Patterson felt the emphasis for this recruiting class was bringing physicality back to football in Fort Worth.
“We wanted to get back to being more physical as a football team,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “What Gary Patterson TCU teams are like.”
TCU’s 2017 recruiting class includes seven four-star signees: defensive lineman Dennis Collins (West Monroe, La.), offensive lineman Wes Harris (Aledo), wide receiver Omar Manning (Lancaster), wide receiver Jalen Reagor (Waxahachie), quarterback Shawn Robinson (DeSoto), running back Kenedy Snell (Waxahachie) and defensive back La’Kendrick Van Zandt (Henderson).
The 2017 class is ranked 30th nationally in the 247Sports.com composite rankings that include 247Sports, Rivals, Scout and ESPN. Five Horned Frogs are in the ESPN 300: Reagor (43), Harris (145), Robinson (159), Manning (206) and defensive lineman Corey Bethley (271) from Katy.
“If you look at the numbers, you might not think we’re that high because we’re not in the top 10, but we’re going to make noise and shock the Big 12,” Reagor said.
For Patterson football teams, setting the tone starts with the defense.
“I went back to guys, not demeaning previous classes, to add toughness,” Patterson said. “Alex Bush being one who’s throwback linebacker type.”
Coming out of Cerritos College, Bush was ranked as the top junior college linebacker in California and the 11th-best in the nation.
Patterson said to expect Ni’Jeel Meeking to play as a linebacker or defensive end.
“He was guy that everyone listed as wide out, and we’ll actually start out here as linebacker/defensive end,” Patterson said. “At 6-foot-three, 205 pounds, unbelievable athlete, who’s a typical end of the recruiting class guy who has the flexibility to do a number of things.”
Patterson has made a living by turning players who came to Fort Worth to score points into players who prevent points from being scored. Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl defensive end Jerry Hughes is just one example of the many Patterson has flipped over the years.
“One of the things we lost during the season defensive line-wise is that we felt like we had to get bigger on the inside,” Patterson said. “We got 300 or close to 300 pound guys.”
Two out of the three come from high school programs that won state championships. Bethley came from Katy, which won it all in 2015 and George Ellis, the No. 6 defensive tackle in Florida, out of American Heritage which won a state title in 2016.
“What I like is they all come from programs, the high school guys, that are very well coached,” Patterson said. “It’s one of those things where they’ve got a chance to come in and excel earlier because they come from places where they expect to win state titles.”
With only eight graduating seniors on last year’s team, Patterson said he wanted maturity in this year’s incoming class.
“Defensive lineman Ezra Tu’ua was one of those situations where we were looking for an older guy, and he’s back from a mission, married, 24 years old, and played with a broken foot all year,” Patterson said of Tu’ua, the first player Patterson has signed from Alaska. “At 6-1 about 322, he’s really strong and plays with a passion on the field.”
TCU also added a quarterback coming off a state title. Early enrollee Shawn Robinson led DeSoto to a perfect season in 2016.
“Your program usually starts with who you have at quarterback, that’s Shawn Robinson,” Patterson said. “He’s already in school and going through off season, which gives him a jump on things.”
Patterson wouldn’t say one way or the other whether or not Robinson would redshirt or compete for the starting job. “Sonny will do a great job getting him ready, Brennan Wooten, [Grayson] Muhlstein, and Kenny [Hill].”
The Horned Frogs brought in highly-touted receiver Omar Manning, a four-star from Lancaster, just south of Dallas. Manning chose TCU over Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, Michigan, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
Another high-profile signing was the addition of four-star wide receiver Jalen Reagor, the No. 6 wide receiver recruit in the country.
“I feel like the stars don’t define you as a player,” Reagor said. “Your play on the field, that’s what defines you week-in and week out.”
Reagor said his visit to TCU was what sealed the deal.
“Coach P is a great man, the rest of the coaching staff is great, close to home, and TCU just sounds like a perfect fit,” Reagor said.
Reagor will be playing alongside high school teammate and cousin, running back Kennedy Snell, who is also coming to TCU next season.
Snell, a wide receiver and return man in high school, compares similarly to another Horned Frog all-purpose hybrid.
“He falls in the same line as KaVontae Turpin where he can actually play tailback, run routes, and he can run back kick and punts,” Patterson said.
Reagor agreed: “He’s like another Turpin, who can strike at any moment, and he’s relentless.”
The Horned Frogs added a couple bruisers on their offensive line as well. “Wes Harris, he played defensive end for Aledo, another team that won a state title this year,” Patterson said. Harris also enrolled early alongside Robinson.
Patterson also signed the first player from the state of Washington, adding to TCU’s West Coast profile.
“We found Quazzel White, which is a guy who has unbelievable potential,” Patterson said. “He could be a starting guard, but probably has the capabilities to be a tackle for us someday down the road.”
Despite National Signing Day having passed, Patterson said TCU still has an eye out for a few players.
“Like everybody, we would still like another offensive tackle,” he said. “You never have enough defensive ends, and we would have liked to have gotten one more safety.”