TCU linebacker Ty Summers calls out the defensive signals against Oklahoma State. (Photo Courtesy of Sam Bruton/TCU photographer).

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With just two practices remaining before summer, TCU head coach Gary Patterson said he likes what sees with the 2017-18 team heading into Saturday’s scrimmage.

Turpin returns

The biggest weapon for the Horned Frogs on offense and special teams, KaVontae Turpin, is back after missing a number of spring practices due to academic issues.

“Turp has an opportunity to be back here in the fall, and right now, he’s going to class and doing the things he needs to do, get bigger and stronger,”  Patterson said. “He’s earned his right to come back out here for a little bit, and he’s a welcome addition to this group,” Patterson said.

Turpin was named 2016 special teams MVP Monday at TCU’s football awards banquet.

“He’s been pretty good. He just needs to keep doing what he’s supposed to do. We have standards here on and off the field.”

Summers at a new position

Ty Summers, a linebacker who was second on the team and second in the Big 12 in tackles behind fellow linebacker Travin Howard a year ago, has been getting receiving time at defensive end.

Patterson said earlier this spring defensive end was a spot where TCU can never have enough players and needed to find depth. 

With the uptempo passing attacks employed by many Big 12 teams, Patterson said the team has to find a way to get pressure on quarterbacks without blitzing.

“Both he and [linebacker] Sammy [Douglas] can come off the edge of the line well,” Patterson said. “You’ve got to create sacks, and in this league, you’ve got to be able to rush with four, which means you’ve got to find ways to do that.”

However, Patterson said to expect reinforcements via the recruiting class. “We’re going to gain quite a few people: Four defensive tackles, two or three defensive ends, two or three linebackers, two or three safeties and a couple corners,” Patterson said. “We’ll gain a lot of depth.”

Summers is as strong or stronger than Mat Boesen, one of the defensive ends TCU had in its defensive line rotation last season. Patterson believes Summers’ speed is worth using one of the top linebackers in the Big 12 as a pass-rushing defensive end in the spring.

The Horned Frogs had the most sacks in the Big 12 a year ago, with 43 (3.31 per game). TCU allowed the second-fewest yards (424.8 yards per game) and finished four in points allowed in the conference (28 points allowed per game). Summers totaled 1.5 sacks from the linebacker position.

Offensive line making strides
After a year in which the Horned Frogs offensive front underwent sweeping changes, breaking in four new starters, Patterson said he’s encouraged by his blockers’ progress.

“I think the offensive line has been our bright spot and come a long way,” Patterson said.  “When you don’t have [center Austin] Schlottman, [guard] Cordel [Iwagwu], or [tackle] David Bolisomi, and we’re going to gain two or three more recruits, I think we have an opportunity to have a lot of depth with our backups inside, [lineman Kellton] Hollins, having come a long way, and we moved Matt Pryor outside to tackle last week, who’d be our third offensive tackle at this point. We’ve done a lot of good this spring.”

Secondary Improvement

Despite only having six safeties, a starter and a backup at each spot in Patterson’s 4-2-5 defensive alignment and four or five cornerbackss, Patterson said “we’ve been lucky.”

However, Patterson has seen the defensive backfield make strides. “[Cornerback] Julius Lewis couldn’t go, [Cornerback Jeff] Gladney was coming off an ACL injury, [Cornerback] Ranthony [Texada] was coming off an ACL injury, so none of those guys played out here this time last year,” Patterson said. “We’re further along with them this year, but cornerback is still a position we’re probably looking to add one more with some high school guys we’re excited about or some junior college guys.”

Special teams ‘still a work in progress’

After the four year tandem at kicker and punter Jaden Oberkrom and Ethan Perry graduated after a thrilling Alamo Bowl victory in 2016, the Horned Frogs have been searching for an heir to the Big 12’s leader in made field goals and a reliable punter.

“Punting, we’re still a work progress and kicking overall is probably the biggest concern I have coming out of practice right now and is something we have to get better at with all the guys we have out here, and  I told them, you can’t be afraid to fail,” Patterson said.

As for the player sending initiating the special teams plays, Patterson said he feels comfortable in that aspect of the special teams unit.

“We have the opportunity to be really good at long snapper, and I think that helps us in kick coverage and in how fast the snap is,” Patterson said. “There’s a chance that he will make all the guys around him better.”

He is Lucas Gravelle, a senior who transferred from Washington State, who has started all 13 games for the Cougars each of the last two seasons.  

Gary the fan

Patterson said he does not to expect to a sit in in the stands with the students, like he has done the past two years, at Saturday’s spring game at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

“It’s Coach Patterson this year,” he said. “Not Gary.”

Patterson said his team is ahead of where it was last year with two practices left in spring, one being the spring game.

“I think we’re farther along just because we’re older,” Patterson said. “I think we did just about as much as we could do with two practices left, one of them being the spring Game. I’m excited to see how those guys all do. How it works out, to see how they do in front of people.”

Kickoff is set for 11 a.m Saturday morning at Amon G. Carter Stadium.