Dallas Colleges: Aviante Collins

Strong and weak: TCU Horned Frogs

May, 20, 2014
May 20
3:00
PM CT
Since last week, we’ve been examining the strongest and weakest positions for each team in the Big 12 going into the fall.

On Tuesday, we continue the series with TCU.

Strongest position: Safety

The Horned Frogs are in terrific shape at the safety position with Chris Hackett, Sam Carter and Derrick Kindred returning after contributing for the Horned Frogs in 2013.

Add spring star Kenny Iloka and TCU could field the best group of safeties in the Big 12 this fall.

Hackett is one of the Big 12’s best safeties. He averaged 7.3 tackles per game while adding three forced fumbles and three interceptions as a sophomore. The Tyler, Texas, native is active and aggressive for Gary Patterson’s defense.

Carter joined Hackett as a second-team All-Big 12 performer in 2013 after recording a team-high five interceptions and adding four sacks. He brings 26 games of starting experience to TCU’s secondary as a senior.

Kindred worked his way into the lineup late last season, starting TCU’s final three games. He had 48 tackles, including 19 total stops in the three games he started.

Iloka joined the program in January and made an immediate impression during spring football. Even though the Horned Frogs return plenty of experience in the secondary, Iloka appears like he will carve himself a role in the defense during his first season in Fort Worth.

TCU’s combination of star power, quality depth and experience at safety is unmatched in the Big 12.

Weakest position: Offensive line

Getting its offensive line in order is one of the keys to TCU’s hopes of an offensive turnaround under new coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie.

Junior tackle Aviante Collins and center Joey Hunt provide a solid foundation, having started a combined 35 games at TCU. Collins has the ability to play right or left tackle but has plenty of room to improve and become more consistent. Hunt is on the Remington Award watch list after starting 11 games at center in 2013 and is likely the lone certain starter among the front five.

The overall depth and quality of TCU’s offensive line is on the rise particularly with the addition of February signees including junior college guard Frank Kee who could end up starting in the interior for the Horned Frogs. Additionally, tackle Tayo Fabuluje, tackle Joseph Noteboom, guard Bobby Thompson and tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai are battling for playing time and should help boost the overall depth and competitiveness among the offensive line.

TCU's offensive line isn't struggling to find talent, but the group as a whole needs to be much more productive and deeper than last year's group if the Horned Frogs hope to return to a bowl game.

TCU hopes new offense levels playing field

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
9:30
AM CT
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.

Frogs' 2012 freshman class was 'different'

April, 10, 2013
4/10/13
9:00
AM CT
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."
Recruiting is a fickle beast. Even if your school lands an elite prospect there's no guarantee that player will develop into an difference maker at the college level. It's a realization that makes evaluation just as important as recruiting and landing top prospects. Each year relative unknowns on signing day emerge as playmakers for their college programs in the fall. Here's a look at a signee from each Big 12 school during the past two recruiting cycles (2011 and 2012 signing classes) who has already exceeded expectations.

Baylor

Linebacker Eddie Lackey wasn’t a highlight signee in February 2012. Yet the junior college transfer stepped right in and finished second on the squad with 104 tackles. He had five games with nine tackles or more and intercepted four passes, returning two for touchdowns.

In 2013: Lackey could be even better with a year under his belt. His ability to be comfortable playing in space, while bringing the physical mindset of a linebacker is one of the reasons he could be poised to earn All-Big 12 honors as a senior.

Oklahoma

Folks in Norman, Okla., barely noticed when Arizona Western running back Damien Williams signed with the Sooners in February 2012. Senior Dominique Whaley was set to return alongside talented juniors Roy Finch and Brennan Clay, making it appear unlikely the junior college transfer would make an immediate impact. But Williams didn’t get the memo, earning the starting job at the beginning of October and finishing with 176 carries for 946 yards and 11 touchdowns.

In 2013: Williams will have to hold off a bevy of talented backs angling for carries in the Sooners backfield, but the senior has proven game-breaking ability that will be difficult to ignore.

Oklahoma State

Receiver Austin Hays was an afterthought on Signing Day 2012. The overlooked prospect outperformed several Cowboys receiver signees who were much more highly regarded in February. He started six games and finished with 29 receptions for 394 yards and two touchdowns.

In 2013: His dependability, ball skills and competitiveness should make him a mainstay in the Cowboys lineup, even though he’s not a game-breaking receiver in the mold of Dez Bryant or Justin Blackmon.

Texas

ESPN.com had Joe Bergeron as a three-star recruit who appeared to be destined to a career buried on the bottom of the depth chart behind the elite running backs the Longhorns were inking. Yet Bergeron made an immediate impact as a freshman and continues to be a productive force in UT's offensive backfield. He's scored 21 touchdowns in two seasons including 16 touchdown runs as a sophomore in 2012.

In 2013: He enters his junior season as UT's best short-yardage runner and should continue to earn carries at running back thanks to his toughness and physical running style.

TCU

Offensive tackle Aviante Collins was a three-star prospect on ESPN.com, far from a recruit with expectations to start immediately. Yet that’s exactly what Collins did, starting all 13 games of his true freshman season. And he showed some versatility by starting games at right and left tackle in 2012.

In 2013: Collins will be a foundational member of TCU’s offensive attack this season. There’s no reason he cannot be a four-year starter for the Horned Frogs and leave a legacy as one of the most productive signees in the Gary Patterson era.

Texas Tech

Jakeem Grant was never going to be considered the prototypical receiver prospect. At 5-foot-6, 163 pounds, it’s a given to have people notice Grant’s size (or lack thereof) before his ability. Size didn’t stop him from becoming one of the most explosive players on the Red Raiders offense as a redshirt freshman, averaging 11.7 yards per touch thanks to his quickness and speed.

In 2013: With Kliff Kingsbury taking over, the new Red Raiders coach will undoubtedly find ways to take advantage of Grant’s speed and open-field ability. His physical gifts are difficult for most opponents to match up with.

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