TCU’s “biggest concern” will be replacing kicker Jaden Oberkrom and punter Ethan Perry, as well as developing an offensive line that’s looking to replace four starters, Patterson said earlier this month at the team’s Reporting Day Media Lunch.
Patterson, who signed a contract extension to 2022, is marking his 16th year leading the Frogs. He was upbeat about the players for the upcoming season.
“Two years ago, we were statistically the best defense in the Big 12, we only gave up 17 touchdown passes, but by our standards because we were small,” Patterson said. “I think this year we’re a little bigger and we’ll be better at that, and so it’s how you keep people out of the red zone and then out of the end zone.”
Patterson said returning players are contributing to his positive outlook on the team.
“Getting Sammy Douglas back, Kenny Iloka back, James McFarland back, all three of those guys have looked as good as they’ve ever looked,” Patterson said.
That’s a scary thought for the other nine teams across the Big 12.
McFarland missed last season because of an injury, but led the conference in sacks in 2014. “Sometimes when you sit out you learn the little things, which helps you in some ways,” Patterson said.
Patterson also raved about three of his new defensive lineman, freshmen Brandon Bowen, Isaiah Chambers and Ross Blacklock.
One of last season’s top offensive contributors, running back/wide receiver Shaun Nixon, has been redshirted after an offseason injury.
“The other worry is finding a new number two tailback,” Patterson said. “That’s why we brought in Derrick Green from Michigan, a running back who’ll give us more depth.”
Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie said Nixon was valuable to the Horned Frog offense.
“It was a big blow losing Shaun because that guy is a stud and a big playmaker in our offense, since he can play running back and receiver,” Cumbie said.
Patterson didn’t name a starter, but he spoke highly of Kyle Hicks.
“Kyle Hicks has had as good a spring as any tailback I’ve ever seen as far as working out and what he looks like. He’s ready to go,” Patterson said.
The race between Kenny Hill and Foster Sawyer for starting quarterback is still dead even.
“When Kenny Hill walks in here and you see how he’s changed his body from how he walked out of A&M to right now, he’s really worked hard, him and Foster both,” Patterson said.
Patterson said that Sawyer is “a lot more athletic than people give him credit for.”
Patterson said expects to announce his starting quarterback against South Dakota State — “probably that Tuesday or Wednesday… 9-10 days out.”
The Frogs play South Dakota on Sept. 3.
Patterson said he’s looking for “the guy that makes everybody else go… and make everybody better when he steps on the field.”
The offensive foundation will stay the same, Cumbie said, whether the quarterback is Kenny Hill or Foster Sawyer.
Co-offensive coordinator and inside wide receivers coach Doug Meacham said there’s depth at the wide receiver position.
“I see more distribution and more of four to five guys having 40 to 50 catches, not necessarily that one guy with 90,” Meacham said.
He said Emmanuel Porter, Jarrison Stewart, Deante’ Gray and Ty Slanina are tentatively listed as starters at wide receiver. Jaelan Austin, Desmond White, Taj Williams, Isaiah Graham and John Diarse could all make offensive contributions as well, he added.
Meacham said this could be a standout year for Porter. Last season Porter averaged 26.6 yards per catch and three out of his 14 catches were touchdowns.
“He’s faster than Josh [Doctson], maybe an inch taller than Josh, but some of the things Josh had, like body control and tracking the ball are areas Porter needs to work on a little bit,” Meacham said.
TCU also plans to feature KaVontae Turpin more on offense.
“We’ll model his [Turpin’s] touches like Jakeem Grant from Texas Tech,” Meacham said. “He’ll be all over the field.”
Patterson believes the offense will eventually catch up to the defense. “I felt like last year I knew they [the offense] were going to have to cover us while we grew up on defense, and it’s going to be the opposite this year until they [the offense] finds themselves.”