas Tech and will oversee the TCU quarterbacks.

As Tech’s quarterback in 2004, Cumbie put up 70 points on the Frogs -- two touchdowns more than a Patterson-led TCU team has ever given up. And yes, that came up in the job interview.

Both are respected offensive minds and recruiters in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and previous coordinators Rusty Burns and Jarrett Anderson are still on staff and have a say in game plans.

“Their relationship is awesome,” Patterson said. “I think the whole group has meshed real well. They’ve brought a lot of energy and new ideas.”

[+] EnlargeTy Slanina
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsHorned Frogs receiver Ty Slanina caught 19 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown as a freshman last season.
Installing the new attack meant coming up with new terminology, since at least three other Big 12 programs run similar sets, and new answers to how to outsmart opponents.

“It’s not so much you don’t know what’s coming, but can you out-execute it?” Patterson said. “It’ll be very important for us to be able to run the football, because I think going in that’s where our strengths are -- our offensive line and our running backs and our quarterback can run, especially Trevone [Boykin].”

The offensive line should be better and much, much bigger. Six of TCU’s best exiting spring ball -- Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Tayo Fabuluje, Frank Kee, Matt Pryor, Joseph Noteboom and Aviante Collins -- average 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds.

TCU’s top running backs all got hurt in spring ball -- literally -- but there are options there with B.J. Catalon, Aaron Green, Kyle Hicks, incoming freshman Shaun Nixon and a few others.

At receiver, Patterson says TCU has the guys needed to stretch a defense. Whether or not Brandon Carter returns, the staff is excited about speedsters like Deante' Gray and Kolby Listenbee and incoming freshmen Emanuel Porter and Corey McBride to go along with David Porter, Josh Doctson, Cameron Echols-Luper, Ty Slanina and Jordan Moore.

“I think we’ll have enough weapons to be able to move the football,” Patterson said.

Quarterback is still the question mark, especially if the versatile Boykin isn’t the choice. No matter who runs the show, the initial goal will be simple: first downs, points and a tempo that causes trouble.

“They’ve been awfully fast this spring,” Patterson said. “The biggest thing is to go fast enough to make people uncomfortable.”

That, after all, is the goal here: An offense that can prove as challenging as Patterson’s stingy defenses. The Horned Frogs’ mission for transformation isn’t guided by some sort of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” sentiment.

No, this is adaptation, and it’s necessary. After its first two Big 12 seasons ended in frustration, TCU is working on a new way to beat ‘em.
FORT WORTH, Texas -- It didn't take long for Gary Patterson to figure out his 2012 freshman class he'd signed in 2012 was different from most he'd encountered as TCU's coach.

For one, it was the first class he'd ever signed with the promise that each player would play out his career in the Big 12 Conference. More than that, though, when Patterson was forced to play 17 of his true freshmen in 2012, he wasn't too surprised when the result wasn't a disaster.

Instead, stars like defensive end Devonte Fields emerged. He won the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year award, and running back B.J. Catalon, place-kicker Jaden Oberkrom and offensive lineman Aviante Collins earned time as starters. Cornerback Deante' Gray played in the secondary and scored a touchdown on TCU's first touch of the season, a punt return in the season opener against Grambling.

"The freshman class, we knew they were a bit of a different class than what we’d had in the past anyway," Patterson told ESPN.com in a recent interview. "Just the way their mindset is, to the way they approached the summer time and the classwork they did and the offseason work they did with [strength and conditioning] Coach [Don] Sommer."

Before 2012, Patterson had never played more than six true freshmen as a head coach.

Twelve more redshirt freshmen like quarterback Trevone Boykin and receiver LaDarius Brown showed the ability to play immediately and contribute in a tougher conference than the Frogs were used to. Chris Hackett earned a starting safety job less than a third of the way through the season.

Now, it's time for those 28 first-year players to take the next step for the Frogs in one of the most highly anticipated seasons in school history.

"'I want to play and play well,' but playing, you already achieved that," Patterson said of his freshmen. "The biggest thing going forward now, it’s setting goals team-wise, winning championships and playing big and playing well in these kinds of ballgames."

Patterson saw inconsistency in games like losses to Oklahoma State, when the Frogs led 14-9 at halftime but were outscored 27-0 in the second half of the 36-14 loss. He wants consistency, but consistency at a high level.

"So, how do you do that? That comes with maturity and all the other things," Patterson said. "We spent a lot of time talking about the things we have to do to make sure that [inconsistency] doesn’t happen again."

Weak and Strong: TCU Horned Frogs

March, 19, 2013
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Turnover is an annual tradition in college football, but with that, teams' strengths and weaknesses constantly shift, too. Today, we'll continue our look at the biggest strengths and weaknesses for each Big 12 team.

Next up: TCU.

Strongest position: Secondary

Allow me to apologize to the Frogs' running backs, who were narrowly edged out by this solid unit that helped TCU navigate a rocky first season in the Big 12 but emerge with the league's No. 1 defense and seven wins. TCU's secondary was the best in the Big 12 last season and returns all five starters in the 4-2-5 scheme under Gary Patterson. Chad Glasgow returned to coach safeties and had three great ones in Sam Carter, Elisha Olabode and Chris Hackett. TCU gave up just 32 passes longer than 20 yards last season, tied with Kansas State and Texas Tech for the fewest in the Big 12. Those three are a big reason why, and though all three are solid players, it was clear that TCU's best overall player in the secondary was a corner.

Jason Verrett was the Big 12's best shutdown corner a season ago, breaking up 16 passes and intercepting six more, both the most in the Big 12. Kevin White, Deante Gray and Keivon Gamble offer solid depth at the position, too. TCU defended (PBUs or interceptions) 86 passes last season, which was 15 more than any team in the Big 12. The secondary is the biggest strength of what should be the Big 12's best defense yet again in 2013, and if the Frogs win a Big 12 title in just their second year in the league, the secondary will be a huge reason why.

Weakest position: Offensive line

Let me preface this by saying TCU doesn't have a glaring weakness next season if Casey Pachall returns and is anything close to his form from 2011 and early 2012. Still, I'm going with a rebuilt offensive line ahead of an average set of defensive tackles for the Frogs. Guard Blaize Foltz and center James Fry exhausted their eligibility (and opposing defensive lines), but the Frogs will have to find replacements for a line that was just OK last year, and had to deal with losing the team's top three running backs for some period of time after the season. Trevone Boykin's youth and sometimes frustrating indecision was a factor, but the Frogs gave up 29 sacks last season, four more than any team in the Big 12. It also averaged just 3.86 yards per carry, the lowest number in the Big 12. Like I mentioned before, injuries had something to do with it, but the offensive line has a lot to prove in 2013.

More Weak and Strong.

ESPN.com's All-Big 12 Freshman Team

December, 11, 2012
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We ran down our All-Big 12 team yesterday, but here's my best of the bunch among freshmen.

Learn these names. You'll need to in the future.

Let's take a look:

OFFENSE

QB: J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State
RB: Johnathan Gray, Texas
RB: B.J. Catalon, TCU
WR: Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
WR: LaDarius Brown, TCU
WR: Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
OL: Spencer Drango, Baylor
OL: Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
OL: Ty Darlington, Oklahoma
OL: Aviante Collins, TCU
OL: Le'Raven Clark, Texas Tech

DEFENSE

DL: Devonte Fields, TCU
DL: Malcom Brown, Texas
DL: Davion Pierson, TCU
DL: Branden Jackson, Texas Tech
LB: Dalton Santos, Texas
LB: Isaiah Bruce, West Virginia
LB: Jake Love, Kansas
CB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State
CB: Dante Barnett, Kansas State
S: Chris Hackett, TCU
S: Karl Joseph, West Virginia

SPECIALISTS:

PK: Jaden Oberkrom, TCU
P: Ethan Perry, TCU
KR: Tre Parmalee, Kansas
PR: Deante Gray, TCU

KSU, ISU, TCU earn Big 12 weekly honors

September, 10, 2012
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The Big 12 has named its players of the week for Week 2, as voted on by a media panel.

OFFENSE: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State: Klein completed 9-of-11 passes for 210 yards, a touchdown and an interception in a 52-13 win over Miami. He also ran for three touchdowns and 71 yards on 22 carries. That was the 10th multi-touchdown game of Klein's career, according to the Big 12.

DEFENSE: Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State: Knott finished with six tackles and helped Iowa State hold Iowa to just 68 yards on 28 rushing attempts in the Cyclones' 9-6 Cy-Hawk rivalry win. Knott earned the league's best play of the weekend, intercepting Iowa's James Vandenberg with 1:11 remaining and the Hawkeyes driving in Iowa State territory to seal the victory.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Deante' Gray, PR, TCU: Gray gave TCU a special moment in its grand opening of the rebuilt Amon G. Carter Stadium, returning a punt 70 yards for a touchdown the first time a Horned Frog had possession of the ball in the new stadium. He finished with 160 yards on five punt returns, a TCU single-game record. He added a 61-yard return in the second half.
TCU 56, Grambling State 0: TCU wasn’t just looking to win, the Horned Frogs were looking to dominate.

And they didn’t waste time in their easy victory, scoring touchdowns on their first six possessions. TCU scored on a 70-yard punt return by Deante' Gray, a 1-yard run by Waymon James and an 28-yard interception return by Elisha Olabode to take a 21-0 lead just minutes into the game.

Those three touchdowns by three different phases (offense, defense, special teams) served as a signal that the Horned Frogs were ready for their first game as a member of the Big 12 and wanted to send a message to the rest of the conference by dominating an inferior opponent in every phase of football.

Quarterback Casey Pachall and receiver Josh Boyce showed signs of being a quarterback-receiver duo to be reckoned with as TCU put the game away by halftime. Pachall finished 9 of 9 pass attempts for 201 yards and three touchdowns while Boyce had four receptions for 102 yards and two scores. Boyce’s 66-yard touchdown catch was the highlight of the night as he waved through a couple of Grambling State defenders before outracing the rest to the end zone.

Meanwhile, the Tigers gained 70 total yards as TCU's defense overwhelmed their offensive attack.

Message sent.

Texas Tech 58, Texas State 10: Saturday's game had danger written all over it for the Red Raiders, who must not have been paying attention to all those red flags.

An amped crowd awaiting Texas State's first-ever game as an FBS member? A team coming off a shocking, 17-point win a week earlier as a 36-point underdog?

All Texas Tech saw was a four-touchdown lead less than a minute into the second quarter. It never got any closer. Texas Tech rolled in front of a packed crowd in San Marcos, Texas.

Darrin Moore's first two catches of the season went for touchdowns and Seth Doege threw five on the night before taking a seat in the third quarter. He completed 25 of 32 passes for 319 yards in the blowout.

Another solid performance for the Texas Tech defense, too, which held Northwestern State to less than 100 yards of offense last week. Texas State was forced to bench quarterback Shaun Rutherford early, and gained a little momentum with Tyler Arndt, but this one was all Red Raiders.

Texas Tech has to feel confident after leaving no doubt in this game, and hosts New Mexico next week. The Lobos won just one game a year ago.

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