Dick Bumpas is entering his 11th season as TCU’s defensive coordinator and knows there’s plenty that must get addressed in spring ball if this 11th year will be a resurgent one for the Horned Frogs.
But the coach who has worked with Gary Patterson at four other schools in the past knows what this program is capable of if everyone can shake off the disappointment of last season’s 4-8 campaign and move forward and embrace some competition.
Is the spring, for you about installing or just getting everyone back up to speed?
Bumpas: It’s back to the basics. You can build a house a hundred times, but unless you have a good foundation, you’re going to have to build it a hundred times. We’re going back to fundamentals and that way hopefully next year the kids will be schooled in the fundamentals of the game and ready to go.
It seems like that house will be back in good shape going into 2014.
Bumpas: Well, I haven’t counted up the numbers, but I do know we’ve got a lot of kids coming back. The one thing that’s been my experience is the kid who’s played a while is better than he was the year before. So hopefully that’ll have some merit. We’re just excited about it. We’ll have to wait and see.
Tell me about where Devonte Fields is right now.
Bumpas: Well, his foot seems in pretty good shape. It tweaks him every once in a while. I’m excited about him. I think he’s hopefully going to continue where he left off. It was very frustrating for him to come back and break the dang thing and have to sit out a year, but he’s starting to look like his old self and he should have a good year.
What do you think that setback did not only for how hungry he is but also another year of maturity?
Bumpas: Yeah, I think that’s the one thing, too. Being away from football made him appreciate it a lot more. He really enjoys football and I think that’s even more so because he can get where he wants to get to. He just loves football and when he doesn’t have it, it’s very frustrating.
Replacing Jason Verrett is a big one, but what are the areas where you have to address question marks this spring?
Bumpas: You can’t really replace a kid like Jason Verrett. He’s such a special kid. But we’ve got some good, young kids at that position, and the thing right now is it’s exciting to watch them compete and that’s all we can ask for. I think there’s going to be some healthy competition for that spot and, really, every position. When that happens, everyone gets better.
I’m sure you’re getting phone calls from NFL guys inquiring about Verrett. What is the way you sell him to those guys when they ponder whether he’s a first-rounder?
Bumpas: Well, if I’m not mistaken, he only gave up one touchdown pass last year and, with the people he played against, I think that’s a pretty good résumé. Now it just really gets down to, OK, what are you looking for? If you’re looking for a guy that competes and will play hard, he’ll do that, he’ll go cover that guy, he’ll support the run. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. Whoever gets him will get a real good one.
I know Coach Patterson has said he’s encouraged by what Ranthony Texada is doing at corner. What do you think of him and where you do stand with those other options?
Bumpas: Ranthony is doing a lot of good things, and the one thing he does have, he’s a really fast kid. You can’t coach them to run faster. If you start with that as a base, you can throw in a lot. We have a lot of strong possibilities back there, and we’re excited about it. We have one guy who’s been an injury-prone kid in Travoskey Garrett, he really hasn’t played a whole lot because he’s been banged up a lot. But he’s another kid that I think will come on and really have a chance to compete for some playing time. And of course with Kevin White back that gives us three pretty good kids, and as long as you’ve got three of them, that’s good competition.
You had inexperience at linebacker last year, so how is that group coming along?
Bumpas: It wasn’t necessarily that they were young in age, which they were, but they really hadn’t played much linebacker. Jonathan Anderson is getting to be a senior but only one year at linebacker. Paul Dawson, he’s got a chance to improve. Last year was really his first year. You have two young kids. Paul Whitmill has looked better and better every day, and there’s Sammy Douglas. I tell you, the one veteran kid who gets overlooked is Marcus Mallet. He knows what to do.
When you went back to the 2013 film, are there things you find that you know will be solved by this season?
Bumpas: We’re certainly hoping so. But we will find out. The hurry-up offenses create some problems for you that, if you’re not careful, you’ll give up some big plays because you weren’t ready for the ball to be snapped. We’re just trying to eliminate that, and then it’s about who people are trying to pick on, and what are they trying to pick on. Where do they want to throw the ball, and where are they trying to take advantage?
Do you get the sense your players feel like they have some unfinished business and are unsatisfied by 2013?
Bumpas: I think they were frustrated last year. They lost so many close games, and that’s a great motivator. It makes people work harder, makes people pay more attention. When you go back and look at what could’ve been, I think they’re motivated and where you like them to be.